Jean Smart Fell for Co-star Who Gave up Career for Her – Now She’s Single Mom after “Unexpected” Loss and Tries to Move On

    Jean Smart and her husband Richard Gilliland met on the set of “Designing Women.” The duo was co-stars whose stars aligned when Richard was kissing someone else.

    However, life is unpredictable. Years later, the two became husband and wife. Richard went ahead to sacrifice his career and stay at home with the kids so that Jean could get film opportunities.

    Jean remained happily married to her husband for over 30 years until he died unexpectedly. The actress, who is now a widow and a single mother, has accepted her sad and lonely new life.

    Jean Smart, 71, is an American actress and producer who starred in the romantic comedy film “Designing Women” that aired from 1986-1993.

    The actress met her husband, Richard Gilliland, on the set of “Designing Women.” The two married in 1987, but unfortunately, Richard died in 2021.

    "Designing Women" Jean Smart as Charlene Frazier Stillfield on set in 1990 | Source: Getty Images

    In an interview that aired on the Kelly Clarkson Show, Jean revealed that she met her husband on the set of episode five of “Designing Women.” The Seattle native said Richard was playing a boyfriend to Annie Potts, one of the characters in the series, when they met:

    “The show had not even aired yet… We were never apart after that day. We lived about fifteen minutes apart and would talk on the phone every day for about two hours.”

    Jean admitted to loving how Richard looked when she first saw him, including his smile and little crinkles on the side of his eyes. Richard also said he fell madly in love with Jean on the set of the series and later married her.

    The actor said one of Jean’s co-stars, Delta Burke, called him aside one day and asked him on behalf of Jean if he was married. Richard answered no, and Delta asked him for his number to give to Jean.

    Delta played a huge role in Jean’s relationship with Richard. It was Jean who sent Delta to ask the actor if he was married. Delta also remembered Jean being smitten by Richard:

    “We used to sit after and before rehearsal chatting. On one occasion, we were talking, and Jean said, everybody hands-off. This man is mine.”

    The actress also hilariously admitted that she met her husband when he was playing the love interest of Annie; she said, “I met him when he was kissing someone else.”

    The producer also noted that she was aggressive in her pursuit of Richard, as after they met, she invited him into her trailer to help her with a crossword puzzle.

    Jean and Richard exchanged vows in June 1987, and the duo welcomed their first child, Connor Douglas Gilliland, on October 25, 1989. The actress had a difficult first pregnancy as she struggled to control her diabetes during the period.

    “The Mare of Easttown” star said at age 13, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes but never paid attention to it until she was pregnant. Jean then stopped smoking, constantly monitored her blood sugar levels, and started eating right to ensure Connor developed properly.

    In 2009, the couple adopted their second child, a girl named Bonnie Kathleen Gilliland. Jean, her husband, and her son traveled to East Asia to bring Bonnie home, who was ten months old. Bonnie was born to Chinese parents in 2008.

    The movie star admitted to being enamored by her adopted daughter, who she described as “the funniest, the smartest, most darling gift,” who sleeps all night.

    Jean Smart and Robert Gilliland in Los Angeles, California on July 7, 1993 | Source: Getty Images

    The producer said she went on with her work after having her kids, but Richard sacrificed his career for her as he stayed at home to raise their son and daughter. The “Legion” actress admitted that she would not have her career if not for her husband’s sacrifice.

    Despite being away for work, the producer recalled that she took parenting seriously as she would fly back home twice a week to see her family:

    “I just wanted my child to know that her mom is still here. The mommy guilt is a tough one. Because then you feel like everything’s getting short shrift.”

    Hannah Einbeider, Jean’s co-star on “Hacks,” also referred to the mother of two as “a fierce mama bear” who would stop everything to make sure her cast members were okay.

    Jean worked hard to ensure her kids were protected from the lack of privacy that comes with being children of a high-profile actress. She remembered saying no if she was with her son when people approached her for autographs:

    “I would say, I hope you don’t mind if I say no. I’m just Mom today. After this happened several times, my son said, Mom, it’s okay. You can sign it. So that was really sweet.”

    Jean and Richard showed great parenting as the actress said her husband was a great dad who did not get many opportunities to showcase his talent:

    “He was a great dad as he let his career take a back seat to take care of our kids and home. It kills me that he didn’t get the chances I got, as he was so talented. I was very lucky when I met him.”

    “The Watchmen” actress lost her husband unexpectedly on March 18, 2021, as a result of heart issues. Jean described his death as shocking and added that a year and a half after his loss, she was still filled with grief:

    “You are kind of running on adrenaline and grief for a while, making sure the kids are okay. Just getting things done, but now, slowly, the reality of my new life is setting in, and I find that very, very, very, very sad, very lonely.”

    Jean Smart in Los Angeles, California on September 12, 2022 | Source: Getty Images

    Jean also revealed that she could no longer find a reason to get her out of bed except when going to work or taking her kids to school. She noted that getting out of bed used to be hard when she was cuddled with her loved one, but now, she had lost that part.

    “It’s been really weird. It’s not anything I ever dreamt would happen. Not so soon. He made me laugh all the time, which is going to be hard to live without.”

    The mom of two also said she loved Richard’s hands and the little laugh lines that appeared around his eyes. Jean remembered that whenever her husband was talking to someone, he would have the greatest smile on his face.

    However, Jean disclosed that going back to work helped her cope with Richard’s death. She said working was therapeutic, enjoyable, satisfying, and even distracting when she was feeling bad.

    Jean encouraged her fans to take care of their health, listen to their bodies and talk with their doctors.

    The prime-time Emmy award winner also opened up about parenting after the loss of her husband. She disclosed that after Richard died, her year became filled with incredible highs and incredible lows:

    “Losing my husband was very unexpected, not something that I thought would happen for at least another 20 years. Plus, having a young child it’s been unimaginable. Switching into being a single mother is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

    Jean said that working while also taking care of the children was difficult because Richard was no longer at home taking care of the kids.

    She added that her stress levels went high thinking about whether her son had eaten breakfast and gotten to school on time or if he had been picked up from school and about who would get him to his appointments:

    “That’s just constantly on my mind all day, so that’s hard. I had no idea how hard single mothers have it, and I have so many resources that other working moms don’t. I can’t even imagine.”

    Richard died when his youngest child was 13, and the oldest was aged 31. Jean revealed that the ups and downs she has been through have made her think of writing a memoir. She added that previously, she was against the idea:

    “I’ve literally only thought of it in the last six months. Before that, I thought, why would anybody want to read a book about my life? I am also too private to tell any of the more interesting parts. So, what good would it do?”

    However, Jean said she changed her mind and now felt she could write about the personal things she had been through, including the loss of her husband, who passed on unexpectedly.

    Jean Smart and Richard Gilliland in Hollywood, California on October 9, 2017 | Source: Getty Images

    It’s been two years since Jean lost her husband. The actress has gone back to work and had a successful heart procedure. She shared on her social media accounts and told her fans that she was recovering from the operation:

    “I am recovering from a recent successful heart procedure. I am fortunate to have excellent professional care and support from family and friends while I continue to recuperate.”

    Jean encouraged her fans to take care of their health, listen to their bodies and talk with their doctors. She concluded that she was happy to have taken this crucial step.

    One source in touch with the situation confided to The Hollywood Reporter that some departments shooting “Hacks” season three also took a break to wait for Jean to recover. HBO Max and Universal TV also released a press statement:

    “We are so happy that our beloved Jean Smart’s heart procedure was successful, and she’s on the mend. HBO Max and UTV send their well wishes.”

    Jean has won several awards for her impeccable acting and has always credited these wins to her husband. In 2021, the actress won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance in the HBO series “Hacks.” During her acceptance speech, she said:

    “Before I say anything else, I have to acknowledge my late husband, who passed away six months ago yesterday. I would not be here without him and without him putting his career on the back burner so I could take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities that I have had.”

    The TV star also thanked her children for putting up with her tight shooting schedule that always had her on the road. She referred to them as “courageous.” The “Babylon” actress also won the 2022 Emmy award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Deborah Vance in “Hacks.”

    The producer also mentioned her husband in an interview after she won her second Emmy for her role in “Hacks.” Jean said she was happy to be awarded, but her thoughts that night were on her late husband as she wondered whether he would be included in the “In Memoriam” section:

    “They won’t tell you 100 percent whether he is or not. So, I was sort of a nervous wreck most of the evening, waiting for the announcements. I was there with our youngest child, and I thought, that’s going to be very hurtful, but I’ll try to explain if he’s not included somehow.”

    The Emmy’s “In Memoriam” is a segment that honors the stars and creatives people have lost over the past one year. Jean was happy that her husband was included in it in 2021.

    The actress is also often accompanied to award events by her children, Connor and Bonnie. Bonnie, who is transgender, changed her name to Forrest Gilliland. Jean and Forrest went together to the Screen Actors Guild Award in 2022.

    In the event, The “The Mad About You” star won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series for her role in “Hacks.” She acknowledged her kids when giving an acceptance speech:

    “This has been such a joy this late in the game; it’s such a treat. To my two children, Forrest and Connor, you are my life. Please, everybody, let’s pray for peace. Thank you.”

    Jean also attended the 2021 Emmy with her son. The two walked the red carpet. This was the first event the actress attended after the loss of her husband.

    On the red carpet, Forrest was asked how he felt about his mother being nominated for her role in “Hacks.” Jean’s son replied that he was very proud of her mother and that she really deserved it because “she worked really hard for everything.”

    Jean is now attempting to move and create a “new life” after losing her husband as she sold the home they shared and moved out. The actress spent $5.25 million to purchase her new home in Toluca Lake, Los Angeles, California.

    The house was originally built in 1924 and was once owned by veteran TV writer and producer Donald Todd. Comedian George Lopez also purchased the house in 2004 and lived there with his family.

    George and his wife, Ann Serrano, divorced in 2011. Ann got ownership of the house and later sold it in 2022 to Jean, who now lives there with her two children.

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