Knots Landing: Where Are The Actors Now?

Capitalizing on the success of "Dallas," CBS created "Knots Landing" in 1979 as a spin-off set in a fictional Los Angeles suburb centered around the lives and loves of several upper-middle-class families living on a cul-de-sac. The show's strength was a cast that consisted of both veteran actors like Julie Harris, William Devane, Kevin Dobson, and Donna Mills, as well as up-and-comers such as Alec Baldwin, Lisa Hartman, Nicollette Sheridan, and Brian Austin Green. "Knots Landing" ran 14 seasons, making it among the longest-running drama series on television. During its run, the series earned four Emmy nominations and won 38 Soap Opera Digest Awards (via IMDb).

The cast reunited for the 1997 miniseries "Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac" and the 2005 non-fiction TV special "Knots Landing Reunion: Together Again," in which the actors reminisced about their time on the show. Of course, those reunions were quite a few decades ago now, so it's understandable that some fans of the series might be curious to know where the actors who starred in it are now. We'll take a look back at the series that, along with "Dallas," "Dynasty," and "Falcon Crest," defined the primetime soap genre for much of the 1980s and 1990s, as well as the actors and their roles, and some players who are no longer with us.

Michele Lee

A Broadway veteran who was nominated for two Tony Awards, Michele Lee played the upbeat Karen Fairgate MacKenzie, the only character to appear in all 344 episodes of the series. Karen was a hopeless optimist with a cheery disposition that could rival even that of Mary Tyler Moore and Kathie Lee Gifford. 

Alongside co-stars Joan Van Ark and Donna Mills, Lee was arguably the most important member of the trio of divas on the show. Indeed, in 1986, Joan Rivers even proclaimed Lee the "First Lady of 'Knots Landing.'" She won five Soap Opera Digest Awards for her work and, along with Julie Harris, was one of only two actors nominated for Emmy Awards for work in the show. Following the show's cancelation, Lee made guest appearances on a variety of comedy series, including "Something Wilder," "Will & Grace," and "Family Guy."

In the 1980s, at the height of Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign against drug use, Lee was an outspoken anti-drug advocate. Lee explained she was "trying to help educate the public through celebrity . . . and to deglamorize drug usage, of which alcohol is a part, on television and in motion pictures" (via "It's Great To Be Alive"). In 1998, Lee was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Two years later, she joined fellow veteran actors Linda Lavin and Tony Roberts on Broadway in Charles Busch's play "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife," earning a Tony nomination for best-featured actress in a play as Lavin's flighty, Bohemian childhood friend.

William Devane

A charming villain who fans loved to hate, William Devane played politician Greg Sumner, an old college friend of Mack McKenzie (Kevin Dobson), who runs for Senate in Season 5. Greg Sumner's tumultuous character arc includes losing his second wife Laura (Constance McCashin) to a brain tumor, leaving him a single father to baby Meg, who he gives to Mack and Karen (Kevin Dobson and Michele Lee) to raise as their own; a marriage and divorce from Abby (Donna Mills); and a rocky affair with Paige (Nicollette Sheridan). 

Notably, this was substantially more screen time than was originally planned for the character. "I was supposed to do that character for half a season," he told the New York Times in 1995. "But the audience just took to him. I was on for nine years, and it was great." Devane won three Soap Opera Digest Awards for his work.

Devane's big break came when he was cast as President John F. Kennedy in the acclaimed 1974 TV production "The Missiles of October," which earned him an Emmy nomination. On the big screen, Devane co-starred in the 1976 thriller "Marathon Man" with Dustin Hoffman, had a supporting role in Alfred Hitchcock's final film "Family Plot," and played the U.S. president in 2012's "The Dark Knight Rises." From 2005 to 2007, he also played Secretary of Defense James Heller on "24," a role he later reprised as president in "24: Live Another Day." 

More recently, Devane has become a familiar face in TV commercials as a spokesman for Rosland Capital, a precious metals asset management firm.

Kevin Dobson

A ruggedly handsome actor best known for playing Telly Savalas' young partner Det. Bobby Crocker on "Kojak," Kevin Dobson joined "Knots Landing" in its fourth season as good-guy federal prosecutor/detective Mack MacKenzie, who investigates the death of Karen Fairgate's (Michele Lee) husband. He eventually falls in love with and marries Karen. Dobson's rapport with Lee was so strong that they twice were named favorite super couple by the Soap Opera Digest Awards (Dobson also won three additional solo awards for his role).

A New York City native, Dobson worked a number of non-showbiz jobs early on, including bartending, waiting tables, and a seven-year stint as a conductor on the Long Island Rail Road. His acting career started when someone suggested he audition for an acting job. "I got the job ... it was a fluke," he told BOOMER Magazine in 2016. "I continued to work on the railroad but due to that job, they cast me in a commercial. I went to the SAG [Screen Actors Guild] office and they let me join. I was punching [railroad] tickets with a SAG card in my wallet."

Dobson's first feature film was a small uncredited part in 1971's "Klute" starring Jane Fonda. His most notable movie role was in 1981's "All Night Long," in which he played Barbra Streisand's short-tempered firefighter husband. Hobson suffered from an autoimmune deficiency and died on September 6, 2020, at age 77, per the New York Times.

Alec Baldwin

We're betting many of you probably didn't even know that Alec Baldwin starred in a soap opera. In fact, the Hollywood A-lister was largely unknown to primetime audiences when he joined "Knots Landing" in its sixth season in 1984 as the doomed evangelist Joshua Rush, the abandoned son of Lilimae Clements (Julie Harris). His final appearance was the following year as Joshua meets his demise falling to his death from a building.

Baldwin's film career started taking off following his departure from "Knots Landing." 1988 was an especially busy year for Baldwin, with him co-starring in "She's Having a Baby," "Beetlejuice," "Married to the Mob," "Working Girl," and "Talk Radio." Baldwin was nominated for the best-supporting actor Oscar for his performance in 2003's "The Cooler" and won two Emmys for "30 Rock." A frequent guest host on "Saturday Night Live," he won an Emmy in 2017 for supporting actor in a comedy series for his impersonation of President Donald Trump.

Off-screen Baldwin has become known for his maniacal public outbursts at paparazzi, having physically and verbally assaulted photographers in 1995, 2010, and 2013, per the New York Daily News. In fact, his "Knots Landing" co-star Joan Van Ark even once acknowledged, "He has a short fuse." In 2013, he was caught on video verbally assaulting a female reporter outside his Manhattan apartment building and allegedly using a homophobic slur against a photographer (via "Good Morning America"). Five years later, he was arrested for punching a man over a parking space (via People). 

In 2021, Baldwin discharged a prop gun while shooting the movie "Rust," killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. One year later, he reached an undisclosed settlement with Hutchins' family, per CNN.

Julie Harris

A revered stage actor, Julie Harris gained a whole generation of television fans as Lilimae Clements, the estranged mother of Joan Van Ark's Valene and Alec Baldwin's Joshua, who she abandoned when he was young. Harris added a definite air of gravitas to "Knots Landing," and joins Michele Lee as the only two actors nominated for Emmy Awards for the show, both in 1982.

Harris had an extensive Broadway career starting in the 1940s, appearing in such plays as "The Playboy of the Western World," "I Am a Camera," and "The Member of the Wedding" (she reprised her role in the 1953 screen version of the latter, earning a best actress Oscar nomination). With five Tony Award wins and a lifetime achievement Tony, she joins Audra McDonald and Angela Lansbury as Tony's most honored actors. In 2005, she was a Kennedy Center honoree.

Harris died on August 24, 2013, at age 87 from congestive heart failure, per the New York Times. A memorial service was held for Harris on December 3, 2013, at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in New York. Her "Knots Landing" co-stars Michele Lee and Joan Van Ark flew in from L.A. to attend, according to Showbiz411. The Julie Harris Scholarship at the Yale School of Drama was established following her death, with Alec Baldwin contributing the first $25,000 (per Broadway World).

Ted Shackelford

Ted Shackelford's Gary Ewing was first introduced on "Dallas" as a brother of J.R. (Larry Hagman) and Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy). Although his more prominently featured siblings on "Dallas" always seem destined to feud over South Fork for an eternity, Gary develops other plans that eventually lead him to "Knots Landing." In "Dallas" Season 3, Gary intentionally distances himself from his family by moving to Los Angeles with his wife Val (Joan Van Ark). 

Six days after the character's debut and departure in "Dallas" Season 3, Episode 14 ("Return Engagements"), "Knots Landing" premiered. Gary's dramatic plot lines included marrying and divorcing Val twice; having a steamy affair with Abby (Donna Mills) before marrying and divorcing her; a serious drinking problem that leads him to believe he murdered Ciji (Lisa Hartman Black), with whom he was also having an affair; and ultimately marrying Val for a third time.

Blond with classic Hollywood hunk good looks, Shackelford was a fan favorite. Prior to "Knots Landing," Shackelford played Ray Gordon on "Another World" for two years starting in 1975. From 2006 to 2015, he was a regular cast member on "The Young & The Restless" as twin brothers William and Jeffrey Bardwell. In 2013, Shackelford and Van Ark reunited as Gary and Val for three episodes of TNT's "Dallas" reboot. More recently, he also guest starred in a 2017 episode of "NCIS."

Donna Mills

Before starring in "Knots Landing" as Abby, Donna Mills' Hollywood career took a fairly typical route. After appearing in a small role in Woody Allen's 1966 Broadway play "Don't Drink the Water," she guest starred in dozens of series in the 1970s. These included classic series as varied as "The Six Million Dollar Man," "Barnaby Jones," and "The Love Boat." Veteran moviegoers might also remember catching Mills playing Clint Eastwood's girlfriend in Eastwood's 1971 directorial debut "Play Misty for Me."

As the oft-married and divorced Abby, Mills saw her character become the victim of a kidnapping plot. Unlike fellow leading ladies Michele Lee and Joan Van Ark, Mills' Abby was manipulative and self-centered, a contrast to the good nature of Lee and Van Ark's characters. Mills maintains she is still close with her female co-stars. "Joan and Michele and I are actually really good friends," she said. "It's turned into a real deep friendship for all of us now" (via the New York Post).

In 1994, Mills, then 53, decided to take a break from acting to raise her adopted daughter Chloe, who is now 28 and a model and social media influencer, per The Sun. Although Mills still occasionally took on small roles after this, she went for several years without a starring role. However, in 2014, Mills joined the cast of ABC's "General Hospital" as wealthy and conniving Madeline Reeves, a role which earned her a Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding guest performer in a drama series. More recently, she appeared in Jordan Peele's 2022 sci-fi thriller "Nope."

Lisa Hartman

Lisa Hartman joined "Knots Landing" in 1982 as rock singer Ciji Dunne, who has an affair with the older Gary Ewing (Ted Shackelford). Dunne appeared in nearly every episode of Season 4, but fans were shocked when the character unexpectedly met her demise at the end of the 1983 season. However, Hartman was so popular with audiences that the producers brought her back as a new character, yet another singer named Cathy Geary, who marries delusional evangelist Joshua Rush (Alec Baldwin). Hartman received two Soap Opera Award nominations for her work.

Of course, it should come as no surprise to "Knots Landing" viewers that Hartman is also a talented singer herself. She recorded four solo albums in the '70s and '80s. Although her music career initially took a back seat when she married Clint Black in 1991, her husband insisted that she continue to sing, per People. Hartman, now credited as Lisa Hartman Black, has joined her husband on several duets, and the two were nominated for a Grammy Award in 2000 for "When I Said I Do." In 2020, the couple appeared as snow owls on season four of "The Masked Singer," performing the song "The Prayer." Hartman and Black have one daughter, Lily Pearl, who is also a singer (via Classic Country Music).

Nicollette Sheridan

Nicollette Sheridan won two Soap Opera Digest Awards for her portrayal of Paige Matheson, who arrived in "Knots Landing" in 1986, claiming to be the daughter of Mack MacKenzie (Kevin Dobson). Paige (who staged her own death prior to entering the cul-de-sac) moves in with the MacKenzies, has an affair with her stepbrother, dumps him, then gets a job working for Greg Sumner (William Devane), with whom she also has an affair. 

Although she didn't appear in the first six seasons of the series, she quickly became a beloved cast member and was invited back for the 1997 miniseries. In the years since the convoluted scheming of "Knots Landing" came to an end, Sheridan has appeared in a variety of Hollywood productions. Beginning in 2018, Sheridan appeared in a total of 22 episodes of The CW's "Dynasty" reboot. However, her most well-known role since "Knots Landing" earned her enough tabloid talk to be worthy of its own soap opera.

From 2004 to 2008, Sheridan played Edie Britt on "Desperate Housewives," a role which earned her a Golden Globe nomination and two Screen Actors Guild Awards as part of outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series. Sheridan's character was killed off the show in 2009. She sued ABC, Touchstone Television, and producer Marc Cherry for wrongful termination, claiming that Cherry had physically abused her and she was let go after reporting it (per Entertainment Weekly). Cherry denied the allegations that he struck her in the head, and the case dragged on for several years, with Los Angeles Superior Court ultimately dismissing the case after determining Sheridan was not wrongfully terminated. Sheridan's request for a retrial was denied in 2014, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Brian Austin Green

Brian Austin Green co-starred in three seasons of "Knots Landing" as Brian Cunningham, the teenage son of Donna Mills' Abby. Green's work on the show was not a standout, but he was invited back for two episodes of the three-part 1997 mini-series. Less than a year after his regular role on "Knots Landing" ended, Green earned a decade-long role and teen-heartthrob status as a result of his part as David Silver on "Beverly Hills 90210." 

After that series ended, Green guest starred in a variety of different series, appearing in everything from "George Lopez" to "Smallville." In 2009, Green joined the Season 6 cast of "Desperate Housewives" as Keith Watson, the love interest of Marcia Cross' Bree Van de Kamp. He appeared in a total of 38 episodes of the ABC series, before departing the series at the end of Season 7. A little more than a year later, he began a starring role in Charlie Sheen's short-lived "Anger Management" series.

Green married fellow actor Megan Fox in 2010. The marriage, which produced three children, was tumultuous, with the couple separating and reconciling numerous times before finally divorcing in early 2022, per TMZ. Green is currently in a relationship with Australian ballroom dancer Sharna Burgess. He announced on Instagram the birth of their first child together (his fifth) on June 28, 2022. In the same year, Green was also very public about suffering from a flare-up of ulcerative colitis that left him bedridden for over six weeks (via "Good Morning America").

Joan Van Ark

Joan Van Ark played Valene Ewing, a role she originated on "Dallas," who married and divorced her husband Gary (Ted Shackelford) three times, as well as having two other marriages during the show's run. One of Valene's most dramatic storylines came when her newborn twins were kidnapped in seasons six and seven. Van Ark decided to leave the show in 1992 but returned for the last two episodes of the show's final season in 1993. Van Ark won two Soap Opera Digest Awards for "Knots Landing," and in 1985, she was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award as one of the co-hosts of the televised Tournament of Roses Parade on CBS.

After "Knots Landing," Van Ark made occasional guest appearances on such series as "The Nanny," "My Name Is Earl," and "Nip/Tuck." From 2004 to 2005, she played Gloria Fisher on "The Young and the Restless." Van Ark has acknowledged going under the knife on more than one occasion, as many of her contemporaries of an advancing age have. Sadly, some have also speculated that Van Ark's plastic surgery damaged her career. In fact, her appearance in recent years has left some concerned. "Everybody fixes," Van Ark said of having work done (via Studio 10). "The guys even. But you have to be careful and you have to be responsible, you have to be smart. And I'm as guilty as anybody of making horrible mistakes."