‘The Waltons’: What Happened to Jonesy Actor Richard Gilliland After the Show?

by Taylor Cunningham
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Though the Jonesy actor Richard Gilliland only appeared in two episodes of The Waltons, he still managed to become a major face of classic TV. And he went on to enjoy a long career in Hollywood.

In the series, Gilliland’s character ended up being Mary Ellen’s second chance at love. After thinking she lost her first husband, Dr. Curt Willard, to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she grieved for years, until she eventually met and fell in love with Jonesy. And even when she learned that Curt was in fact alive, she still wed her new beau on Walton Mountain.

While Gilliland was only a small character in the long-running family drama, he did return for three made-for-TV movies. And because he was such a cherished part of The Waltons, Richard Gilliland went on to enjoy a long career in Hollywood. And, just like Jonesy, he found lasting love in the process.

When the original series ended in 1981, the actor’s first three gigs were The Waltons movies. Then in 1982, he took a seat next to Lloyd Bridges in Airplane II: The Sequel. After, he settled back into the world of television, where is spent nearly his entire career since.

‘The Waltons’ Star Richard Gilliland Met His Wife While Starring on ‘Designing Women’

During his life, Gilliland had guest roles on shows like Night Court, St. Elsewhere, 24, and Criminal Minds. And he also enjoyed long stints in major series such as The Love Boat, Heartland, Designing Women, Murder She Wrote, and Matlock. And it was while he was working on Designing Women that he met and fell in love with his wife of 34 years, Jean Smart.

“I met him when he was kissing someone else (Annie Potts),” Smart told Northwest Prime Time, per People.

Richard Gilliland joined the cast as J.D. Shackleford in 1986, and he immediately fell for his co-star. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the couple married the following year in a lavish outdoor ceremony hosted by their Designing Women friends Dixie Carter and Hal Holbrook, who were also married at the time. Together, the couple had two children together, Connor and Bonnie.

Gilliland lived out the rest of his life by Smart’s side. But on March 18th, 2021, he passed away unexpectedly after suffering “a brief illness.” He was 71 years old.

Following his death, Jean Smart told The New Yorker that Gilliland never got to show the world just how talented he was because he was so devoted to helping her build her own legacy.

“He really sacrificed his career for me to be able to take advantage of my opportunities,” she said.

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