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How Was Jean Smart Affected by the Death of Her Husband? The Couple Had Been Together for 34 Years

Busayo Ogunjimi
May 30, 2022
05:15 P.M.
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Award-winning actress Jean Smart, famous for her Broadway appearances and role in the 1980s sitcom "Designing Women," enjoyed marital bliss with her husband until he died in 2021. But how has life been for her since his passing?


Jean Smart charmed sitcom lovers when she began playing Charlene, a role that stuck with her for about five years until the show "Designing Women" wrapped up.

Since then, the 70-year-old is yet to retire and has consistently served audiences with top-notch entertainment.

Jean Smart at the FYC red carpet of Bravo's "Dirty John" at Saban Media Center | Source: Getty Images


One of her recent features is the series "Hacks" on the HBO network. It premiered during the coronavirus pandemic. The actress left fans with the best relief for the season through her comedic chops.

This perfectly timed treat showed Smart as an iconic comedienne with the name Deborah Vance, who lost her home in Las Vegas.

In no time, she comes in contact with Ava, played by Hannah Einbinder, a canceled millennial writer. Season one was a success, and the cast is gearing up for season two.

Richard Gilliland and Jean Smart attend the Texas Hold'Em Casino Night Fundraiser for the Caucus Foundation on August 19, 2006 | Source: Getty Images


During an interview, both women shared their excitement about working as a team while adding their anticipation for what was to come.

Amid an ever-green acting career, Smart was blessed with a sweet marriage to her husband of many years, and they went on to create a perfect family with two kids.

Jean Smart and Richard Gilliland arrive at the premiere of National Geographic Documentary Films' 'Jane' at the Hollywood Bowl on October 9, 2017 | Source: Getty Images



Smart was married to Richard Gilliland, whom she met during her early days as an actress in a handful of leading sitcoms. He starred as Jack Shackleford, the onscreen lover of Annie Potts, Smart's cast mate.

Once they became an item, these two proceeded to make the best of their lives as individuals and as a couple. They were one of the industry's power couples, with an exciting love tale without blemish or controversy.

Sadly, their partnership ended as death did them part in 2021, following Gilliland's sudden death. He died at age 71 after having a heart attack.


Jean Smart and actor Richard Gilliland arrive at the ACT Today!'s 7th Annual Denim & Diamonds For Autism Benefit | Source: Getty Images

In a recent interview, the actress admitted that her life was tough, especially after her husband's death. Smart revealed that she never dreamed of having such a life. According to her:


"It's been really weird. It's not anything I ever dreamed would happen. Not so soon. He made me laugh all the time. That's going to be hard to live without."

Yet, somehow, she braced herself and has been a busy bee since the incident. Smart added that she had to fulfill her duties as a wife who planned a funeral while also working on "Hacks."

Jean Smart and Richard Gilliland attend AMT's 2017 D.R.E.A.M. Gala | Source: Getty Images


Without mincing words, the iconic actress confessed that it was very challenging. She shared how amazing her husband was and how he maintained the backburner for her to shine. In her words:

"I was a wreck, but it actually turned out to be very funny…But he really sacrificed his career for me to be able to take advantage of my opportunities. I wouldn't have all this, if it wasn't for him."

Jean Smart and Forrest Gilliland arrives on the red carpet for the 73rd Annual Emmy Awards taking place at LA Live on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. | Source: Getty Images



Smart's first time as a mother was two years after tying the knot with the love of her life, whom she met on the set of "Designing Women." The couple welcomed a son in 1989, Connor Douglas Gilliland.

Unlike his parents, Connor preferred life away from the media. Instead, he lives a very private life. The only popular detail about Connor is that Smart battled to control her diabetes throughout her pregnancy with him.

Jean Smart and daughter Bonnie at the premiere of Disney's "Beauty And The Beast" at El Capitan Theatre on March 2, 2017. | Source: Getty Images

Twenty years after the birth of their only child, the couple adopted a daughter named Bonnie Kathleen. The family journeyed to East Asia and brought home a 10-month-old baby, born in 2008.

Thankfully, being a big brother came easy for Connor, who was already an adult. So it was a no-brainer that the couple would love the newest addition with all their hearts.