Designing Women star Richard Gilliland dies at the age of 71

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Designing Women actor Richard Gilliland, who married his co-star Jean Smart, has passed away at the age of 71.

The couple had been married for over 30 years and performed onstage and screen together before his death last week after what a press release called a ‘brief illness’. People reports.

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

Dear departed: Designing Women actor Richard Gilliland, who married his co-star Jean Smart, has passed away at the age of 71

Dear departed: Designing Women actor Richard Gilliland, who married his co-star Jean Smart, has passed away at the age of 71

Richard and Jean were actually meant to star in an upcoming Tate Taylor movie called Breaking News In Yuba County, which was scheduled to be filmed this summer.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, he did theater in school growing up before attending Chicago’s Goodman School of Drama.

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

After leaving college and entering the 1970s, Richard became a pioneering television actor with regular roles on multiple series.

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

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

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

One of these was Operation Petticoat, an adaptation of a 1950s war movie of the same name starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis.

The TV show starred Richard in a cast with Tony’s daughter Jamie Lee Curtis and John Astin whose son played Sean Astin in The Lord Of The Rings movies.

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

He has played far and wide on shows like The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and The Waltons, but always kept his theatrical discipline.

Coming up: One of his early TV roles was Operation Petticoat (pictured), an adaptation of a 1950s war movie of the same name starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis

Coming up: One of his early TV roles was Operation Petticoat (pictured), an adaptation of a 1950s war movie of the same name starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis

Coming up: One of his early TV roles was Operation Petticoat (pictured), an adaptation of a 1950s war movie of the same name starring Cary Grant and Tony Curtis

Remember when: Richard was also a regular on the short-lived 1970s police series McMillan & Wife, in which Rock played Hudson and played a murderer on Matlock (pictured)

Remember when: Richard was also a regular on the short-lived 1970s police series McMillan & Wife, in which Rock played Hudson and played a murderer on Matlock (pictured)

Remember when: Richard was also a regular on the short-lived 1970s police series McMillan & Wife, in which Rock played Hudson and played a murderer on Matlock (pictured)

In an interview with The sport of acting he said that when he got to TV ‘there was a conflict in the sense that I did that, I considered myself a very serious actor and I had only done theater and stuff like that.

He said, ‘I approached the sitcom realm long ago the same way I would have approached a play. I have prepared. I knew my text. I was prepared and I was pretty shocked to find someone who hadn’t, you know, you know, was learning a little bit. ‘

Richard said some people ‘haven’t done their homework. I knew how to do homework and I think it was an advantage. ‘

However, he slightly recalled taking the job so “seriously” that a network manager had to remind him, “This isn’t real. It’s television. ‘

Throwback: He guest starred far and wide on shows like The Love Boat and The Waltons, but always kept his theatrical discipline

Throwback: He guest starred far and wide on shows like The Love Boat and The Waltons, but always kept his theatrical discipline

Throwback: He guest starred far and wide on shows like The Love Boat and The Waltons, but always kept his theatrical discipline

Before: He is depicted in a 1983 episode of Fantasy Island with Shannon Tweed

Before: He is depicted in a 1983 episode of Fantasy Island with Shannon Tweed

Before: He is depicted in a 1983 episode of Fantasy Island with Shannon Tweed

In 1986 he got a recurring role on the sitcom Designing Women as the love interest of one of the lead roles played by Annie Potts.

Jean laughed at the senior newspaper in Seattle North West Prime Time a few years ago: “I met him when he kissed someone else.”

Jean immediately had a yen for him and wondered if he was married – so she enlisted her opponent Delta Burke to look up the information.

Of course, Delta walked up to him and blurted out, “Jean wants to know if you’re married,” Jean recalled fondly.

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

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

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

Unruly: Jean immediately had a yen for him and wondered if he was married - so she called in her opponent Delta Burke to look up the information;  he is pictured on the show in 1986

Unruly: Jean immediately had a yen for him and wondered if he was married - so she called in her opponent Delta Burke to look up the information;  he is pictured on the show in 1986

Unruly: Jean immediately had a yen for him and wondered if he was married – so she called in her opponent Delta Burke to look up the information; he is pictured on the show in 1986

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

She gave birth to Connor in 1989 and 20 years later she and Richard adopted Bonnie from China during the little girl’s childhood.

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

In 2007 they starred in Love Letters, a play about romantic pen pals who start writing each other in elementary school and continue for decades.

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

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

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

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

During his long and happy marriage, Richard also made solo appearances on programs such as the Canadian series Heartland.

His TV guest appearances have also continued on major shows throughout the decades, from Thirtysomething to The Practice to Desperate Housewives to Dexter and Scandal.

Richard’s last completed project was a science fiction thriller called Case 347 released just over a year ago.

Working Actor: His TV cameo appearances on major shows throughout the decades as well, from Thirtysomething to Desperate Housewives (pictured) to Dexter and Scandal

Working Actor: His TV cameo appearances on major shows throughout the decades as well, from Thirtysomething to Desperate Housewives (pictured) to Dexter and Scandal

Working Actor: His TV cameo appearances on major shows throughout the decades as well, from Thirtysomething to Desperate Housewives (pictured) to Dexter and Scandal

Over the years: he appears on The Practice in 1998 with Camryn Manheim

Over the years: he appears on The Practice in 1998 with Camryn Manheim

Over the years: he appears on The Practice in 1998 with Camryn Manheim