'Designing Women' Star Richard Gilliland, Husband Of Jean Smart, Dead At 71 After 'Brief Illness'

Mar. 26 2021, Updated 10:04 a.m. ET

Link to FacebookShare to TwitterShare to Email

Actor Richard Gilliland has died at age 71 after a "brief illness." He passed away in Los Angeles, Calif., last week. 

Article continues below advertisement

Gilliland was best known for his roles in Designing Women and Airplane II: The Sequel and was married to actress Jean Smart. Details have not been released about the illness

Article continues below advertisement

Gilliland was born in Texas in 1950 and started his career at Chicago's Goodman School of Drama, where he played Jesus in Godspell alongside Criminal Minds star Joe Mantegna.

"GODSPELL 1972. He was Jesus and I was Judas. Beginning a friendship of 50 yrs. In June of ‘87 within 78 hours I was best man at his wedding and he became a godfather of my 1st child. I, my wife and children mourn the passing of a great a friend. R. I. P. Richard Gilliland," Mantegna wrote on Twitter with a throwback photo of the old friends. 

Article continues below advertisement

Gilliland and Smart tied the knot in 1987 and were married for almost 34 years. The pair starred alongside each other in several projects. They met on the set of Designing Women, on which he played Jo Shively's (Annie Pott) boyfriend. "I met him when he was kissing someone else," Smart told Northwest Prime Time in 2018, and said she asked costar Delta Burke to figure out if he was married. 

Article continues below advertisement

Gilliland appeared in a 2006 episode of 24 while Smart starred in the drama for two seasons. They also acted on stage together in It Had to Be You and Love Letters. The couple had no intentions of slowing down as they were slated to act together in The Girl on the Train this summer. 

The late actor was also known for appearances in Criminal Minds, Dexter, Desperate Housewives, Operation Petticoat, The Love Boat and more. He most recently starred in Case 347 last year.  

Article continues below advertisement

Gilliland is survived by his wife and their children Conner and Bonnie as well as his sisters Ann Norbeg and Wendy Knaack and brother John Wells.  


Want OK! each day? Sign up here!

© Copyright 2022 OK!. A DIVISION OF EMPIRE MEDIA GROUP HOLDINGS LLC. OK! is a registered trademark. All rights reserved. Registration on or use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Service, Privacy Policy and Cookies Policy. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services. Offers may be subject to change without notice.