“Actress Donna Mills: From Soap Opera Villain to Vineyard Farmer”

By | July 30, 2023



Donna Mills, best known for her role as Abby Cunningham on “Knots Landing,” has found a new passion in winemaking. Mills and her partner Larry Gilman started Mandeville Vineyards 10 years ago in the hills above Los Angeles. Despite not being in traditional wine country, Mills has successfully grown grapes and produced Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon under the Mandeville Vineyards label. In addition to her winemaking endeavors, Mills continues to act, currently starring in the Lifetime series based on V.C. Andrews’ “Dawn.” Mills, now 82, remains active and is determined to make the most of her extended life cycle by continuing to pursue her passions. Tracy Smith reported

Mandeville Vineyards: Donna Mills’ Backyard Becomes a Wine Wonderland

In the hills above Los Angeles, where one wouldn’t typically expect to find a vineyard, rows of grapes flourish in the heart of a residential neighborhood. Welcome to Mandeville Vineyards, also known as Donna Mills’ backyard. With a passion for winemaking, Mills, along with her longtime partner Larry Gilman, started this project a decade ago. The vineyard produces exquisite malbec and cabernet sauvignon wines under the Mandeville Vineyards label. Mills, who refers to herself as a farmer, finds great joy in nurturing her crops.

Donna Mills, renowned actress and star of the Lifetime series based on V.C. Andrews’ “Dawn,” may play a wicked grandmother on screen, but off-screen, she is just a nice Midwestern girl. Born and raised in Chicago, Mills initially aspired to be a dancer but found success on stage and in soap operas such as “The Secret Storm” and “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing.” She also made guest appearances on popular primetime shows, including the short-lived cop series “Dan August” alongside Burt Reynolds.

Mills’ breakthrough role came in 1971 when she starred in “Play Misty for Me” opposite Clint Eastwood. Although her performance was well-received, Mills found herself typecast as a damsel-in-distress. Frustrated with the industry’s limitations, she sought a role that would showcase her range. This led her to become one of the most infamous villains on network TV, playing the ruthless and husband-stealing Abby Cunningham on “Knots Landing.” Mills’ portrayal of Abby made her a household name, with people even pulling their husbands away from her at parties.

While Abby Cunningham brought her fame, Mills felt that something was missing from her life. Despite her successful career and production company, she longed to experience the joy of motherhood. At the age of 54, Mills made the decision to adopt a daughter named Chloe. The moment Chloe was placed in her arms remains one of the happiest moments of Mills’ life. She put her career on hold for 18 years to raise Chloe, cherishing the precious moments spent together.

When Chloe left for college, Mills knew it was time to return to work. However, she faced challenges in getting back into the industry. Casting directors, who were much younger and unfamiliar with her previous work, posed obstacles. Nevertheless, Mills persevered and landed a guest role on “General Hospital,” which earned her an Emmy. Although she believes her best work may have been in other projects, she is grateful for the recognition.

Now at the age of 82, Mills continues to defy expectations and push her boundaries. Despite the aches and pains that come with age, she remains determined to live life to the fullest. Mills acknowledges that this is the last chapter of her life, and she has no intention of retiring. She humorously remarks that there will always be a need for someone to play the role of a grandmother, and she is more than willing to take on those parts.

Mills’ journey has been an extraordinary one, from a successful actress to a devoted mother and now a passionate farmer. Her Mandeville Vineyards project showcases her dedication and love for winemaking. As she continues to thrive in her career, Mills serves as an inspiration to others, proving that age is just a number and that one can pursue their passions at any stage of life..