1 of 5 | Left to right, Linda Gray, Donna Mills, Loni Anderson, Nicolette Sheridan and Morgan Fairchild. Their movie "Ladies of the '80s: A Divas Christmas" premieres Saturday. Photo courtesy of Lifetime
NEW YORK, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Morgan Fairchild, Donna Mills, Nicolette Sheridan, Loni Anderson and Linda Gray say they got a kick out of sending up the powerful, glamorous characters they're famous for playing in the new TV movie, Ladies of the 80s: A Divas Christmas.
"We all loved the idea," Fairchild told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.
"I think everybody was excited right away. Then we had to make sure we had a script that worked," she said. "Everybody kind of felt the same -- like it was going to be a lot of fun and we'd get to hang out, and it turned out to be right."
Premiering on Lifetime on Saturday, the comedy is about what happens when five TV icons -- who don't always get along with each other or love sharing the spotlight -- reunite in a posh California mansion to film the final holiday-themed episode of their long-running soap opera.
At the helm of the special-within-the-movie are producer Alex (Travis Burns) and director Nell (Taylor Ann Thompson), old college friends who are secretly in love.
Adding a little icing to the cake is the film's peppy theme song, "Ladies of the '80s," performed by '80s pop sensation Tiffany.
"We shot all of it in one house," Mills said. "We weren't moving locations and stuff like that, so it was a very concentrated amount of time. We spent most of the time in the house because the dressing rooms were down the hill and a train ride away."
Anderson added, "We had time to visit, which was great, and catch up with each other. I think that bonding also then worked in the movie."
And Fairchild chirped in, "It really shows in the movie how much we all like each other and love each other and the great time we were having." She joked that playing with their images was "like riding a bike."
"There wasn't a dull moment," Sheridan said.
The movie satirizes the power dynamics for which women on 1980s television were known.
While their characters in the movie start out as rivals, the actresses end up bonding over the experience of making it to the point the filmmakers fear they might disappoint fans by presenting a "love fest" instead of the much anticipated "bitch fest."
Mills described the movie as campy and hilarious, but with emotional depth.
"I think the writers made the characters into real people, so they weren't just divas," she said.
"They had their stories. They had their relationships. They had all that and it made the characters richer. The characters are going to be better and funnier the richer they are.
"It is about love and friendship and forgiveness. It's not just about forgiving other people, it's about forgiving yourself."
Fairchild added, "It's not an all plastic sit-commy thing."
The actress is best known for her roles in Dallas and Falcon Crest, while Mills and Sheridan starred in Knots Landing, Gray was the lead actress on Dallas, and Anderson stole the show on the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati.
Blonde bombshell looks
In their new movie, most of the women maintain their signature blonde bombshell looks that made them instantly recognizable in their '80s heyday.
Anderson said she's come to realize a big difference between the actresses working today compared to when she and her co-stars were regularly lighting up screens.
"I have my Loni suit and you have your Morgan suit and your Donna suit and your Nicolette suit and your Linda suit, but these young people are chameleons," she added.
"They have short hair, then long hair, then blonde hair, then red hair. Until you see their name on the screen, they're kind of unrecognizable. I don't know. It's something that we were never afforded."
She recalled once telling a filmmaker she thought her character should be a brunette.
"He said, 'Do you think I would spend any money on Loni Anderson if she didn't have blonde hair?' I think that's where we're all from."
Fairchild pointed out they were all at the height of their fame when were only three major television networks existed.
"You had a series, especially these ladies, that stayed on forever and that's what people identified you with. It was that one character," she said.
Sheridan noted she got to play a brunette in the 1996 comedy, Spy Hard, opposite Leslie Nielsen.
"The crew just knew me as a brunette," she said. "I guess they weren't fans of Knots Landing or anything else I had done, and on the last day of shooting, I took off my wig and thanked everyone and gave them their presents and they were all like, 'Oh, my God, you're a blonde!' I was like, 'Which do you like better?'"
A chance to be funny again
Gray said she was happy to be included in Ladies of the 80s because it gave her the chance to be funny again.
"These are my friends," she said. "I want to thank them because they really helped me, because I was not known for comedy at all. Never did comedy. I started out with Norman Lear 100 years ago before Dallas, but they helped me with pacing.
"That's the key. Everything has to move faster. I was used to [slower pacing], plus a Texas drawl," she added. "I have so much to thank them for because it was like me being dropped into a new world. ... I was like, 'Yeah, what else can I learn? This is great!"
Gray's character is also shown to be married to 1980s heartthrob Christopher Atkins of Blue Lagoon and Pirate Movie fame.
"It was just the best!" Gray said. "We became bonded again."
Fans will remember when Atkins played her younger lover on Dallas.
"They brought him in from Blue Lagoon. Here he was, my toy boy, which was fabulous. And then to know they had really wonderfully cast him as my husband [here]," Gray said.
"I was so excited. He was so excited. We couldn't stop talking, reminiscing, having fun on the set and just smiling at the beauty of this business that if you don't see someone for maybe 20 years, you go right back to 'How are you? Talk to me about your kids -- and grandkids!'"