For 14 years, the place to be on Thursday night at 10 p.m. was Knots Landing. The drama — set in a California cul-de-sac where secrets, love affairs, kidnappings and even murder kept everyone guessing — starred Tony-nominee Joan Van Ark as resilient Val, Michele Lee as loyal Karen and Donna Mills, who played the show’s conniving villain Abby. During its impressive run from 1979 to 1993, Knots Landing became the third longest running primetime drama after Gunsmoke and Bonanza.
Though their characters were often at odds, Joan, Michele and Donna became good friends. “We worked together for so long and so closely and intensely. It really was like family,” Donna, 80, exclusively tells Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “There were actually a lot more laughs on the show than people realized. We all had fun together.”
Michele, 78, recalls how she and Kevin Dobson, who played Karen’s husband, Mack, struggled to stop laughing during a bedroom scene. “We had a young daughter [on the show] and went through what most parents go through when someone isn’t sleeping through the night,” she remembers. “It was typical: ‘It’s your turn.’ ‘No, I went last time.’ And every time they called cut, we got angrier at each other. I kept pushing him with my foot, and he fell off the bed! And once you get the giggles, it’s hard not to stop.”
Another time, Donna was in on the joke when everyone took revenge on her character, Abby. “Everybody — cast and crew — came through and slapped me in the face,” she shares. “It was really, really funny.”
Despite the fond memories they share, the women confide that creating a weekly drama series is not for lightweights. “We really worked long hours,” says Joan about the days that could easily extend into 18 hours. “There were times I would drive home where I could barely stay awake,” adds Donna.
But the advantage of the long hours was that the actresses had a lot of input into the progression of their characters. “David Jacobs, the creator of the show, kept the actors happy by including them and always keeping his door open to suggestions,” says Donna. “It was a very collaborative set, and that’s unusual for a series.”
Since Knots Landing ended, Joan, Donna and Michele have remained in touch. A few years ago, they even threw a birthday party for Knots’ creator. And they admit they’d love to catch up with their characters Val, Karen and Abby in a reboot. “Yes! We’d love to. And David would do it in a minute,” says Donna. “I think there are a lot of people out there who would watch it, too.”
If an official return to Knots Landing isn’t in the cards, the actresses have other ideas for working together. “It could go a couple of ways, like a short-form series,” Joan confides to Closer. “We’re pitching a thing called We’re Knot Done Yet, because the three of us are not done.”