Celebrity Parents TV Icon Donna Mills on Becoming a Mom at 54, Taking an 18-Year Acting Hiatus: 'I Went After It' The Knots Landing star opens up to PEOPLE about first-time motherhood in her 50s and aging gracefully By Kara Warner Published on May 7, 2022 09:00 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Austin Hargrave Donna Mills is a woman who knows what she wants and goes for it. The actress, best known for her iconic role as vixen Abby Fairgate on the hit Dallas spin-off Knots Landing, spoke to PEOPLE in the latest issue about how she paved her own unique career path in Hollywood, as well as a full life off-screen, which included becoming a mother in her 50s. Now 81, Mills says up until that point, she had been entirely focused on her acting career, but all that changed when she adopted daughter Chloe, who is now 27. "I was very concentrated on my career, but at a certain point, I realized there was something missing — it was a child," she says. "So I went after it. I adopted her when she was four days old." "By that time, I was 54 and people said, 'You're going to be so old [to] have a little toddler running around.' I never felt that," she recalls. "I never felt older than the other mothers who were probably in their 20s." courtesy Donna Mills Check Out the Knots Landing Reunion on Home & Family (PHOTOS) It was perfect timing for Mills, who encourages others to consider the same. "If you want to give to your career, I say having a child later in life is better than having a child early," she says. Though years have passed, Mills says she and her daughter are still very close. "We see each other at least once a week and we talk every day or text," she explains of their bond. Austin Hargrave Since her breakthrough performance in Clint Eastwood's 1971 directorial debut Play Misty for Me, the actress has continued to work steadily, and will soon hit the big screen in Jordan Peele's upcoming thriller NOPE, in theaters July 22. However, Mills also took an 18-year break from the business to be home with her daughter. "I took off 18 years. I didn't work," she says. "Well, the first couple of years, I did work. I did some movies for television and stuff like that, because I could take her wherever I went. But then when she started school, I wasn't going to go out of town for two months at a time. And I didn't become a mother to give her to a nanny." Austin Hargrave For more Donna Mills, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now, or subscribe here. In addition to her words of wisdom for anyone considering becoming a parent later in life, Mills, a proud octogenarian, also shared her secrets to aging gracefully: no to cosmetic procedures, yes to natural lines and mindful eating. "I usually work out every day. Having been a dancer, I have my ballet bar in a little gym upstairs, and I just got a Peloton for my birthday," she explains. "I do weight training and a lot of stretching." "I've always been a healthy eater. I don't eat sugar. I don't eat pasta. I don't do starches," she continues. "I eat mostly proteins and vegetables. I love vegetables, which I grow — kale and arugula, tomatoes. My greatest pleasure in life is eating it right off the vine. I'm not a good cook. The only thing that I make that's good is cheesecake."She adds: "For skin care, the main thing is stay out of the frickin' sun! It makes such a difference. And somebody asked me, 'Why don't you get [cosmetic enhancements]?' No, because I'm not going to look like a duck. I'd rather have lines than a duck bill."NOPE hits theaters on July 22.