In 1986, Gilliland landed a recurring role in “Designing Women” for five seasons as baseball talent scout JD Shackelford, boyfriend of Annie Potts’ Mary Jo Shively. It was there that he met and eventually married Smart, who played Charlene Frazier-Stillfield on the series.
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“I met him when he was kissing someone else,” Smart said in a 2017 interview with Northwest Prime Time, adding that she had asked coworker Delta Burke if Gilliland was on the market. “Naturally, Delta approached him and blurted out, ‘John wants to know if you’re married.’ ”
Gilliland and Smart share two children: their son Connor, 31, and Bonnie (“Ani”), who will be 12 in May.
The couple have also appeared together in the theatrical productions of “It Had to Be You” and “Love Letters”, the TV movies “Just My Imagination” and “Audrey’s Rain”, and more specifically, the Fox series “24”, where Gilliland portrayed Captain Stan Cotter alongside Smart’s first lady Martha Logan.
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In an Instagram tribute Thursday, Potts asked her “Designing Women” co-star to “please give me squeeze on Dixie and Meshach,” referring to co-stars Dixie Carter, who died in 2010, and Meshach Taylor, who died in 2014.
“Rest in peace my dear Richard,” Potts captioned a photo of her, Gilliland and Smart on set.
“Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna shared a photo of himself and Gilliland, who starred together in the Goodman School of Drama production of “Godspell” in 1972.
“He was Jesus and I was Judas”, Mantegna tweeted. “Beginning of a 50-year friendship. In June 1987, 78 hours later, I was a witness to his wedding and he became the godfather of my first child. Me, my wife and my children mourn the passing of a great friend.