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Michele Lee Played Karen on "Knots Landing." See Her Now at 79.

It's been nearly 30 years since the nighttime soap ended.

During its 14 seasons on TV, Knots Landing featured many different cast members, but only one can say that she was in every single episode. Michele Lee starred on Knots Landing as Karen Cooper Fairgate MacKenzie and was around from the first episode in 1979 to the finale in 1993. Lee was already a popular actor when she devoted herself to over a decade on the nighttime soap, and her career has continued on successfully ever since. Read on to learn about Lee's life after she left that dramatic California community.

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Lee was already famous before Knots Landing.

Michele Lee in 1970
Art Zelin/Getty Images

Prior to starring on Knots Landing, Lee had appeared on TV, in films, and on stage. In 1961, she starred in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Broadway and then in the movie adaptation in 1967. She also received a Tony Award nomination in 1974 for Seesaw. Some of her other pre-Knots Landing TV and movie appearances include The Love Bug, The Comic, Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat.

"When I first got to Broadway I was 17. When I was nationally recognized, I was in How to Succeed. I was 19," she told Get Out in 2015. "I was in it for two years. I was a kid. But what happened was, as time went by, I started hiding behind the camera, when I did Knots Landing.  When you're doing film, you can say, 'I wanna do this again. I really screwed up bad.'"

Her acting career marched on after the soap ended.

Michele Lee at the Princess Grace Awards Gala in 2017
DFree / Shutterstock

Lee was the only cast member to appear on every episode of Knots Landing, which was something that was important to her. "We were very proud of what we were doing, and I was very proud to have directed and put my stamp on the show that I loved so," she said in an interview with Closer in 2020. "Near the end, they asked actors only to be on X amount of shows to save money. I told them I wanted to be on every show, and if it came down to it, I'd do it for nothing."

After Knots Landing, Lee went on to appear in Along Came Polly, Will & Grace, and a number of TV movies. She's also worked as a director and producer.

Lee returned to Broadway, too. In 2001, she was nominated for another Tony Award for her role in The Tale of the Allergist's WifeShe also played Madame Morrible in Wicked in 2015.

She's been married twice and has a son.

Fred Rappoport and Michele Lee at the opening of "The Play That Goes Wrong" in 2017
Walter McBride/WireImage via Getty Images

Lee married her first husband, James Farentino, in 1967, and they welcomed a son, David Farentino, in 1969. Lee and Farentino divorced in 1987, but they remained friends until his death. "I was there when he passed away, with his wife, because Jim and I never called each other exes. We called each other 'my former,'" she told Closer. "He'd say, 'Hi, Former!' And I fell in love with his wife, and she loved me, so I would go over for dinner, they'd come for holidays. Yes, our marriage was rocky, but once we calmed down after we split, it was like we found each other again with a great friendship love."

Lee married her current husband, Fred Rappoport in 1987. "I met Fred when I was on Knots Landing and he was at CBS," she told Closer. "So we spoke the same language. He understands me."

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She's in touch with her Knots Landing castmates.

Joan Van Ark, Donna Mills, and Michele Lee at the Hollywood Museum's celebration for the 40th anniversary of "Knots Landing" in 2020
Joe Seer / Shutterstock

Lee explained to Closer that she is particularly tight with some of her women co-stars from Knots Landing. "We've all remained friends. And certainly 'the girls,' as I call us—Donna [Mills], Joan [Van Ark] and me—if anything, have gotten closer."

Lee also explained in a June 2021 interview with Fox News that she stayed in touch with her on-screen husband Kevin Dobson, who died in 2020.

"You couldn't help but bond with someone like him," she said. "You always hope to meet someone like him at any point in your life. Just thinking about his passing makes me choke up still. I was so surprised. I had seen him just six months before his death. When he passed away, it was odd. I grew more and more upset as time went by. He had done so much in my life… He will always be family to me."

She's still very proud of the show.

Michele Lee at the opening night of "Company" in 2021
John Lamparski/Getty Images

"I think we represented our audience," Lee told Fox News of why Knots Landing resonated so much with fans. "Our characters were trying to achieve the American dream. We had hopes and dreams for ourselves and our families like anyone else. But we were in some ways trying to make subtle statements about what was happening in our world at the time… And we had a remarkable cast. I was incredibly lucky. Still am. It was the little train that could."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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