"Working on 'Hart To Hart' was a joy, and I wish it could have carried on for years," Stefanie Powers told 'Woman' magazine in 1985. "Without R.J.'s (Robert Wagner) insistence, I probably would not have been in the show. Well, I was not the most in-demand actress in town at the time. My position was that of a working actress, which was very nice.
"Everybody thought I could do a job. But doing anything else, or expanding my horizons, was out of the question because I didn't have the financial viabilities. Having a hit TV series opened all doors, and our first production, 'Family Secrets', was a winner. So now (in 1985), well, it's just the best of all possible worlds. But when it came to 'Hart To Hart', R.J. was very much my champion. Without him, I would never have been Jennifer Hart.
"I've been up and down so many times. This rather sharply underlines the fact that any so-called success in this business is illusive and ephemeral. So, therefore, you must use your failures as well as your winners as the base for the way in which you conduct your life. My attitude is take it when you can get it! So I'm getting it right now (in 1985) and I'm terribly happy about it. There is nothing more rewarding to an actor than consistent work.
"I fell into this career. Oh, I'd studied dancing and I always loved the movies, loved the theater, loved, most of all, the musical stage. But I never superimposed myself on it. I never went to a theater and said, 'I’m going to do that.' Certain things did happen that put me in those places finally, although I was, I suppose, available for that opportunity. I go along with the Chinese philosopher Lao-Tsu, who said, 'To do is to be,' and I am one who prefers 'to do' to everything else. I'm always less interested in the achievement than in the process of doing it. That's the fun for me. If we work solely for the end result, once having reached it, it's ended, you see?"
At the time Donna Mills could be seen on TV in 'Knots Landing'. "I've been to many places in the world, but there are so many I haven't been to," she made known. "I want to go to India, I want to go to China. I want to go there before it becomes too easy. Now (in 1982), you go there and you don't stay in a luxury hotel, you stay in a hotel that is a Chinese hotel. It's not very luxurious - that's the way it is there.
"I don't want to go when there is a big Hyatt or a big Holiday Inn that you can stay in. It would look just like the buildings do here (in the U.S.). That isn't interesting." In 1988, Donna Mills came to Australia to the mining town of Broken Hill to film the TV movie, 'Outback Bound'. In the movie, Sydney substituted for Los Angeles, "We had to find offices, restaurants and houses that resembled those in Beverly Hills and that wasn't easy."
Speaking to 'Beacon Journal Wire Services', Donna disclosed, "Until 5 years ago (around 1983), women were not allowed to work in Broken Hill – not as waitresses, not as receptionists, not as anything. The place was papered with posters saying, 'Wife-bashing is now illegal,' and it wasn't a joke." On the television, Donna was best known as Abby on 'Knots Landing'.
In conversations with 'The Los Angeles Times', 'United Press International' and Bettelou Peterson, Donna discussed the role, "I'm not sure Abby affords me the opportunity to do my best work. But she is my favorite part so far (to 1985) in my career. My mail is very positive toward Abby. Women especially would like to take charge of their lives as she has. They can't, so they live vicariously through Abby who is anything but a victim.
"I personally don't ever want to play a victim again, unless there's some lesson to be learned from it. I like playing strong women, though they don’t necessarily have to be a bitch or a vixen like Abby, but I enjoy playing women who do things. I don't like it when the writers have her do things I don't think she would, like breaking into somebody's house. She is very manipulative, but she's not vicious. She just wants what she wants – money and power.
"She likes power more than money. She's got enough money (by 1985). It’s power and achieving that she most wants. Abby likes to be in control of things. I don’t like that image. Woman as victim. Not just for me as an actress, but for women. I enjoy Abby because she’s multi-dimensional. She’s strong and I think that’s what women like about her. She doesn’t let anyone get in her way or push her around. She’s nasty but once in a while, she’ll do something nice and surprise you.
"I think a character has to have a leavening of some good to keep people interested. If something goes wrong for her she figures a way around it. There are roadblocks but Abby never sits down and cries. She never cries on anybody's shoulder. She figures out a way to get around it. I don't think Alexis has any redeeming qualities. But, I've always felt that most of the characters on 'Dynasty' are really more like cartoons.
"I think Abby could handle Alexis. It would certainly be an interesting confrontation. But I hardly think it will take place inasmuch as they're in different shows on different networks. Abby doesn't panic, cry or scream. Alexis is more emotional. Abby figures her way around problems to get what she wants. I think she is more real, less a caricature than Alexis.
"'Dallas' and 'Dynasty' have won Emmys. Our show has never won even though we are the best acting company in TV … We're not as spectacular as the others, and I think it's time we changed our image somewhat. We never go out anywhere. The other shows have big, formal dinners and balls. On our show it's backyard barbecues. People don't tune in 'Knots Landing' to see our gowns and jewelry."
As a role model, Donna conceded, "I feel a great deal of responsibility. I and people like me probably have more sway over the television-watching public than somebody better qualified does, somebody who is more learned. So I try to know what I'm talking about. I would hate to be a bad influence anywhere. I think if I have the power to be a good influence that it's a wonderful and precious thing. I don't want to abuse that. The responsibility of what power I know I have. That’s a priority and I always try to be aware of that. I’m not presenting an image that isn’t true."
"I wasn't too thrilled when I heard Donna was joining the cast," Joan Van Ark told Jerry Holderman in an interview. "I was hurt as an actress because I saw the focus shifting. I still remember a line from Donna's first season on the show. Val marches across the cul-de-sac to slap Abby across the face when she finds out Abby has been sleeping with her husband. Val says to Abby, 'I can see I'm going to have to keep my eye on you all the time.' Abby just smiles and says, 'How else are you going to learn?' That stuck in Val's head, and it stuck in Joan's head, too. As it's turned out, Donna's been a blessing in disguise because she's created so much dramatic conflict."
"Val was married the first time to Gary Ewing at 15, even before 'Dallas' went on the air," Joan explained. "Val and Gary broke up and were remarried 17 years later on one of the last 'Dallas' episodes I appeared on. Two years after we moved to the cul-de-sac in 'Knots Landing', Gary ran off with Abby Cunningham. Gary divorced Val and married Abby.
"Val freaked out last year (in the 1984-85 season). She became schizophrenic and assumed the personality of Verna Ellers. She became a waitress and agreed to marry a fortune-hunter who knew she was a Ewing. Just as she and this guy are exchanging vows, Gary comes to her rescue. Thursday (back in November 1985) Val will finally marry Ben. He's a TV newsman she has dated for three years. Val loves Ben, but she’s still in love with Gary.
"In every woman's life there is only one man who makes her heart stop. For Val that man is definitely Gary Ewing. I get a vicarious kick out of Val’s wedding scenes. But I couldn’t take the emotional stress she goes through. I'm not even sure I would want to be Val's friend. I've been living with her for more than 6 years now (since 1979 to 1985). Val is like a good many women I know in real life. She’s always there when someone needs her. Basically she’s a goody-two-shoes, and I'm not.
"Val is a survivor. I think ultimately the producers will break up the marriage of Gary and Abby and that Val and Gary will get together again." Donna Mills confessed, "We like to know what's going to happen in advance. We demand to know at least as much as the producers know. They write what they call a bible, an outline of the whole season, every year, but it seems as if, every year, one of the producers doesn’t like it so they start changing it. So the story line is never what we were told anyway.
"That's frustrating. It’s hard to work that. I can’t imagine not knowing something of where your character is going. They say that on 'Dynasty' they don't know … That's probably the reason the characters end up as caricatures. The actors don’t know how to play something because they don’t know where it’s going." Joan Van Ark added, "Our characters are real people who find themselves in situations the audience can relate to. Sure there are power struggles, especially between Abby and Sumner, but money isn't always the central theme like it is one of the other night time soaps. That distinguishes our show, and I think that differences is what has made 'Knots Landing' such a success."