Too Cool for Christmas, here! TVs new holiday movie about a girl who would rather spend the holidays with her boyfriend than her gay dads, is the first family movie with a gay slant. We sat down with one of its stars, the former Abby Cunningham Fairgate Ewing Sumner, who steamed up Knots Landing for 10 years, Donna Mills:
So how do you fit into the movie?
Im playing Mrs. Claus.
Thats quite a departure for you!
Well, my agent called and told me about it and I was like I dont know. But he told me to read the script, and I really liked it. And because Chloe [Mills 10-year-old daughter] likes those kind of movies now, the teenage movies, I see a lot of them. Most of them arent very good. I thought this script was way above average. And I thought it would be fun.
What do you think of the fact that this is a gay-themed family film?
I think its a reflection of whats happening in society. In Chloes school, there are a number of kids who have two moms. Its just normal, it just is. Nobody singles it out as being that different. I think thats the way were headed and I think this movie will help.
Too Cool for Christmas is the first movie Ive ever heard of thats being shot in two versions, one gay and one straight.
I know. I had never heard of it either. In one version, the girl has a mother and father, and in the other she has two male parents.
So does that mean after shooting every scene, you re-shoot it changing the pronouns?
Changing the people!
Youre famous for your makeup. Do we get to see you in prosthetics in this?
Yeah, we did that for one scene. Big white wig. But we didnt do fat clothes for me! And then, in my next scene, Ive had a makeover and Imme!
Mrs. Claus gets a makeover?
Santa does too. And he turns out to be George Hamilton!
Abbys eye makeup was legendary!
And the classic morning-after-marrying-Sumner [William Devane] scene.
What did I do?
He wants to catch you without makeup so he sneaks up on you in the shower and says, Gotcha! You turn to him, hair in a turban, fully made-up, batting your eyes, as if to say, Can I help you?
(Laughing) They did so many fun things like that on the show! I used to love to get the script just to see what I would be doing. It was really fun.
Well, how often do you get to bury bodies in concrete [As Abby did to protect her daughter, whom she thought was guilty of murder]?
It was also so well-acted, -written, and -directed, which is why I think it still holds up so well.
It remains sort of a sign post of the times. And Abby was the kind of character that women aspire to. And I think still do. I think thats one of the reasons its so popular on the SoapNet.
And after Knots, you starred in and produced a whole slew of TV movies.
A couple of years ago I stopped making them because they stopped making them. There are so few television movies done now. Three or four years ago, CBS used to do 60 a year, and now they do five, maybe? So thats why I stopped producing. There was just no market for it anymore. It actually happened for me at a good time, because I have my daughter and I really want to be able to spend time with her. Its been really a blessing for me to be able to spend the kind of time I have with her. Its a whole different part of my life that I just treasure.
Do you see others from the Knots cast?
Last year when we did the CBS 75th anniversary, that was really fun. Joan [Van Ark] and Michele [Lee] and I do keep in touch. I always go to see Michele if shes doing a stage thing.
Did you see her in Mame at the Hollywood Bowl this summer?
I did! I thought she was wonderful. I think she should really do it somewhere in a full-blown production. Ive always thought that musical theater was her forte. She sings really well and she has bigness about her. I hope she does more.
Do you miss playing Abby?
I enjoyed every minute of playing her. I havent had as much fun since! Although, after that, I couldnt shop for years. I was shopped out.
You mean you did your own shopping?
I did. I was very, very particular about the clothes that Abby wore. Each scene, I felt it had to be right. So I would go to Neimans or Saks and I would just throw whatever piece of clothing I wanted into the cart. Id never have to look at a price tag. It was heaven.