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Designing Women actor Richard Gilliland dies aged 71

Richard Gilliland died after a ‘short illness’ (Picture: Getty Images)

Actor Richard Gilliland has died aged 71.

Tributes have poured in for the star, who was best known for his roles in the likes of Designing Women, Little Women, and Operation Petticoat.

The actor died last week after a ‘short illness’, according to People.

Following his role in Designing Women, he married his co-star, Jean Smart. The pair were married for more than 30 years, and starred in various films and TV series together.

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

Gilliland’s career began when he attended drama school in Chicago, later taking on the role of Jesus in Godspell opposite Joe Mantegna’s Judas. 

Richard Gilliland and wife Jean Smart

Gilliland and Smart met in 1986, tying the knot the next year (Picture: FilmMagic)

Over his career, he has made a huge number of guest appearances in film and TV, as well as landing starring roles in Operation Petticoat, Just Our Luck, McMillan and Heartland.

In 1986, Gilliland was cast in Designing Women, and became a series regular. He met Smart on set, with the pair tying the knot the next year.

They starred in various films and shows together, including It Had to Be You, Love Letters, Just My Imagination and Audrey’s Rain, as well as the wildly popular Fox series 24.

Gilliland starred in Operation Petticoat in 1978 (Picture: Getty)

This year, the couple were due to work together on Tate Taylor’s Breaking News in Yuba Country.

Tributes have poured in for the late star, with Mantegna penning on Twitter: ‘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.’

One fan added: ‘I guess my introduction to Richard Gilliland came via Operation Petticoat, but oh man, did I watch the hell out of Just Our Luck in 1983. I had a massive crush on Richard. A wonderful actor. So sad about his passing.’

‘I am so sorry to hear that Richard Gilliland has passed,’ another added. ‘”Designing Women” showed the world the beautiful complexity of women. Every actor on this show brought laughter and love to the mix.’


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