Behind-the-Scenes Secrets From 'Knots Landing's 40th Anniversary (PHOTOS)

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Joan Van Ark Michele Lee Donna Mills Knots Landing 40th Anniversary
Nina Prommer, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum
Knots Landing 40th Anniversary
Nina Prommer, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

On Karen’s Pollyanna speech to Gary following a particular heavy ordeal: “That speech was written at a time when everyone was having trouble with the ‘haves and have nots,’” Lee recalls. “[Series creator] David Jacobs wrote this incredible speech for Karen called the ‘Pollyanna’ speech. She was upset that she couldn’t send cash in the mail or leave her daughter on the front lawn to play [unattended]. It resonated with the audience.”

Hollywood Museum's celebration for the 40th Anniversary of
Nina Prommer, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

“Joan, Michele, and Donna are friends of The Hollywood Museum,” says Donelle Dadigan, the museum’s president/founder. “It’s exciting to have them here.”

Hollywood Museum's celebration for the 40th Anniversary of
Nina Prommer, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

Van Ark displayed a photo taken of herself, Lee, and Mills at a CBS event. She sent a framed copy to each of her co-stars. While the women have no official project to announce just yet, Van Ark assures that she, Lee, and Mills “are Knot done yet!”

Hollywood Museum's celebration for the 40th Anniversary of
Nina Prommer, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

Among Abby’s many impressive feats was dragging the bloodied corpse of Peter Hollister (Hunt Block) to a construction site and burying his body – all without getting a spec of dirt or blood on her lavender ensemble! “You betcha,” laughs Mills of that particular fashion feat.

Hollywood Museum's celebration for the 40th Anniversary of
Nina Prommer, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

While some sites report that both Michele Lee and Ted Shackelford (Gary) were in all 344 episodes of Knots, Shackelford appears to have a credit only in Season 3, Episode 10, “The Three Sisters,” in which the women of Seaview Circle spent the night in a haunted house. That means Lee is the only cast member to have been in every single episode!

“It’s an honor,” says Lee of her unique distinction. “More than that, it was my desire to be in every show. We were getting close to the end of the run and I thought, ‘Why not do all of them?’”

Hollywood Museum's celebration for the 40th Anniversary of
Nina Prommer, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

“I just knew from reading breakdown that this was the part for me,” Mills says of the strong-willed and manipulative Abby Fairgate. “Some people may have felt I couldn’t do it because I had become known for playing ‘Miss Goody Two-Shoes’ characters. I had this blonde-haired and blue-eyed innocent look – but I just knew I could do it.”

Hollywood Museum's celebration for the 40th Anniversary of
Nina Prommer, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

Had Van Ark ever heard of the story that Val was only supposed to get one of her twins back after they’d been kidnapped? “No,” she says. “Never that. It might have been in the script at one point where they might have tried to separate the twins, but the audience would not have accepted her only getting one of them back. I don’t even think that’s a good storyline. I will say I am so proud of the work we did on the show. The only time Knots was No. 1 in the ratings was when Val got her babies back.”

Hollywood Museum's celebration for the 40th Anniversary of
Nina Prommer, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

Pictured l. to r.: Van Ark, Lee, Dadigan, Mills, and Leeza Gibbons

There was an initial story pitch that had Abby playing an active role in the kidnapping of Valene’s babies. Instead, what played out on air was a shady lawyer, Scott Easton (the late Jack Bannon) orchestrating the abduction after Abby made an offhanded remark about how the twins’ existence would hamper her marriage to Gary.

“I said no, not if you want Abby on the show,” Mills says of Abby having a direct role in the twin being abducted. “The audience wouldn’t have forgiven her. That was the only time I thought they were going of the rails. But the door was always open for us to go to the producer or writers with suggestions. Nothing big, but if you had a nuance or something you wanted to share, we always felt welcome.”

Hollywood Museum's celebration for the 40th Anniversary of
Nina Prommer, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

Knots had some celebrity fans including L.A. Lakers legend Magic Johnson. Van Ark recalls: “He came up to me one time and said, ‘Joan! Valene! That episode where the twins came home…I cried!’ He gave me details about that scene that I didn’t even remember. That thrilled me, as I was and remain an L.A. Lakers fan!”

Hollywood Museum's celebration for the 40th Anniversary of
Nina Prommer, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

Mills, shown here with Donna Pescow (Angie), Teresa Ganzel, and producer/actor Billy Van Zandt, left Knots in 1989, but she returned to the cul-de-sac in 1993 for the series finale.

“This was a show that I was so close to and had been so happy on,” Mills shares. “I wanted to be in the last [episode]. I had gone off and was producing my own movies by that time. I was very happy where I was and I was happy for everyone at the show.“

Hollywood Museum's celebration for the 40th Anniversary of
Nina Prommer, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

Attendees included Carolyn Hennesy (Diane, General Hospital) and Kate Linder (Esther, Young and the Restless) shown here with Dadigan.

Says Linder: “This was a fabulous event. It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years! I have had the good fortune to know Donna and Michele and also Joan, whom I worked with on Y&R [where she played Gloria]. My favorite Knots storyline was Val’s twins being kidnapped and her being reunited with them.”

Hollywood Museum's celebration for the 40th Anniversary of
Nina Prommer, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

“Abby played ‘doctor’ with anyone who knocked on her door,” Lee quipped of her TV sister-in-law Donna Mills (Abby). (Pictured Van Ark, Anson Williams of Happy Days fame, Lee, and Mills.)

“It was eerie when Karen’s life would bleed into mine,” Lee notes. “One time, Joan and I were in my dressing room and I was putting on my wardrobe for the day. Well, the sweater they gave me did not fit. So, Joan put her hands behind the sweater and pulled [to stretch it]. That ended up being written into a scene on-air between Val and Karen!”

Hollywood Museum's celebration for the 40th Anniversary of
Nina Prommer, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

On a rumored story that if Van Ark hadn’t left the show after Season 13 that Val would have written Greg Sumner’s (William Devane) biography and, in doing so, would have discovered that his late wife Laura (Constance McCashin) was still alive in the clinic where she went to “die”:

“I hadn’t heard that, but I would have loved that,” Van Ark says. “I love Constance McCashin. I love her with all my heart. We just emailed each other the other day. That’s the thing about Knots. We’re all still connected.”

Hollywood Museum's celebration for the 40th Anniversary of
Nina Prommer, courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

“When the show ended, the only thing I took with me was the director’s clapperboard that was used in the last episode,” reveals Lee. “The most important thing from the show is the friendship I have with my two girlfriends [Joan and Donna]. The people on the show, I will say, are our brothers and sisters.”

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Knots Landing stars Joan Van Ark (Valene), Michele Lee (Karen), and Donna Mills (Abby) reunited recently at The Hollywood Museum in Hollywood, Calif. to celebrate the show’s 40th anniversary and help launch a costume display featuring actual fashions they wore on CBS nighttime soap that ran from 1979-1993.

The trio of fan favorites chatted with TV Insider about backstage secrets, stories that never happened, and favorite memories. If you’re going to be visiting Hollywood, you can check out the Knots Landing costume display that’s running through Wednesday, April 1 at The Hollywood Museum.

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