Lisa Hartman Black is returning to the public eye after a few years out of the spotlight. The star of “Knots Landing” and dozens of television series and films has been raising her 3 ½-year-old daughter, Lily, with her husband, country music superstar Clint Black, in Nashville, Tennessee. Her reemergence this February will be in the television film “Home Again” on The Hallmark Channel. Last week, she spoke from her home in the Music City.
Art Swift: So are you in Nashville?
Lisa Hartman Black: We are here full-time. We’ve been here a couple years. Yeah we decided after we had the baby that it felt like the thing to do. There was no really serious reason, but it just made sense to be here. Then Clint (Black) decided he wanted to start a label, with some other people, called Equity Records. And then I went back to work this summer for the first time for Hallmark, which was a great way to go back. It’s wonderful here -- you get four seasons. We ride along and I say, “Look Lily, look at the cows,” and then we’re home in five minutes.
It’s cooling down now and the leaves are changing and it’s really nice. You find yourself explaining what fall is to a three-and-a-half year old. It’s a whole new world now. It was great to go back to work. Lily was there, hanging out on the set a lot.
AS: How long was the shoot for?
LHB: For four weeks. Actually it was a 24-day shoot. Movies for television, it’s usually 18-21 days.
AS: Now when you say you’ve relocated to Nashville, before then were you in the Los Angeles area the whole time?
LHB: Yeah. When I married Clint he was a Tennessee resident and we always had a home in both places. Every year was always a little bit different, depending on what we were doing for touring and movies. And we loved it. But we sold the house in LA and moved here.
AS: So what I have done is asked for questions from Knots Landing Online members and if you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you them and you can hear from the fans in their own words.
LHB: That sounds like fun!
Joe from Yonkers, NY asks: how did it feel to come back to knots landing as a replica of character you recently played?
LHB: My first reaction was, I thought they were playing a joke on me. I thought my agent was kidding when they said they wanted to bring me back on the show. And then, when I realized they had a storyline planned out, I was extremely flattered. So I wanted to have fun with it but also make it as real as possible. Obviously it worked because there was that concern. Either people were going to laugh at us or they were really going to enjoy it.
AS: That was a pivotal time in the show’s development. Were you aware of the onrush of letters and phone calls about you? Did you hear about it at the time or was it explained to you later?
LHB: When I got the call from my agent, that’s what they were telling me. I think of myself as pretty humble and I was raised that way, but when they told me I was getting all these calls, I couldn’t help but be excited by it. It was really flattering.
James from London asks, There was always something tremendously likeable and sympathetic about your portrayals of both Cathy and Ciji, but in some ways it strikes me that, as written, Ciji is less a three dimensional character and more a physical manifestation of other character's fears and desires: to some she is a sexual threat, to others a business opportunity, to Gary and Laura she symbolises hope and innocence. She was so many things to so many people; there was something almost schizophrenic about her! Were you aware of any of these things as an actress? (How familiar with the characters or the show prior to working on it?) Was it a tricky role to pin down?
LHB: He’s talking about Ciji? Interesting, because I see a little more of that in Cathy. Ok. When I look back on my career, I’ve been very blessed, working since the late 70s, and I’ve always liked playing likable characters. I like a dark side but I still like playing a likable character. I just finished playing a woman who had a lot of issues and family problems but you understood in the end why she had the problems she had. That’s kind of what I felt like with Ciji, I felt like she’s not had the greatest upbringing and influences and she’s really trying to get away. We jokingly called her the “angel slut” (laughs). That’s the nickname the writers had for her, and I think that carried over into Cathy. It’s always a challenge to play someone flawed, but to keep it likable. That’s what I liked; it was a challenge.
AS: So when you were saying before that James thought that about Ciji, but you would have thought that about Cathy, how would you view the two characters?
LHB: Well, Ciji was discovered by Gary and she was a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I credit the writers for doing that. And it’s like I said before about keeping her likable and so forth. But then when Cathy came along, I saw Cathy as more flawed and it was more challenging. Coming back to the show, there was a fear of the character not working. We wanted to do something different and I wasn’t sure how it was going to catch on. But after a while we saw that, OK, I have my foot in the door now and I can relax and it takes a load off. I’m back in the cast.
AS: And you weren’t going to get killed off as quickly.
LHB: (laughs) Right. I did know that I wasn’t going to stay forever and ever. I mean, when I was hired, it was for only seven episodes, and it just kept growing and growing. I had an album coming out so my plan was to go on the show and do some of my songs, and the producers knew this, and I thought I can reach a mass audience for my music. But I loved acting and I loved the character and I thought, “This is a great gift that I can do this and I’ll go on the road.”
Back to Cathy, she was more challenging and I think rougher around the edges. She knew more about what was going on. The original idea for her was that she was going to come in and drive Gary a little nutty, make him crazy. You know, that was Abby’s plan. And Ted and Donna had some ideas, and I just said, “hand me the script and I’ll give you my input.” So we were just finding our way with Cathy.
AS: Had you ever seen the movie “Vertigo” at that point?
LHB: No I hadn’t.
AS: You did eventually though I guess?
LHB: Yeah … But I don’t remember it. It’s been so long and I’m the worst—My husband watches movies and can tell you dialogue from 10 years ago, but I’m the worst when it comes to that. I remember what “Vertigo’s” about but I couldn’t tell you…
AS: Your character was the television version of it. In the movie, Jimmy Stewart is tormented by Kim Novak’s character’s death but then is shocked to seemingly see the same character return, also played by Novak. Just like what happened with Ciji, Cathy and Gary.
LHB: I was told, I don’t know if this is true, that it hadn’t been done before on television.
AS: I don’t think it had, but in 1958 it was done in Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” and it had its worthy parallel on “Knots.”
LHB: Now I’m going to go rent the movie.
AS: Yeah, it’s one of the best.
Alex Wade from Ferndale, MI asks Upon returning to Knots as Cathy, your hair really did look like you'd just been released from prison - was the bad Aileen Worunos "Monster" hairstyle a choice or an infliction? Were you disappointed after playing the consummate victim, Ciji, that Cathy was also rather spineless? Wouldn't it have been more shocking and unexpected if Cathy had been more of a troublemaker instead of more of the same?
LHB: OK, addressing the hair. To come back perfectly coiffed and all put together didn’t make sense. She came back in this new environment and tried to make her way and she was more of a bad girl. When I was brought back the writers had this plan, and there was this really interesting storyline where Abby discovered her and Gary was going to be driven a little crazy. And then, I believe they didn’t want to do that. I don’t know who went in and said this and I don’t want to point the finger at anybody, but there were other creative ideas. So I wasn’t going to go in and rock the boat and I trusted them to come up with a good story. Toward the end of my run, it was clear to me that it was over. Everybody had different ideas and things were changing and the climate was changing. I had planned to stay a few episodes and it grew and grew. I knew I wasn’t going to stay on for the duration of the series, five, ten years, whatever it was going to be.
AS: So the hair was … you didn’t want her to look prim and proper---
LHB: It wasn’t so much prim and proper, it was that … I didn’t think she should have it together. And the hair followed from that. I thought because she was a lost soul where she met all these new people that she had to find her way. And eventually she did.
AS: Yeah! In big ways.
LHB: And I don’t think she was spineless; I think she was just trying to survive.
AS: I think there can be arguments for that in the first season but then when she got married---
LHB: She was just finding her way. There was then Alec’s (Baldwin) character, who was wonderful, and that wacky turn.
AS: I’d say it was wacky. Joshua had a knife to her throat in the midst of Cathy being a brainwashed evangelical woman.
LHB: (Laughs) That’s what makes it interesting.
Typetomark from California asks, "Lisa, I love you, many would agree that the years you were on Knots Landing defined Knots Landings' prime. You made Knots Landing golden by integrating so many characters with your own. Would you have liked to see your character have a closer, possibly romantic relationship with Laura (as Richard had suggested)? Thank you for taking knots landing from good to PHENOMENAL! Bringing you back was the best thing they ever did!!"
LHB: Oh wow. That is so nice. Oh thank you. That’s so flattering and makes me feel very good … I would have done just about anything the writers put in front of me but keep in mind that this wasn’t HBO or Showtime. I really trusted all those guys and felt so lucky to be in their hands as an actress. We had great directors and you know it was the kind of thing where you couldn’t wait to read the next script. So to go down that road with Laura, yeah I would have done it. I know if they had done it it would have been very interesting.
We actually had an outtakes reel and we were doing a take, Laura and me, and we were in an embrace and Richard came home and we were both wearing mustaches. (Laughs) They used it for the Christmas outtakes reel or whatever.
AS: So this was something that was thought about then. It wasn’t too subtle is what I’m trying to say.
LHB: It was implied that we were together, having a thing, yes. I know that Richard’s character was jealous and, while I can’t speak for another actor, I believe he was right to suspect something.
Suziebee from Philadelphia asks, were the outfits your fashion sense? What did you think Cathy or Ciji should have worn, or what did the studio want you to wear? You have a kick-ass body!
LHB: Well thanks very much. I loved all her clothes. It was very much my influence. And I actually won a Soap Opera Digest award and when I said my thank yous, I said I want to thank the producers for letting me wear my hair this way. I remember my first meeting with them, they loved my hair, and they loved my look and they loved my clothes, and it was edgy and funky and 80s. And I loved it. That’s how I dressed then and who I was. In real life those were the clothes I wore and my designer at the time, Ellene Warren, she created so many of those things for me. She was one of the first, if not the first, to do the cutout dresses that I wore that became so popular
But they loved bringing that into this more conservative group of people. These women, Donna, Michele and Joan, were all beautiful, sexy women but in a different way. They were a little more polished, where Ciji was funkier, glam rock.
AS: Do you still dress that way?
LHB: (Laughs) Uh, not really. I think there’s still a little edge. I don’t know, I just don’t feel grown-up enough to put on some … stuff. I like things simple and shapely, but I don’t show as much as I used to. And it’s funny because in real life and even back then, I’ve always been somewhat conservative in my morals and my values. I was never, like, a loose girl. But when you look at the way I dress, I mean Clint had looked at some of my earlier stuff and said, “My God if I had seen this I would have said, ‘run for your life!’” (Laughs loudly)
But Ellene, she was just great. She had so many ideas for dresses. I remember one time she had the idea that a tiger had ripped my dress so she cut out these pieces and she filled it in with net. It was beautiful, these slashes, and gorgeous black sequins with rhinestones. It was so much fun.
Sunshine Boy from London, UK asks, Season 4 (when you were Ciji) was a real turning point for the show, not just in terms of ratings but also in the way Knots told its stories. Was there any sense when you were working on it that the show was exploring new ground and changing from its previous seasons?
LHB: I certainly knew of “Knots Landing” and knew what I was going into, but I hadn’t seen much of it. So I didn’t know much beforehand what was happening but on the set there was a rumble. You could feel it. A feeling of new life. I mean, I didn’t think it was me, but I knew they wanted to breathe new life into the show. And I just thought I was lucky to be part of this new breath that was going on.
AS: So that brings up the question: how did you get the part? Did you audition or was the part created for you?
LHB: All I know is that my agent said they want to meet with you. They want to add a character and they like your music and you could do your songs. So I think they had a seed of an idea and David Jacobs, the exec producer, wanted music in the show, wanted a female who could sing and all that and somehow they wanted to meet with me and that’s it. I walked in with my spiky hair and got the part eventually.
AS: How much music had you recorded up to that point? Just give me the status of your music career in the years leading up to getting on the show.
LHB: My first album was released in March of ’76. It was just “Lisa Hartman.” Jeff Barry produced it and David Foster played on my album. And Jeff Barry, he had just written “I Honestly Love You” for Olivia (Newton-John) with Peter Allen, so I was in great hands. We got great reviews but we never had a hit. But that’s not uncommon the first time out and I was very young.
By the time I had done Knots it was my third album, I think. And it was called “Letterrock” and it sounded like “Let Her Rock” but we ran it together. But I never had a hit. In fact, I never had a hit single until when I was with my husband, and it was four days before he turned the record in that I laid a vocal down. I was like, I just don’t do that thing anymore.
Laura Avery Sumner from Portland, Oregon asks, Both of your characters on KL ended up being good friends with Laura. Did you and CMC strive to maintain differences in these two relationships on screen?
LHB: Yes, there was a concern that we were going to be playing the same relationship over, from Ciji to Cathy. I like how the producers made them friends the second time around because I so liked working with Constance McCashin. For selfish reasons, I got to see her more! Constance is a wonderful person. But yeah, we talked about keeping the differences and I think Ciji was different with Laura and Cathy was different with Laura. Cathy and Laura weren’t as close as Ciji was with Laura.
Seaviewer from Australia asks "When I was watching the Knots Landing episode in which Dick Sargent appeared, I couldn't help thinking that this was a historic television moment since he had played Darrin in Bewitched and you had starred in the sequel series Tabitha. Were you aware of the 'father-daughter' connection when you were filming the scene?"
LHB: Oh my God, that’s hilarious. You know, I don’t even remember he was on the show.
AS: It was one scene.
LHB: Do you remember?
AS: I remember seeing it on reruns, yeah.
LHB: I was in the scene?
AS: It was a thing where Alec, Joshua, was starting to get fame with his TV show and you were his girlfriend, and he went to this camp for mentally retarded kids. Dick Sargent was playing himself as a camp counselor there, and Joshua coming to the place rallied all the kids. It was one of those moments where he saw the impact of his show and Cathy saw the impact. So, it was at a camp.
LHB: I vaguely remember that. A little bit’s coming back and thank you for helping me with that. But yeah, I did remember that he was my TV “father” and the irony of me being on the show with him. Yes, I remember that he was here. It’s a small business, or even better, “It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it.” Steven Wright said that, and it’s so true.
I remember when I did “Tabitha,” Elizabeth Montgomery’s ex-husband, who directed all the Bewitcheds, did our pilot and it was very cool. We were so excited to get him. But my point is that it’s a small industry and you never know who you’re going to run in to.
Brad from West Hollywood, CA wanted me to mention that he is the editor at tvtome.com for Lisa Hartman and at movietome.com for a lot of your movies.
He asks, your legions of music fans desperately want to know who to pressure to get your music on CD! We need a remastered "New Romance"! Are there any plans for a CD release of your past albums?
LHB: Not at the moment. But Clint has actually talked about it. We don’t need to pressure him, but he’s had this idea. And I go, “Oh honey,” (Laughs) I’m very flattered for the question, though. There are no plans at this moment, but we’ve actually talked about it.
Brad also asks: Your music has always inspired me, I even wanted to call my band cijidunne (though it was nixed) I'm wondering about all the fabulous covers you sang on "Knots Landing". Are there studio versions of the songs? I know "Jehovah" is a big fan favorite and would be something great to get a hold of.
LHB: Thank you so much for asking. The cover songs are not available as far as I know. We just cut them for the show and I’m sure “Knots Landing” or Lorimar owns all that.
AS: That’s why we hope the show goes on DVD so we have all the songs remastered that way.
Andre Bessette from New Orleans, Louisiana asks Were you asked to come back for “Noises Everywhere,” when Laura died? It would have been fun for Richard to see a Ciji look-alike mourning his wife!
LHB: No I wasn’t, doggone it.
AS: I know you came back at the end for the “Block Party,” but was there ever a time before that when you might have come back?
LHB: They toyed with some ideas, but nothing ever seemed to make sense.
AS: Oh they did? Can you mention what the ideas were?
LHB: Nothing really concrete. I know they wanted to stick with the main characters that the show kicked off with.
AS: So in the seven years after you left there was some buzz about you coming back?
LHB: Yeah there was some buzz but nothing ever really came to be.
AS: After you left did you watch the show at all?
LHB: Here and there, yeah I did. It was such a huge part of my life. I’d love to see them all again but everybody goes on with their lives. I know that’s such a lame reason, but it’s true.
Kenny W from Bad Rothenfelde, Germany asks Lisa, you are one of my favourite actresses. I’m doing a lot of stage and independent film work of myself and occupational I’m working with psychical diseased people (teaching dramatherapy e.g.) in Germany and through the years you became an actress model for me! Here are my questions:
Looking at your huge filmography and your films I was impressed by "The 17th Bride" (based on Ladislav Grossman’s novel "The Optical Store"). A great independent movie in my eyes. While watching it I could hear some German spoken sentences at the tragic end of this film! Did you shoot parts of it in Germany back in 1984?
LHB: Unbelievable. Yes.
LHB: Yes we did. Yes we did. It was based on a novel by Ladislav Grossman. We shot in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. And then I came back to the states to promote “Where the Boys Are” and then went back to Germany and we shot for about a week.
AS: I’ve never even heard of this movie.
LHB: It was after Ciji was murdered, during what was that hiatus. Looking back, I had no idea what a big shot the director was over there. I remember more about that than Dick Sargent.
Kenny W also asks: I’m desperately searching for your song "The Christmas Train" you cut as a little girl. When and where was it published?
LHB: It was never released. I did cut the … my God, how does this person know this? That makes me wonder, maybe they did release it somewhere. My understanding was that it was never released; local radio stations played it when I was five years old. Clint can’t wait to play it for Lily this Christmas. But as far as I know, it’s not available. It was never printed.
AS: I hope you’re getting a theme here. (Laughs)
LHB: Oh my God…
AS: There’s a fan base of yours that wants to see your music released. I want to hear all this after reading all these questions!
LHB: I never listen to myself, I never watch my movies, and I forget stuff. It was like when we were talking about movies before I really had to think. I guess I think, “That’s done, that’s in the past” and I just don’t think about it often. But it’s nice; it’s very sweet to hear these letters.
Tommy Fairgate from Miami Beach, FL asks, Dear Lisa, You really hit big as the quintessential California blonde in Knots Landing, before that you made a lot of TV pilots and shows could you tell me a little about "Tabitha" which I loved but which never really caught on -was Elizabeth Montgomery ever involved, who was from the original show, anyone?
AS: When you lead into that question, why not give us a biographical roundup of how you got into the business?
LHB: I had as a child done commercials and local theatre in Houston. And I jumped to putting a band together at 15, 16, 17 years old. I was working in a club, a supper club, from 9 to 1 in the morning doing “Top 40” music. And a friend saw me who was a friend of Jeff Barry’s, who I spoke of earlier. My friend called him and he flew in and said, “I would like to sign you and make a record with you.” I couldn’t believe it. You know, at 18 or 19, that was big stuff. And that’s what brought me to L.A.
Then the next thing I knew, I was auditioning for a series called “Tabitha,” that was a spinoff of “Bewitched” on ABC. It came down to Pam Dawber and myself. I remember sitting across from her in the big ABC offices in L.A. And the joke I made was “she got the hit and I got the stiff.” She went on to do “Mork and Mindy” and I got cancelled. But that’s how I got “Tabitha,” that I remember really well.
And we did 13 of them. It was really interesting because the show came on at a time when “jiggle” TV was very popular. We were very conservative, you know, it was “Bewitched” in the late 70s. We also came on as a midseason replacement and we got preempted by “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph” and that makes it hard on a new show. But they shut us down and said, you’re going to need new wardrobe, they were going to sex up the show. And they did. It still was very tame but we were competing with “Three’s Company” and “Charlie’s Angels” was coming on and jiggle was the big thing. It was like, “what does ‘jiggle’ mean? Oh, that’s what it means.” (Laughs)
Robert Urich was in it, Karen Morrow, so many great people, and as I said, Bill Asher did our pilot. We had great guest stars; we had some of the people from “Bewitched.”
AS: Did you ever have Elizabeth Montgomery?
LHB: No. We could not get her on the show.
AS: Because of her ex-husband?
LHB: I don’t know quite honestly. She didn’t want anything to do; it was part of her past. I don’t think it was anything real negative; she just didn’t want to revisit that. But think about it: she made a huge transition from comedy, playing a witch, to dramatic television. And I think that’s what it was.
Brett Shelton from Yakima, Washington asks, Hi Lisa, I want to start off by saying I enjoyed your singing on Knots Landing, especially the songs “Open Arms” and “I’ve got a Hole in my Heart” (I’m not sure if that’s the title, but I did enjoy it). I also enjoyed “When I said I do” and “Easy for me to say,” which you sang with your husband Clint Black. My question is what was it like singing with your husband on those songs, and what do you think of pop music versus country music? I thought you were great at both!
LHB: Hi Brett. Thank you for listening. I’ve always loved all kinds of music, country, pop, classical. My favorite music has always been “Motown.” I love The Supremes and Smokey Robinson, and it still is my favorite. I actually have a Diana Ross CD in my car.
Singing with my husband is hard to describe. It almost didn’t happen because I was chicken.
LHB: I just hadn’t sung in a long time and had really turned a corner. I’d done a lot of TV movies after coming off Knots. I had been blessed in a tough business. I hadn’t sung in so long and I said, “You’re Clint Black, I can’t sing on your album!” But he had written a song for us, literally four days before he turned the album into the label. And, I don’t know, he got to me. I thought, well it’ll be part of the album and it’s fun.
But then he called me in and said, “It’s the first single off the album,” and I said, “What?” And he said, “We’re going to do Jay Leno next week.” And then it was climbing and climbing and it went all the way to number one. Then it dropped from there and went back to number one. Then we were nominated for a Grammy. We were nominated and won at ACMs (Academy of Country Music). Then we were nominated and won Vocal Event at the Music City News awards. I mean, if I hadn’t done it, how much I would have missed out on. It was just so great to be accepted into country music. I’ve never had hit records, so to have them fall in love with this record and for it to be with my husband was the greatest.
And so many people responded to this record. People have gotten married to it, remarried; you can’t believe the email and letters we’ve gotten. The impact that it has made has been glorious for me.
AS: Plans to do it again?
LHB: Yeah, I believe we will do it again. It’s just a matter of him writing that song and saying, “Hey this is the one.” You know, writers amaze me. Clint can book Friday at 1 o’clock and he can sit and write. Or he’ll wake up in the middle of the night and doodle around with the guitar. He’ll come out of the shower, anywhere. “When I Said I Do,” I remember he came into the kitchen and said, “I have this song.”
AS: So why the six-year gap between your last movie and your new one?
LHB: The truth is, when we decided to have a child, it wasn’t easy. And we went through a lot and we finally got lucky. We actually thought we might adopt. And then I got pregnant and stayed pregnant. We almost lost her, but we didn’t. So she’s our little miracle child. I just knew I would have one and didn’t want to go back to work when she was six months old. I was in L.A. this past summer and took an apartment with Lily and Clint was touring on the West Coast. And then I got this offer from Hallmark. I liked the script and the character and everybody involved and I thought, “I want to do this.” It felt really good to go back to work and my agent knows I’m serious and want to get back in. And I’m OK with it now. She’s started preschool.
AS: What’s the movie about?
LHB: The movie, simply put, has Rue McClanahan playing my mother and Dale Midkiff playing my love interest. I’m a big-city doctor from a small town and I go home to mend some fences in the family with Mom and it takes a lot of turns. There are a lot of little surprises, it’s very emotional, and it’s a beautiful little movie. I’m very proud of it.
AS: And it’s going to be in February on Hallmark?
LHB: February, yes. It’s funny because this is so Hollywood, I was in the beauty shop and I go to Jose Eber, and I’ve known Jose for 20 years, and I was getting a haircut and he also does Jaclyn Smith. And I got the call to do this movie while he was doing my hair, and he went, “Jaclyn’s doing a movie for Hallmark too!” And I said, “Rue McClanahan’s playing my mother.” And he said, “Well, one of the ‘Golden Girls’ is playing her mother!” And I said, “Is Dick Sargent going to be in it?” No, I didn’t say that. (Laughs) It was just so perfectly Hollywood, very funny to me.
Cosmic Steeple from Weatherford, Texas asks Would you consider doing a "Knots Landing" reunion if you were asked? Oh, and do you still keep in touch with any of your KL cast mates?
LHB: Thank you for asking. Yeah, I would absolutely consider it. Although I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think it’s been too long. And I run into somebody here and there. Now that we’re in Nashville it’s not likely. When I’m in L.A. I tend to run into Donna Mills or Joan Van Ark or Michele Lee.
AS: What might be an example of “running into someone?”
LHB: I was sitting at a light and I knew Joanie’s license plate and I started blowing the horn and we jumped out.
AS: Well that’s a cool story.
LHB: It was a great cast. There were no egos. The egos were healthy, everybody got along.
AS: So there’s nothing we don’t know about Knots Landing that hasn’t come out yet?
LHB: Oh, I can’t say that. (Laughs) I have to say, you put all those characters together. And I’m talking the real-life people. Bill Devane is a character and those women, are characters. They’re great ladies and terrific actresses and to this day, I’m very appreciative that they were very committed, and very professional. It wasn’t a glam job, where they came in and got in the limo. Uh-uh. It was serious work and they wanted a great show.
AS: You said you knew that you weren’t going to be on the show for its whole run. How did you know?
LHB: Well, when they originally talked to me about appearing on the show, it was going to be seven episodes. Then it grew and grew. And after a few years we were mutually ready, I think, for me to move on. They thought the character had done what it can do, and so did I. I think if I wanted to stay they would have kept me there, at home. But it just seemed like the right thing to do.
AS: My assessment of your character was that she was really going gangbusters until the middle of the fourth year you were on and then all of a sudden it was like the air came out.
LHB: I remember saying to them, “I don’t think I can babysit for the twins again.”
AS: It was kind of cool how they ended the character. Nice-guy Ben had an affair with you and he went off on tour with you, and you left for good. It was almost like his character was going to go for good, too. The Cathy character had come full circle in a way; she was luring married Ben away from housewife Val and was becoming a little devilish in the process.
LHB: But this goes back to what we were talking about earlier, and I don’t know if they had this planned, but that I didn’t want to sleep with all the men in town. That’s not a fun job. I mean, I loved all the men but as a character showing up every day and getting into bed, wearing a nighty isn’t interesting. Not to me, anyway.
AS: You wouldn’t have liked it on “Melrose Place” I guess.
LHB: Uh-uh. That’s another reason I haven’t worked in a while. I’m like, “I can’t do this! I don’t want to sleep with him.” There’s a lot of that in television.
AS: Do you mean you morally don’t want to play those kind of parts or that a certain chemistry is missing?
LHB: No. It’s all in the writing. When it’s this mushy love story and I’m supposed to sink my teeth into the role, I really can’t. It’s not interesting to me.
AS: But you almost returned to the soap world with “2000 Malibu Road.” That was one of those great “never was” shows. Tell me a little bit about that.
LHB: I got a call from my agent that Joel Schumacher and Aaron Spelling were interested in me. And I was told I was their first choice. Jennifer Beals and Drew Barrymore came in, and Tuesday Knight. We were working with this feature director and my character, Jade, had this incredible mansion out in Malibu. We just had a great time.
We premiered and got huge ratings and I’ll never forget, I was on the tour bus with Clint and somebody had faxed me at the venue he was playing the Life section of USA Today with a headline saying the show was huge. And then, the show was really expensive to produce. And our ratings? They didn’t go way down but every week it was less and less. There also was something with the writers, but you never know sometimes what’s going on with these things. But they decided not to pick it up. Even though, we shot an ending specifically for Europe. It was really big over there. But I guess some things are not meant to be.
AS: That’s a shame. I wonder if that’s going to happen with “Desperate Housewives.” Are you aware of that show?
LHB: I’m aware of it, I know it’s gotten really good reviews, but I haven’t seen it.
AS: It seems like it’s more of a woman’s show, “Desperate Housewives,” whereas I always thought of Knots as more of an even balance.
LHB: You know it’s funny Clint will be doing a show and these big, old guys will come up to him and they just love “Knots Landing.” And this is out there, in the heartland. It’s really amazing because we never thought of it as a woman’s show and when I’m out there they’ll ask me about a certain episode. It always tickles me.
AS: I don’t think I have anything else…
LHB: I’ve actually got to go and attempt to start dinner.
AS: Oh really?
LHB: Yeah, Clint said I heat up stuff really well. I really don’t enjoy it a lot, I don’t despise it, I tried … I can fix anything in the house. I’m a fixer; I’m mechanically inclined. But when I get in the kitchen I get flustered. Like I bought a George Foreman grill and I thought, “I’m so in!” and I got ground turkey meat and I made turkey burgers last night and they were horrible. They were so dry we threw them out. I just have to get to know the grill. I guess I cooked them too long, but anyway, I’m going to steam vegetables or something.
AS: Well that’s neat that you do it yourself.
LHB: Well I don’t do it all myself, but I try. (Laughs)
AS: It has been a pleasure; I hope I haven’t taken up too much of your time.
LHB: No, it’s been fun! I really enjoyed it. I haven’t talked about this in a long time. I appreciate it, Art Swift. Art Swift. I just like saying your name, Art Swift. (AS laughs).
AS: Thanks a lot, Lisa Hartman Black! Be well.
Art Swift is a student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. Check out www.ArthurSwift.com for additional writings. Please visit www.knotslandingonline.com.
Special thanks to the members of Knots Landing Online.
Copyright © 2004 Arthur Swift
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