Richard Gilliland, who starred on Operation Petticoat and Just Our Luck, was married to fellow actor Jean Smart for nearly 34 years

By Ally Mauch
March 25, 2021 03:04 PM
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Richard Gilliland and Jean Smart
Credit: Eric Charbonneau/WireImage

Veteran actor Richard Gilliland died last week at the age of 71. 

Gilliland, who was wed to actress Jean Smart for nearly 34 years, suffered from a "brief illness" prior to his death in Los Angeles, according to a press release shared with PEOPLE. 

Born in 1950 in Fort Worth, Texas, Gilliland got his career start at the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago. While there, he took on the role of Jesus in Godspell opposite Joe Mantegna's Judas. 

After arriving in Los Angeles, the actor landed starring roles in a series of TV shows, including Operation Petticoat, Just Our Luck, McMillan and Heartland, in addition to an array of guest starring appearances and stage roles. 

Richard Gilliland
Credit: Amanda Edwards/Getty

In 1986, he became a series regular on the CBS sitcom Designing Women, where he met Smart. The actress, who starred as Charlene Frazier Stillfield in the series, recalled their first meeting during a 2017 interview

"I met him when he was kissing someone else," Smart told Northwest Prime Time of Gilliland, who played the love interest of fellow cast member Annie Potts. 

She then asked another cast member, Delta Burke, to figure out if he was married. He was not, and the pair later wed in June 1987 at the home of their Designing Women costars Dixie Carter and Hal Holbrook.

Richard Gilliland and Jean Smart
Credit: J. Vespa/WireImage

The couple went on to work together in several stage productions, It Had to Be You and Love Letters, as well as the TV show 24 and the made-for-TV movies Just My Imagination and Audrey's Rain

Prior to his death, Gilliland and Smart were slated to work together again this summer in a film directed by Tate Taylor. 

He is survived by Smart, his two children Connor and Bonnie ("Ani"), as well as his sisters Ann Norberg and Wendy Knaack and his brother John Wells. Donations in his name can be made to the M.I.T. Institute for Medical Engineering and Science