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Donna Mills Plays--Guess What?

It’s hard to believe that Donna Mills could portray anyone more despicable and cunning than Abby Ewing, the woman everyone loved to hate on CBS’ prime-time soap “Knots Landing.”

But she is.

Mills begins a three-week engagement Tuesday at the La Mirada Theatre in Christopher Hampton’s award-winning drama, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.” Mills is playing Madame de Merteuil, a woman so evil she makes Abby look like Shirley Temple.

Mills sees a lot of similarities between the two wicked women, but Merteuil “has the most delicious words to say. She is so tight and so there. She is the kind of character I love because no other character in the play gets to know how she feels. That’s a great secret to carry around as an actor.”

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Next month, Mills begins production on the CBS movie, “Runaway Father.” “They (CBS) were a little bit annoyed with me because they wanted me to do the movie in December or January because they wanted it for May sweeps,” she says.

But Mills told CBS she wasn’t available until February. “I said to them, ‘You know what? I worked nine years on “Knots Landing.” That was wonderful and I am certainly not complaining, but this play is a treat to myself and I am going to do it. So sit there and wait.’ ”

Mills took a much-needed break from acting after leaving “Knots Landing” in 1989.

“I didn’t work for almost a year,” Mills says. “I was immensely tired. You don’t realize it when you are doing a show, but it’s terribly, terribly wearing.”

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But she soon may return to the grind of a weekly series. “We are in the process of making a deal with CBS,” Mills says. “I want to do a half-hour comedy. They have an idea I think would just be perfect for a 10 p.m. romantic comedy, a la ‘Moonlighting,’ which is tempting. If they come up with a wonderful script.”

Jeni’s Comic Success Goes Cable

Comic Richard Jeni says he’s so hot he doesn’t even need to show up for his gigs.

“I am at the point now that they can put up a cardboard cutout of me and a tape recorder and people will pay 20 bucks a head,” he deadpans. “Financially, I am doing well. I have gone beyond the platinum American Express Card and have applied for the Kryptonite American Express Card. It has a financial pool so powerful, you can actually walk up to people on the street with the card and demand $500 in cash.”

Jeni’s also a resident comic on Showtime. “I am one of 20 at this point,” he says. And the first one to get his own one-hour comedy special. “Actually,” Jeni says, “it’s 57 minutes and 14 seconds.”

“Richard Jeni--Crazy From the Heat,” which was taped at Miami Beach’s Passion Club, premieres tonight at 10:05 on Showtime.

Though Jeni had a small part in the Clint Eastwood film, “Bird,” he hasn’t pursued a movie career. “Some people do stand-up because it is a means to an end,” he explains. “There are people doing stand-up in Los Angeles who were not getting anywhere as actors, so they figured if they put together a decent stand-up act they could get people to see them. If something else comes out of this I might check it out, but to me stand-up is an end to itself.”

Of course, he loves performing for an audience. “I tell you, when you are up there and you are really smoking, you realize they are more than just a crowd,” Jeni says. “They are 1,000 people who are going to make you look like an idiot when they tell your jokes wrong when they go to work.”

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Jeni knew he wanted to make people laugh after he saw the movie, “Richard Pryor in Concert.” “Pryor was such a good actor and his material had so much heat, it was the first time anybody ever brought comedy material to life that vividly in my mind,” he says.

“Plus, he was dirty, which always helps.”


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