Jean Smart Reflects on Loss of Husband Richard Gilliland During 'Hacks' Filming: 'I Was a Wreck'

Jean Smart has been enjoying some major cultural appreciation and critical acclaim lately due to her roles in Watchmen, Mare of Easttown, and Hacks. However, all of that is quite bittersweet because her husband of 33 years, character actor Richard Gilliland, died suddenly of a heart condition on March 18 at the age of 71. They met on the set of Designing Women, and Smart joked to the Northwest Prime Time in 2017 that she "met him when he was kissing someone else." Smart revealed she asked co-star Delta Burke to find out if he was married, and once getting the all-clear, "lured" him into her dressing room by pretending she needed help with a crossword puzzle. The pair went on to marry in June 1987 in the garden of the home of Designing Women stars Dixie Carter and Hal Holbrook.

In a new interview with The New Yorker, Smart explained that she still had a week left of Hacks to film when Gilliland unexpectedly died. When asked if she would ever be interested in writing a memoir about her decades-long career, Smart admitted that she was far too private. "I've literally only thought of it in the last six months," Smart admitted. "Before that, I thought, Good God, why would anybody want to read a book about my life? It's not that interesting. And also, I'm too private to tell any of the more interesting parts. So what good would it do? But I've been through some personal things in the last year that someday, maybe I'd want to write about."

"I feel like I just should say something about my husband because he passed away very unexpectedly," Smart said. "I still had a week of Hacks left to do. That was hard. I had to do a funeral scene. I was a wreck, but it actually turned out to be very funny. But he was one of those actors who never got the chance to really show what he could do. A couple of times on stage, he did. But he really sacrificed his career for me to be able to take advantage of my opportunities. I wouldn't have all this if it wasn't for him."


Smart explained that one of the most difficult things was the loss of their shared laughter. "It's been really weird. It's not anything I ever dreamed would happen," Smart concluded. "Not so soon. He made me laugh all the time. That's going to be hard to live without."