Richard Gilliland, Designing Women Actor, Dead at 71

by Jon D. B.
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Acclaimed actor Richard Gilliland, married to co-star Jean Smart for over 30 years, passed at the age of 71.

After a rich career on both the screen and stage, Richard Gilliland has died. His wife of three decades, Jean Smart, survives Gilliland alongside their two children: Connor, 31, and Bonnie Kathleen, 12.

According to a report by People, Richard died last week after a “short illness.” His death comes as a shock, as Gilliland and his wife were to film a Tate Taylor movie, ‘Breaking News In Yuba County,’ as soon as this summer.

Gilliland got his start in acting early, and was highly-involved in school plays. After college, where he continued the art, Richard would go on to regular roles in multiple television series. ‘Operation Petticoat,’ a 1950s war film, was among his early work.

In addition, Richard Gilliand would gain acclaim for guest starring roles on classics like ‘The Love Boat,’ ‘The Waltons,’ and ‘Fantasy Island.’

“This isn’t real… This is television”

“I approached the sitcom realm way back when the same way I would’ve approached a play,” Gilliland told The Sport Of Acting before his death. “I prepared. And I knew my lines. I was prepared and I was quite shocked when I would find someone who hadn’t done that, you know, that you know, was kinda learning on the fly.”

He also notes “there was a conflict in the sense that I did, I considered myself a very serious actor and I had only done theater and stuff like that.”

For Gilliland, television came with an advantage, as other actors “didn’t do their homework. I knew how to do homework and I think it was an advantage.”

“This isn’t real… This is television,” a studio exec eventually had to remind Richard Gilliland. He would embrace this lession, and continue into the sitcom world to great acclaim.

Remembering Richard Gilliland

Perhaps his greatest television joy, however, came in 1986 when his recurring role on ‘Designing Women’ came about. It was on this show that he would meet his wife of more than 30 years, Jean Smart.

“I met him when he was kissing someone else,” Smart told North West Prime Time a few years back. In addition to raising their children, the couple would work together throughout their long marriage. The duo worked on ’24’ together on television, and also on stage.

“In 2007 they played in Love Letters which is a theater piece about romantic pen pals who start writing to each other in grade school and continue for decades,” the Daily Mail reports.

“Their work together included TV movies like Audrey’s Rain and Just My Imagination as well as the stage piece It Had To Be You,” the trade continues. “His TV guest gigs continued as well on major shows through the decades, from Thirtysomething to The Practice to Desperate Housewives to Dexter and Scandal. “

The last film Gilliand was able to complete was sci-fi thriller “Case 347” one year ago.

Rest in Peace, Richard Gilliland. Tragically, his death announcement comes the same day as Jessica Walter’s.

Outsider.com