Veteran character actor Richard Gilliland has died at the age of 71.
Gilliland, who was married to the actress Jean Smart for more than 30 years, passed away on March 18 following a brief illness, Smart’s rep confirmed to Page Six on Friday.
Gilliland got his start at the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago and became a regular presence on the small screen. He appeared in shows like “The Waltons,” “Thirtysomething” and “Party of Five” He also played Captain Stan Cotter on “24” and had a recurring role as a serial killer in “Matlock.”
Prior to his death, he and Smart were scheduled to work together this summer in a film directed by Tate Taylor.
The couple met when Gilliland got a role on Smart’s long-running show “Designing Women.” In 1986, the Fort Worth, Texas, native landed a recurring role on the sitcom as baseball talent scout J. D. Shackelford, the boyfriend of Annie Potts’ Mary Jo Shively.
“I met him when he was kissing someone else,” Smart said during a 2017 interview with Northwest Prime Time, explaining that she quietly asked fellow cast member Delta Burke to find out if Gilliland was on the market. “Naturally, Delta walked up to him and blurted, ‘Jean wants to know if you’re married.’”
Smart said that she and Gilliland instantly hit it off after she “lured” him into her dressing room to help her out with a crossword puzzle. They were married in June 1987 in “Designing Women” cast member Dixie Carter’s rose garden.
Gilliland is survived by his son Connor, 31, daughter Bonnie (“Ani”), who turns 12 in May, sisters Ann Norberg and Wendy Knaack, brother John Wells and “scores of loving, devastated friends,” according to a press statement.
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