Actor Richard Gilliland who married co-star Jean Smart is dead at 71

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Actor Richard Gilliland who married co-star Jean Smart is dead at 71


Actor Richard Gilliland, who married co-star Jean Smart, has died aged 71.

The couple have been married for more than 30 years and acted together on stage and on screen before his death last week after what a press release called a “short illness,” People reports.

He is survived by his wife and the couple’s two children – son Connor, 31, and daughter Bonnie Kathleen, 12.

Dear missing: Designing Women actor Richard Gilliland, who married co-star Jean Smart has died aged 71

Richard and Jean were actually supposed to star in an upcoming Tate Taylor movie called Breaking News In Yuba County which was due to shoot over the summer.

He was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and did theater in school growing up before attending the Goodman School Of Drama in Chicago.

One of his college shows was Stephen Schwartz’s 1970s musical Godspell where he played Jesus and a young Joe Mantegna played Judas.

After leaving college and the 1970s, Richard became a television actor with regular roles in several series.

Duo: The couple have been married for over 30 years and have performed together on stage and on screen;  they are pictured at last year's Critics' Choice Awards

Duo: The couple have been married for over 30 years and have performed together on stage and on screen; they are pictured at last year’s Critics’ Choice Awards

One of them was Operation Petticoat which was an adaptation of a 1950s war film of the same name starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis.

The TV show starred Richard in a cast that included Tony’s daughter Jamie Lee Curtis and John Astin whose son Sean Astin starred in The Lord of the Rings movies.

Richard also played a regular role on the short-lived 1970s cop show McMillan & Wife, which starred Rock Hudson and played a murderer on Matlock.

He performed everywhere in shows like The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and The Waltons, but always retained his theatrical discipline.

Upcoming: One of his first television roles was Operation Petticoat (pictured), which was an adaptation of a 1950s war film of the same name starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis.

Upcoming: One of his first television roles was Operation Petticoat (pictured), which was an adaptation of a 1950s war film of the same name starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis.

Remember when: Richard also played a regular role on the short-lived 1970s cop show McMillan & Wife, which starred Rock Hudson and played a murderer on Matlock (pictured)

Remember when: Richard also played a regular role on the short-lived 1970s cop show McMillan & Wife, which starred Rock Hudson and played a murderer on Matlock (pictured)

In an interview with The Sport Of Acting, he said that when he entered television, “there was a conflict in the sense that I did it, I considered myself to be a very serious actor and I didn’t had only done theater and stuff like that.

He said: “I approached the sitcom realm at the time in the same way I would approach a play. I have prepared. I knew my lines. I was prepared and I was pretty shocked to find someone who hadn’t done that, you know, who was learning a little bit on the fly.

Richard said that some people “hadn’t done their homework. I knew how to do my homework and I think it was an advantage.

However, he lightly recalled that he takes the job so “seriously” that a network manager must have reminded him: “It’s not real. It’s television.

Throwback: He has performed from afar on shows like The Love Boat and The Waltons, but has always retained his theatrical discipline

Throwback: He has performed from afar on shows like The Love Boat and The Waltons, but has always retained his theatrical discipline

The old days: He is pictured in a 1983 episode of Fantasy Island with Shannon Tweed

The old days: He is pictured in a 1983 episode of Fantasy Island with Shannon Tweed

Then, in 1986, he landed a recurring role in the sitcom Designing Women as the love interest of one of the main roles played by Annie Potts.

Jean laughed at the Seattle seniors newspaper North West Prime Time a few years ago, “I met him when he was kissing someone else. “

From the start, Jean had a yen to him and wondered if he was married – so she asked her co-star Delta Burke to dig up the information.

“Naturally, Delta approached him and blurted out, ‘John wants to know if you’re married,’ John remembers fondly.

Meet cute: Then in 1986 he landed a recurring role on the sitcom Designing Women as the love interest in one of the lead roles played by Annie Potts (middle) who starred with Jean (right)

Meet cute: Then in 1986 he landed a recurring role on the sitcom Designing Women as the love interest in one of the lead roles played by Annie Potts (middle) who starred with Jean (right)

Dashing: From the start, Jean had a yen to him and wondered if he was married - so she enlisted her co-star Delta Burke to dig up the information;  he is pictured on the show in 1986

Dashing: From the start, Jean had a yen to him and wondered if he was married – so she enlisted her co-star Delta Burke to dig up the information; he is pictured on the show in 1986

A year later, he and Jean married in a rose garden in the home of Designing Women actress Dixie Carter and her husband Hal Holbrook.

She gave birth to Connor in 1989, then 20 years later she and Richard adopted Bonnie from China as the girl child.

While raising their family, Richard starred alongside Jean not only on screen in shows such as 24, but also on stage where his roots were.

In 2007, they starred in Love Letters, a play about romantic correspondents who began writing to each other in elementary school and continued for decades.

Together: Their work together included TV movies like Audrey's Rain and Just My Imagination as well as the play It Had To Be You.

Together: Their work together included TV movies like Audrey’s Rain and Just My Imagination as well as the play It Had To Be You.

Their work together included TV movies like Audrey’s Rain and Just My Imagination as well as the play It Had To Be You.

During his long and happy marriage, Richard also appeared in solo concerts on shows such as the Canadian series Heartland.

Her guest shows on television have also continued into major shows over the decades, from Thirty-something and The Practice to Desperate Housewives to Dexter and Scandal.

Richard’s last completed project was a sci-fi thriller called Case 347, released just over a year ago.

Active actor: His guest TV gigs have also continued in major shows through the decades, from Milf and Desperate Housewives (pictured) to Dexter and Scandal

Active actor: His guest TV gigs have also continued in major shows through the decades, from Milf and Desperate Housewives (pictured) to Dexter and Scandal

Over the years: He is pictured appearing on The Practice in 1998 with Camryn Manheim

Over the years: He is pictured appearing on The Practice in 1998 with Camryn Manheim

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