Donna Mills’ Career on TV: What She’s Said About ‘Knots Landing’ & 7 More Shows

The Rookie: Feds - Donna Mills

More than a half-century into her Hollywood career, Knots Landing alum Donna Mills isn’t ready to rest on her laurels.

“All I dreamed about when I wanted to be a dancer as a kid was the curtain opening and someone handing me a bouquet as I took my bow,” the 82-year-old actress told The Daily Beast last year. “I have had a wonderful career so far. I do not see myself retiring. I want to work for as long as possible. I’m not done yet.”

Case in point: Mills graces the January 17 episode of ABC’s The Rookie: Feds. Now scroll down to learn more about her TV career so far, her Feds role, and her thoughts about her iconic TV characters.

The Secret Storm title card

The Secret Storm (1966)

In her first onscreen acting role, Mills played a nightclub singer in two episodes of this long-running CBS soap. “That was the first soap I did,” Mills told Smashing Interviews Magazine in 2015. “I’m not a singer. I was a dancer. Why they chose me to be a nightclub singer, I have no idea, and I actually sang on the show. I have not yet seen a tape of that… My character’s name was Rocket. Isn’t that the funniest character name ever?”

Love Is a Many Splendored Thing - Donna Mills, Shawn Campbell, and Robert Burr
Everett Collection

Love Is a Many Splendored Thing (1967–1973)

In her next CBS soap, Mills (seen here with co-stars Shawn Campbell and Robert Burr) played Laura Donnelly, a nun who falls for her sister’s boyfriend. “The nice thing for me back then was, I was studying [acting] at the time in New York … so I got to study and do a show at the same time,” Mills explained in a 2013 Pioneers of Television episode. “That’s a very unusual thing. That doesn’t usually happen when you’re doing a show, so that was really nice.”

The Good Life - Larry Hagman and Donna Mills
Raphael/TV Guide/Everett Collection

The Good Life (1971–1972)

This NBC sitcom had Mills and Larry Hagman playing Jane and Albert Miller, middle-class spouses who pose as servants to live at a millionaire’s estate. “You know, I did that show when I first came out here. It was the first show. Talk about a lucky girl!” she said on Pioneers of Television. “I came down to L.A. I think I was here, like, two weeks, got The Good Life, and then it sold. People said to me, ‘The first pilot you ever did sold?’ And I didn’t realize at the time how lucky I was, how unusual that was. … And I wish it would have gone on longer, because I really did enjoy it, and I enjoyed Larry Hagman. I mean, he was an amazing guy to work with.”

Battle of the Network Stars Robert Conrad Howard Cosell Donna Mills
Courtesy: Everett Collection

Battle of the Network Stars (1977–1983, 2017)

Mills competed in this ABC reality competition in 1977, 1980, and 1981; she hosted the 1983 edition, as seen here; and she returned to compete in the 2017 revival. “Probably my best event in Battle of the Network Stars was running,” she told PopGeeks in 2019. “Strangely enough, I don’t run anymore. It’s not a thing I do, but I did very well in that. I didn’t do well in the water sports, but I did do well in the running, and I believe there was a relay race I did well in, too. I have a trophy from the original.”

Knots Landing Abby Cunningham Donna Mills
Mario Casilli/TV Guide/CBS/Courtesy: Everett Collection

Knots Landing (1980–1993)

The actress joined this CBS primetime soap in its second season, playing the manipulative Abby Cunningham. “I had been playing the victim, the Miss Goody Two Shoes, the blonde Midwestern girl all my career,” Mills told The Daily Beast. “My characters were always being chased or raped. The chance to play a strong woman, and a woman who dominated, was very appealing to me. I went after it. … I would give anything to play her again. I would do Knots Landing again in a nanosecond. Absolutely.”

General Mills Madeline Reeves Donna Mills
Ron Tom/ABC/Courtesy: Everett Collection

General Hospital (2014–2023)

After stepping away from showbiz for 18 years to raise her daughter, Mills started recurring on this ABC daytime drama in 2014, playing the scheming socialite Madeline Reeves and earning a Daytime Emmy for her performance. “My first few days on the soap, I was like a deer in the headlights because it was all so fast and frantic,” she told TV Insider in 2015. “I didn’t know if I’d survive. [Laughs] But I guess I got the hang of it.”

Queens of Drama Donna Mills

Queens of Drama (2015)

In this Pop reality show, Mills and other daytime drama alums teamed up to develop and produce a new primetime soap. “When they first called me, they said, ‘We have this reality show…,’ and immediately I was resistant. ‘I am not doing a reality show!’” Mills recalled to TV Insider. “But then they said, ‘Listen to what it’s about — women who get together and want to create their own nighttime drama.’ And I thought that was kind of nice. It’s about something. It has a purpose, a goal. So I took a leap of faith. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but, as it turned out, I had a really great time.”

The Rookie: Feds Donna Mills

The Rookie: Feds (2023)

In “Out for Blood,” the January 17 episode of this cop show, Mills guest-stars as Layla Laughlin, a cosmetics mogul who began as a single mom cooking up skincare solutions in her kitchen. “Had a blast working with the gorgeous [Niecy Nash-Betts] and incredible [James Lesure] and [director Lanre Olabisi],” the actress wrote on Instagram on January 10.