TV Tinsel: Back on set for holiday special, former soap stars reminisce about the '80s

Luaine Lee, Tribune News Service on

Published in Entertainment News

Drag out your shoulder pads, squeeze into those bell bottoms, spin up that VCR, the most famous heroines of the ’80s are back. Five doyennes of former prime-time soaps have reunited for a special movie for Lifetime premiering Dec. 2.

Linda Gray of “Dallas,” Donna Mills of “Knots Landing,” Morgan Fairchild of “Flamingo Road,” Nicollette Sheridan of “Knots Landing” and Loni Anderson of “WKRP in Cincinnati” costar in “Ladies of the ’80s: a Divas Christmas.”

This play-within-a-play features five soap opera stars who have come together to film the last Christmas episode of their popular series.

Of course, egos aren’t in short supply on this set, and old rivalries rear their ugly heads threatening to shut down production.

Gray, known for her role as the sweet Sue Ellen Ewing in “Dallas,” remembers how that show changed her life. “’Dallas’ was such a hard time, I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ Then they said, ‘You're going to have to go to Dallas, Texas, for two months.’ And I went, ‘What?’ That was so hard for me as a woman and as a mother. I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve never left my children and my husband. What am I doing?’” she recalls.

“I couldn’t take the kids because they were in school. My husband said, ‘You go.’ So I made casseroles and froze them and I labeled them — long before Martha Stewart. Then came a time when I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me, this is not healthy.’ And they said, ‘Well, we’ve sold it to series so you're going to have to go back to Texas for two more months.’ But that was during the summer, so the kids came. They brought friends, so it wasn’t as bad.”


When the show blasted off like the Saturn V, nothing was the same for her. “Every weekend for six months in a row, when the show hit its peak, someone was out at my house photographing me for some German, French or Italian magazine,” says Gray.

“I was, like, ‘This has taken over my life. I don’t have a life.’ The kids resented it. And everybody would go out to dinner, and people would come over for autographs and I thought, ‘This isn't what I signed on to do.’ I’m acting, yes, but I didn’t know the enormity of what I’d signed on for. It was huge. I can’t even imagine what it would be like now with people hounding you and chasing you and TMZ-ing you.”

Nine years and more than 20 made‑for‑television movies (usually as the perennial victim) preceded Donna Mills’ role as the scheming Abby on "Knots Landing.''

Once she had been on the show for two years, she realized it would mark a milestone in her life. "I knew it was a good vehicle, and that it was something I should use. You can be on a show like that and not be noticed all that much, though this role was one that was bound to be noticed,” she says.


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