- - Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Soft and sweet. Wise and wonderful. Oooh, our mystical, magical nanny. So went the opening line of the theme song to the classic sitcom “Nanny and the Professor,” co-starring Juliet Mills, who played the wise and wonderful Nanny to perfection, and stoking many a young man’s — including myself — first older-woman crush.

But the show was in no way Miss Mills’ first foray into show business. Her parents were both actors, as was her sister, Hayley Mills (“Parent Trap.”) Miss Mills had been acting since she was a child, but “Nanny” was a defining moment in her career.

In the 1990s Miss Mills began a decadelong run on the supernatural soap opera “Passion.” She continues to stay active in the theater, often alongside her husband, Maxwell Caulfield of “Grease 2” fame and sister Hayley.

At The Hollywood Show, an autograph event is Los Angeles, I Miss Mills discussed her career, if she dealt with “sibling rivalry” and what it was like to work with Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder.

Question: Do you do a lot of these conventions where you get to met the fans?

Answer: Not a lot. If you do a lot, then you know the crowd becomes a little bit scarce. So I do one of these every seven years or so. It is a lovely thing to do because you do meet people, and they are so charming and nice. It’s a pleasure.

Q: What is the strangest thing a fan has ever asked you to autograph?

A: Someone brought me this creepy poster of me from a film I did. You know, I did this horror movie, “Beyond the Door,” not “Beyond the Green Door”! (Editor’s note: “Beyond the Green Door” was a 1970s porn film.)

Q: What are you most proud of acting-wise when you look back on your career?

A: Well, I suppose some of the things I’ve done in the theater. But when I look at the movies, I suppose it is the film “Avanti,” which I did with Jack Lemmon [and] was directed by Billy Wilder. That was an amazing experience for me working with those great talents. It was a learning experience and a joyful experience, except for the fact that I had to put on 35 pounds, which actually was harder than I thought it would be.

Q: How hard was it to lose that weight once you had it on?

A: Very hard. The first 20 pounds just flew off because I finally stopped eating. Billy used to get food brought to the set for me. He kept pumping me full of food. Even so, that film was such a great experience. And then “Nanny” was a great experience.

Q: Today, you are reunited with you “Nanny” co-star Kim Richards. Is it strange to be sitting here with her and see that little girl from the show all grown up?

A: It is strange. Also because I haven’t seen her since the last day of shooting. The show finished in the early 1970s.

Sadly, Richard Long (Professor Everett) has passed away. He died right after we finished shooting. He was only 47. And one of the other kids on the show is also no longer with us. (Editor’s note: Trent Lehman, who played Butch, hung himself in 1982 at age 20.)

So Kim and I are the survivors.

Q: You came from a family of actors. Did you and your sister Hayley know early on this would be career you both pursued?

A: Yeah, we both sort of did. Although at first I thought I was going to be a ballet dancer. Hayley was so young when she started. She was doing her own sort of play commercials in the garden. The director of “Tiger Bay,” who was working with my father, saw her and thought, “She’s got it.” So she did a screen test. She sort of came into it by default in a way.

I wanted to be a ballet dancer and went to ballet school. I did my first play when I was 16. I always wanted to be in the theater.

Q: Was there ever a sense of competition between you and Hayley?

A: No, absolutely not. The thing is, in a way, our careers have been very different. I started in theater, she started in film. And we’ve never really been up for the same part.

Although we sound alike, we’re not the same type in some ways. Although maybe now that we’re this old we might be in competition for some “granny” part. (Laughs)

Q: Are you still acting these days?

A: Yes. Actually, last year Hayley and I and my husband Maxwell did a tour of Australia in a play called “Legends.” And I’ve just done a pilot for ABC called “Time After Time.” It’s about H.G. Wells. We are waiting to hear about that.

And I’m going to do a play next with my sister in England. So I’m keeping going.

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