Alley Mills, understandably, took a break from acting after the sudden death of her husband, actor Orson Bean in February 2020. Prior to accepting a role on General Hospital as Heather Webber this year, she returned to the New York stage after receiving a call from an old pal. Now, Mills is sharing with Soap Hub how reuniting with a former co-star in New York City and other friends helped her move forward with her life.
Alley Mills — Moving Forward and Going Back to NYC
About a year ago, Alley Mills said she got a call from her former TV husband Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years) regarding a role that had come open in an off-Broadway play, “Morning’s at Seven,” that he and other actors in the production — including Patty McCormack (‘The Bad Seed’; who briefly subbed as Monica Quartermaine for Leslie Charleson on GH) — felt she’d be perfect for. The only problem was the Los Angeles-based Mills had to leave for New York almost immediately! “It was the first job I found myself saying yes to after Orson died,” Mills shares with Soap Hub.
Actress Judith Ivey (Designing Women) had been cast in the production but had to drop out after sustaining an injury. One reason Mills came to mind was because folks at the play felt that her background in working on soap operas meant she could learn the script quickly. “Everyone in the cast is in their ’70s,” Mills explains. (Hence the show’s title — “Morning’s at Seven”). “There aren’t many 70-year-olds who could learn lines that fast!”
Mills had to leave for the Big Apple quickly; fortunately, she and Bean had a pied-à-terre (small apartment) in New York City, so finding a place to stay wasn’t a problem. “I hadn’t been in a play in New York since I was little,” Mills says. However, producer Julian Schlossberg’s plan to further revive off-Broadway productions struck a chord with Mills. “I thought, ‘I can’t learn the play in 10 days, but I can go to New York and watch the understudy [performer] while I learn the part.'”
Upon landing in New York, Mills received a call from the play’s director. The understudy was no longer with the production, and Mills needed to go on that night! “I went on with Judith’s wig and costumes and my book [script] still in hand,” she recalls. “The other actors couldn’t believe it. I had to learn the part without having any time.” By the following week, when the critics were coming to review the play, Mills was off-book. “It was a miracle,” she says.
Alley Mills — Liver and Gravy, and Hot Fudge Sundaes
Returning to New York helped remind Mills of many happy years she spent there with Bean. “I felt like Orson was with me,” she says. “He’d done four plays in the [same] theater [as “Morning’s for Seven”]. It was as if he was urging me to do it. It was a gentle nudging to get back into the world.”
COVID made an impact on audience attendance, but the traveling to New York gave Mills the opportunity to revisit places she and Bean would frequent during their life together. “We’d go to the theater every night,” Mills recalls. After the curtain came down, the couple would drop by Joe Allen’s restaurant, a famous New York eatery. “Audiences would go there, and so would actors; it was part of the beauty of the place,” says Mills, adding Bean loved interacting with audiences at the restaurant — and he enjoyed the liver and gravy and also Hot Fudge Sundaes.
“I went back to Joe Allen’s by myself,” Mills shares. “It’s right up the street from the theater. I’d sit at the bar or at our table. It felt like he was with me.” Mills also visited Central Park and The Loeb Boathouse, which sadly, recently shuttered. “I’d walk through and sit by the lake and learn my lines.”
Mills packed quickly when she got ready for New York, throwing some sweaters, sweatpants, and sneakers into her luggage. Even though she has a place in New York, she says that all she keeps there is a coat and some boots. The rest she had shipped to her. One of the best parts of the trip was the time of year she went — autumn. “It was so beautiful,” Mills recalls. “It was spectacular.”
General Hospital airs weekdays on ABC. Check your local listings for airtimes. For more about what’s coming up in Port Charles, check out all the latest GH spoilers, and for an in-depth look at the show’s history, click here.
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