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Donna Mills

Donna Mills
Mills at the Los Angeles premiere of Air America on August 9, 1990
Born Donna Jean Miller
(1940-12-11) December 11, 1940
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Residence Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Education Taft High School
Alma mater University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Occupation Actress, television producer
Years active 1966–present
Home town Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Children Chloe Mills

Donna Mills (born December 11, 1940)[1] is an American actress and producer. She began her television career in 1966 with a recurring role on The Secret Storm, and in the same year appeared on Broadway in the Woody Allen comedy Don't Drink the Water. She made her film debut the following year in The Incident. She then starred for three years in the soap opera Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1967–70), before starring as Tobie Williams, the girlfriend of Clint Eastwood's character in the 1971 cult film Play Misty for Me.

Mills landed the role of Abby Cunningham on the prime-time soap opera Knots Landing in 1980 and was a regular on the show until 1989. For this role, she won the Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Villainess three times; in 1986, 1988 and 1989. She has since starred in several TV movies; including False Arrest (1991), In My Daughter's Name (1992), Dangerous Intentions (1995), The Stepford Husbands (1996) and Ladies of the House (2008). In 2014, she joined the cast of long-running daytime soap opera General Hospital, for which she won a 2015 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Guest Performer in a Drama Series.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Early career 2.1
    • Knots Landing 2.2
    • 1990-present 2.3
  • Personal life 3
  • TV and filmography 4
  • Awards and nominations 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Mills was born Donna Jean Miller in Chicago, Illinois,[2] where she attended Garvey Elementary School and Taft High school. After being double-promoted at Garvey, she graduated from Taft at an early age. From there Mills attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she was a member of Delta Gamma sorority. She completed one year of course work, then left to pursue a dancing career, gaining some early stage experience when she danced in summer stock productions. Her first professional acting role was in a production of Come Blow Your Horn at the Drury Lane Theater, Chicago. She later was cast in a touring production of My Fair Lady, which brought her to New York City.[3]


Early career

Mills in 1975

Mills began her acting career on television with a six-month stint on the CBS daytime soap opera The Secret Storm in 1966, playing the character of "Rocket." Following this, she made her film debut in The Incident (1967), co-starring alongside Martin Sheen, Beau Bridges, Ed McMahon, and Thelma Ritter. She appeared on Broadway in Woody Allen's comedy, Don't Drink the Water, as the Sultan of Bashir's wife.

In the fall of 1967, she gained a regular role as ex-nun Laura Donnelly on the soap Love is a Many Splendored Thing. She was a cast member for three years, until she left the series in 1970 and moved to California. In 1971, Mills co-starred in the popular thriller Play Misty for Me, with Clint Eastwood and Jessica Walter.

During 1971-72, she starred in the short-lived sitcom The Good Life with Larry Hagman who later guest-starred on Knots Landing as J. R. Ewing from the show's sister series Dallas.[3] Prior to signing up a contract for Universal Studios in 1972, she spent much of the 1970s appearing as a guest on top-rated television shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man, Hawaii Five-O, The Love Boat, CHiPs, The F.B.I., Quincy, M.E., the UK's Thriller series, Police Woman and Fantasy Island, as well as many made-for-TV movies.

Mills in 1981

Knots Landing

In 1980 Mills landed her most prominent role — that of scheming, manipulative vixen Abby Cunningham on the long-running primetime soap opera Knots Landing.[3] Mills portrayed Abby from 1980–1989.[4] Prior to being cast in Knots Landing, Mills was primarily known for playing the "damsel in distress" archetype in both film and television media. The actress became somewhat famous for playing these roles, often leading to unwanted typecasting.[4][5] In an interview with Jerry Buck for the Toledo Blade, Mills said: "I got tired of playing the victim. It's a more active role. Abby keeps things stirred up, and I like that."[4] According to Jacobs, Abby was not planned when the show began. He knew that he wanted a female J.R. Ewing-esque character.[6] However, he had a different sense of the character and who would wind up in the role. With Mills' reputation of playing the victim, he initially didn't choose her for the part.[6]

Josh Mapes of The Biography Channel listed her in the category "10 Primetime Stars We Love to Hate". He said, "Any great soap opera needs a great villain. While viewers may identify more with the protagonist, the villains in a serial drama always spice things up, cause trouble, and make it more fun to watch. From tongue lashings to catfights, underhanded tricks to boldface lies, the characters we love to hate have each brought a fair share of great moments to primetime soaps. While Larry Hagman played the bad guy on Dallas, Donna Mills played bad girl on its spin-off, Knots Landing. Unapologetically going after what she wanted, Mills' character engaged in affairs with two of the husbands on the Knots Landing cul-de-sac. But, like most vixens on primetime soaps, she was only out for money, not love."[7]

In 1989, Mills announced her intention to leave the long-running nighttime soap after nine years as Abby.[8][9] According to Mills, she wanted to take a break from acting for a while, and from Abby as well.[10]

In an interview with The Cedartown Standard, Mills explained: "I'm tired of the show. It's been too long. I'm not particularly happy with the way they've been writing Abby lately. She's too soft. I'd like Abby to get back to her old self."[11] For this role, she won the Soap Opera Digest Award for Outstanding Villainess on three occasions, in 1986, 1988 and 1989.[12]


After Knots Landing, Mills concentrated on television movies, four of which she co-produced: The World's Oldest Living Bridesmaid (1990), Runaway Father (1991), In My Daughter's Name (1992) and My Name Is Kate (1994).[3] She returned to Knots Landing for its final episode in 1993, and again for the reunion miniseries Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac in 1997. In between she had a brief recurring guest role as Jane Mancini (played by Josie Bissett)'s mother on Melrose Place.[3]

Donna Mills with daughter Chloe in 2009

Mills continued to appear on television in TV movies and guest roles. In 2005 she reunited with the Knots Landing cast for the non-fiction special, Knots Landing Reunion: Together Again, in which the stars reminisced about the show. In more recent years, Mills has appeared in various television movies such as Love Is A Four Letter Word in 2007, and Ladies of the House in 2008, as well as guest appearances in series such as Cold Case (in a provocative role as a woman who seduces her grandson) and Nip/Tuck (guest-starring with fellow Knots Landing star Joan Van Ark). In 2012, she made a guest appearance on GCB as Bitsy Lourd[13][14] and appeared as a guest judge on the reality series RuPaul's Drag U.[15]

In 2014, Mills made her return to daytime soap operas, for the first time since 1970. She was cast in a major recurring guest starring role in the ABC soap opera General Hospital.[16][17] She debuted in mid March and recurred to May.[18] Later in that year, she returned for another multiple episodes-arc. At the 42nd Daytime Emmy Awards, Mills won Outstanding Special Guest Performer in a Drama Series for her performance in General Hospital, in a three-way tie with Fred Willard and Ray Wise[19][20]

On October 7, 2014, it was announced that Mills will star in the POP reality series Queens of Drama about a group of former stars who now produce a new primetime serial drama to star in. The ladies will be required to work together in front of and behind the cameras as they develop, pitch, and produce their steamy series with the hopes of landing a pilot deal by the end of the season.[21][22]

In April, 2015, Mills revealed that she was cast in the David O. Russell film Joy, due for release in December 2015.[23]

Personal life

Mills has never married, but has one daughter, Chloe, whom she adopted in late 1994 when Chloe was four days old.[24][25]

Outside of acting Mills released The Eyes Have It in 1986, an instructional video for achieving several different make-up looks. She went on to release her own line of cosmetics of the same name. She appeared in cover-featured (non nude) pictorials for the October 1987[26] and November 1989 editions of Playboy.[27]

TV and filmography

Mills in Gunsmoke (1974)
Mills in The Hunted Lady (1977)
Year Title Role Notes
1966 The Secret Storm Rocket
1967 The Incident Alice Keenan
1967-1970 Love Is a Many Splendored Thing Laura Donnelly Elliott Series regular
1970 Love, American Style Ellie 1 episode
1970 Lancer Lucy 1 episode
1971 Play Misty for Me Tobie Williams
1971-1972 The Good Life Jane Miller Series regular, 15 episodes
1972 Haunts of the Very Rich Laurie
1972 Rolling Man Bebe Lotter
1972 Night of Terror Linda Daniel
1973 Gunsmoke Cora Sanderson Episodes: "A Game of Death... An Act of Love: Part 1" and "A Game of Death... An Act of Love: Part 2"
1973 The Bait Tracy Fleming
1974 Live Again, Die Again Caroline Carmichael
1974 Marcus Welby, M.D. Bea Averton Episode: "A Fevered Angel"
1974 McMillan & Wife Laura Rainey Episode: "Buried Alive"
1975 The Six Million Dollar Man Liza Leitman Episode: "The Cross-Country Kidnap"
1975 Who Is the Black Dahlia? Susan Winters
1975 Murph the Surf Ginny Eaton
1975 Hawaii Five-O Marcia Bissell Episode: "Murder: Eyes Only'"
1975 Beyond the Bermuda Triangle Claudia
1976 Police Woman Tamee Swanson Episode: "Mother Love"
1976 Quincy, M.E. Roberta Rhodes Episode: "A Star Is Dead"
1976 Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby Ellen
1976 Smash-Up on Interstate 5 Laureen
1977 Bunco Frankie TV pilot
1977 Fire! Harriett Malone
1977 Curse of the Black Widow Leigh Lockwood
1977 The Hunted Lady Susan Reilly
1977 The Oregon Trail Lizzie Episode: "The Scarlet Ribbon"
1978 Superdome Lainie Wiley
1978 Doctors' Private Lives Dr. Beth Demery
1978 The Love Boat Jeannie Carter 3 episodes
1979 Hanging by a Thread Ellen Craig
1979 Fantasy Island Cindy Carter Episode: "The Chain Gang/The Boss'"
1979 Young Maverick Lila Gates Episodes: "Dead Man's Hand: Part 1" and "Dead Man's Hand: Part 2"
1980 Waikiki Cassie Howard
1982 Bare Essence Barbara Fisher
1984 He's Not Your Son Kathy Saunders
1985 Alice in Wonderland The Rose
1986 Intimate Encounters Julie Atkins
1988 Outback Bound Samantha 'Sam' Hollings
1980-1989, 1993 Knots Landing Abby Fairgate Cunningham Ewing Sumner Series regular, 236 episodes
1989 The Lady Forgets Rebecca Simms/Julie Black
1990 The World's Oldest Living Bridesmaid Brenda Morgan
1991 Runaway Father Pat Bennett
1991 False Arrest Joyce Lukezic Based on true story
1992 In My Daughter's Name Laura Elias
1992 The President's Child Elizabeth Hemming
1993 Remember Nicky Wells
1994 My Name Is Kate Kate
1994 Dream On Ashlyn Episode: "Martin Tupper in 'Magnum Farce'"
1995 Dangerous Intentions Beth Williamson
1995 An Element of Truth Vanessa Graves
1996 The Stepford Husbands Jodi Davison
1996-1997 Melrose Place Sherry Doucette 4 episodes
1997 Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac Abby Fairgate Cunningham Ewing Sumner TV miniseries
1998 Moonlight Becomes You Maggie Holloway
2000 Rude Awakening Linda Episode: "Star 80 Proof"
2004 A Very Cool Christmas Mrs. Claus
2006 Jane Doe: Yes, I Remember It Well Polly Jameson
2007 Cold Case Lauren Williams Episode: "Blackout"
2007 Love Is a Four Letter Word Margot Harper
2008 Ladies of the House Elizabeth
2009 Dirty Sexy Money Cameo appearance Episode: "The Facts"
2008-2010 Nip/Tuck Lulu Grandiron Episodes: "Lulu Grandiron" and "Christian Troy II"
2012 GCB Bitsy Lourd Episode: "A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing"
2014-2015 General Hospital Madeline Reeves Special guest star
2014 Deadly Revenge Evelyn
2014 When Life Keeps Getting In The Way Dr. Goldstein
2015 Joy

Awards and nominations

Year Film / Television Award Category Result
1986 Knots Landing Soap Opera Digest Award Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role on a Prime Time Serial Nominated
1986 Knots Landing Soap Opera Digest Award Outstanding Villainess: Prime Time Won[28]
1988 Knots Landing Soap Opera Digest Award Outstanding Villainess: Prime Time Won[29]
1989 Knots Landing Soap Opera Digest Award Outstanding Villainess: Prime Time Won[30]
2015 General Hospital Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Special Guest Performer in a Drama Series Won


  1. ^ Varying sources have cited 1942 or 1943 as her year of birth, however The Huffington Post and her entry on Intelius (under her real name, Donna Jean Miller) establish the year as 1940
  2. ^ "Donna Mills profile at". Retrieved 2011-12-13. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Donna Mills biography,; accessed August 27, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Buck, Jerry (July 4, 1982). "Donna Mills To Play Victim".  
  5. ^ Brady, James (November 3, 1991). "In Step With Donna Mills".  
  6. ^ a b "Exclusive Interview: In conversation with series creator David Jacbos". Knots (The Official  
  7. ^ Mapes, Josh (June 13, 2012). "10 Primetime Stars We Love to Hate".  
  8. ^ Zuckerman, Faye (April 27, 1989). "Like fine wine, 'Knots Landing' ages well".  
  9. ^ Sullivan, Paul (November 6, 2001). "Where are they now?; Donna Mills' makeup has successful Landing on QVC".  
  10. ^ King, Susan (January 5, 1991). "Donna Mills Plays-Guess What?".  
  11. ^ Sanello, Frank (September 29, 1998). "Talking with Donna Mills". The Cedartown Standard. 
  12. ^ Outstanding Villainess awards
  13. ^ Kris. "GCB Review: Stand Your Ground". TV Fanatic. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  14. ^ Donna Mills, Former 'Knots Landing' Star, Looks Amazing At 71" (PHOTOS)""". The Huffington Post. 19 June 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  15. ^ Lindsay Robertson (2012-05-14). "And The 'RuPaul's Drag U' Season 3 Professors Are...". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  16. ^ Valby, Karen. General Hospital' casts 'Knot's Landing' star"'". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  17. ^ "Praise, Soap Jesus: General Hospital Taps Donna Mills For Mystery Role!". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  18. ^ Gelman, Vlada. "‘General Hospital’ Cast — Donna Mills Books Secret Role". TVLine. Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  19. ^ Cynthia Littleton (March 31, 2015). "‘General Hospital,’ Ellen DeGeneres, CBS Lead Daytime Emmy Nominations".  
  20. ^ "Daytime Emmy winners". Daytime Emmys. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  21. ^ "POP Announces Initial Lineup of Original Programming for Early 2015 Launch". TVbytheNumbers. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  22. ^ "POP (Formerly TVGN) Developing 'Queens of Drama' Docu-Series With Vanessa Marcil, Donna Mills, Lindsay Hartley, Hunter Tylo and More! - Soap Opera Network". Soap Opera Network. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  23. ^ "Reality Bites: Donna Mills Gets "A Little Pushy" (But Not Bitchy!) in Queens of Drama". Retrieved 18 April 2015. 
  24. ^ "Donna Mills Dishes". 2009-08-20. Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  25. ^ "Palm Springs Life Interviews Linda Gray, Donna Mills, Morgans Fairchild". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  26. ^ , October 1987 vol.34, no.10"Playboy". Vintage Playboy Mags. 
  27. ^ "Playboy Cover November 1989 (United States)". Playboy Cover Archive. 2010-01-05. Retrieved August 27, 2014. 
  28. ^ "Soap Opera Digest Awards: 1986 Winners".  
  29. ^ "Soap Opera Digest Awards: 1988 Winners".  
  30. ^ "Soap Opera Digest Awards: 1989 Winners".  

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