Richard Gilliland: A Comprehensive Career Overview

Richard Gilliland, born January 23, 1950, in Fort Worth, Texas, was a talented American television and movie actor whose career spanned decades and earned him both critical acclaim and a loyal fanbase. Having attended high …

Richard Gilliland
Real Name:Richard Morris Gilliland
Birthday:January 23, 1950 – March 18, 2021
Net Worth:$4 million
Height:177 cm
Occupation:American Television and Movie Actor, Husband of Jean Smart

Richard Gilliland, born January 23, 1950, in Fort Worth, Texas, was a talented American television and movie actor whose career spanned decades and earned him both critical acclaim and a loyal fanbase. Having attended high school in Overland Park, Kansas, he eventually found his way to the screen, where he built a diverse and impressive resume, featuring a wide variety of roles that showcased his ability to bring depth and authenticity to the characters he portrayed.

Gilliland was perhaps best known for his work as JD Shackleford in the popular television series Designing Women (1986-1992). In addition to this iconic role, his career included a vast array of television appearances, films, and stage performances. He starred in shows such as Operation Petticoat and Just Our Luck, as well as having significant roles in movies like Airplane II: The Sequel.

Beyond his acting accomplishments, Richard Gilliland’s personal life was also noteworthy. He was married to fellow actress Jean Smart for nearly 34 years, with whom he had two children. The couple met on the set of Designing Women and continued to work together throughout their careers, showcasing a strong personal and professional partnership that left a lasting impact on those who followed their work.

Early Life and Education

Fort Worth Roots

Richard Gilliland was born on January 23, 1950, in Fort Worth, Texas. His Texan roots played a role in shaping his down-to-earth and relatable acting style. He spent his childhood years in Fort Worth, where he nurtured a love for performing arts. Richard attended high school in Overland Park, Kansas, at Shawnee Mission South High School, graduating in 1968.

Drama Studies at Goodman School

Gilliland later attended California State University, Northridge, where he obtained a degree in theater arts. He acquired further training by attending various acting programs and workshops. Thus, he was able to develop a solid foundation for his acting career.

Among the institutions he attended was the influential Goodman School of Drama, where he received professional training to hone his skills. This experience helped him transition to more prominent roles in movie and television acting.

Through his early life and education, Richard Gilliland built a strong background in performing arts that would guide him throughout his successful career in the entertainment industry.

Professional Career

Television Breakthrough

Richard Gilliland’s breakthrough in television came with a role in the popular TV series “Operation Petticoat” in 1977. With his talent and versatile acting skills, Gilliland continued to make his mark in the world of television throughout the following decades.

Prominent TV Series and Roles

Gilliland is perhaps best known for his role as JD Shackleford in the hit TV series “Designing Women” (1986-1992). His portrayal of Shackleford earned him appreciation from both critics and viewers alike. Other notable TV roles include Captain Stan Gifford in “Designing Women” and several guest appearances on popular shows such as “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “The Mentalist.” Richard Gilliland’s work in television is well-documented on IMDb, showcasing his wide range of acting abilities.

Film Contributions

In addition to his impressive television career, Richard Gilliland also made significant contributions to the film industry. One of his most notable roles was in the comedy film “Airplane II: The Sequel” (1982), where he showcased his comedic timing. Gilliland’s filmography demonstrates his ability to take on diverse roles and make a lasting impact on audiences.

Personal Life

Marriage to Jean Smart

Richard Gilliland was married to actress Jean Smart for nearly 34 years. The couple first met on the set of the CBS sitcom Designing Women, where Gilliland played the recurring role of JD Shackleford. Their long-lasting and successful marriage was a testament to their strong bond and mutual love for each other.

Children and Family Life

Richard Gilliland and Jean Smart had two children together: a son named Connor and a daughter named Bonnie. The family maintained a close relationship throughout Gilliland’s life, providing a supportive and nurturing environment for their kids. Both Connor and Bonnie were raised in a loving household, with their parents prioritizing their well-being and happiness.

In addition to their biological children, Richard Gilliland and Jean Smart also opened their hearts and home to their niece Ann, who became an integral part of their family. The Gillilands were known for their dedication to family and the strong connections they fostered with those they loved.

Later Career and Projects

Continued TV Appearances

In the later years of his career, Richard Gilliland continued to make appearances on television shows. Some notable roles included guest appearances on popular series such as Criminal Minds and Dexter. He also played a part in the TV show Heartland, showcasing his diverse acting talents. Gilliland remained an active presence on the small screen, captivating audiences with his memorable performances.

Stage Productions

Gilliland’s passion for acting extended beyond television and film, as he also participated in various stage productions. One example of this is his role in the play ‘Love Letters‘, displaying his ability to excel in different mediums of acting. His dedication to the craft was evident through the wide range of characters he portrayed on stage.

Educational Investment

Richard Gilliland was also involved in supporting educational endeavors, specifically in the fields of medical engineering and science. He was an advocate for the advancement of the MIT Institute for Medical Engineering and Science. By endorsing organizations such as this, Gilliland demonstrated his commitment to fostering innovation and promoting education for the advancement of society.

Demise and Legacy


Richard Gilliland, a veteran actor and husband of Jean Smart, passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2021, at the age of 71, in Los Angeles. His death was the result of a heart condition, following a brief illness.

Tributes and Memoriam

Gilliland’s passing was a breaking news event, especially considering his long-standing career in the entertainment industry. His friends, family, and colleagues paid heartfelt tributes, mourning the loss of a talented actor and a wonderful human being.

During this difficult time, his wife, Jean Smart, was actively filming the HBO Max series “Hacks”. In interviews and conversations, Jean opened up about the sudden loss of her husband and shared her grief. Publications like People and USA Today extensively covered the story, remembering Richard Gilliland’s important contributions to movies and television.

Richard’s work included numerous acting credits, one of the most prominent being his role as J.D. Shackelford in the CBS sitcom “Designing Women”, where he met Jean Smart. Aside from his acting endeavors, Richard was also an active member in performing arts communities, leaving behind a rich legacy for future generations to learn from and appreciate.

In summary, with Richard Gilliland’s passing, the world has lost a remarkable actor who will always be fondly remembered. His legacy continues to live on through the memorable roles he portrayed, the lives he touched, and the many tributes received from loved ones and fellow artists.

Filmography Highlights

Notable TV Roles

Richard Gilliland had a successful television career, appearing in various classic shows. He had roles in The Waltons, a popular family drama set in the Depression era, and the acclaimed series Thirtysomething, offering insight into the lives of urban professionals. As a versatile actor, he participated in diverse shows such as Party of Five, a drama about a family of orphaned siblings, and Becker, a sitcom featuring Ted Danson as a cantankerous doctor. He also secured roles in legal series The Practice and crime dramas Criminal Minds and Scandal.

Gilliland took on various recurring roles, such as his portrayal of Ellis Kapp on The Unit and Captain Stan Cotter on 24. Perhaps his most significant TV appearance was in Designing Women, where he met his future wife, Jean Smart.

Feature Films

In addition to his TV career, Richard Gilliland appeared in several films. He is known for his comedic role in the 1982 film Airplane II: The Sequel. The film was a satire of the disaster movie genre, and Gilliland’s performance added to its humor. Some of his other movie credits include Star Kid and Vampire Clan. He played a supporting role in the science fiction family film Star Kid and portrayed a detective in the true-crime thriller Vampire Clan.

Another film he appeared in is Case 347, a found-footage horror movie where he played the character, Dr. Michael Seligman. Gilliland’s versatility as an actor enabled him to participate in various types of films throughout his career.

Stage Performances

Richard Gilliland’s talent extended beyond television and film, as he was a skilled stage actor as well. He worked with notable stage actors and directors, including Dixie Carter, Ani, and Ann Norberg. Gilliland collaborated with John Wells for the play “Just My Imagination”, showcasing his ability to perform in different media.

Throughout his career, Richard Gilliland demonstrated a wide range of acting skills, contributing to his status as a respected figure in the entertainment industry.

Awards and Acknowledgments

Industry Recognitions

Richard Gilliland, an American television and movie actor, gained fame for his portrayal of JD Shackleford in the popular series Designing Women (1986-1992). Apart from this notable role, Gilliland had recurring appearances in various other television shows, such as McMillion & Wife, Operation Petticoat, The Waltons, Just Our Luck, Heartland, Thirtysomething, and Party.

Though Gilliland’s work was well-respected by the industry, he did not amass numerous accolades. Nevertheless, his wife, Jean Smart, honored his memory and achievements in a touching tribute during her outstanding lead actress in a comedy series win at the 2021 Emmy Awards.

Charitable Contributions

In addition to his acting career, Richard Gilliland was known for his philanthropic efforts. Alongside his wife, Jean Smart, they supported various charitable organizations in the entertainment sector, as well as other causes. According to USA Today, the couple participated in multiple fundraising events, bringing attention to the causes they cared about and encouraging others to get involved.

In summary, while Richard Gilliland may not have received numerous awards and recognitions for his work, his impact as an actor in the entertainment industry, as well as his charitable contributions, will always be remembered and celebrated.

Media and Public Appearances

Press Interviews

Richard Gilliland had participated in several press interviews throughout his successful acting career. During interviews, he openly discussed his work on various television series and films, as well as his life with Jean Smart, whom he met on the set of Designing Women where he played J.D. Shackelford and she portrayed Charlene Frazier Stillfield. Media outlets like People magazine occasionally featured Richard and Jean, providing an insight into their lives as a Hollywood couple.

Public Events

As an accomplished actor, Richard Gilliland was often seen attending public events and premieres related to his projects. Some of these include:

  • Television Series Events: He made appearances at events and panel discussions for series like The Waltons, Thirtysomething, Party of Five, The Unit, and 24.
  • Film Premieres: Richard was present at premieres for films in which he had roles, like Little Women and other made-for-TV movies.

In addition to his work-related events, Richard frequently attended charity fundraisers, award shows, and industry gatherings along with his wife, Jean Smart. As a couple, they were active in the entertainment community and often supported their fellow actors and industry professionals.

At the time of his passing on March 18, 2021, Richard was mentioned in multiple publications, highlighting his extensive career and close relationship with wife Jean. This occurred while Jean was involved in the filming of the series “Hacks” for HBO Max. The couple’s bond, talent, and impact on the entertainment industry will be fondly remembered by both fans and colleagues alike.

Influence and Contributions

Acting Technique and Mentorship

Richard Gilliland was an American actor known for bringing a unique style and dedication to his craft. Throughout his career, he was able to demonstrate versatility in terms of roles, and he gained respect and admiration from both his peers and fans. Gilliland often shared his experience and knowledge of acting, mentoring young aspiring actors, and inspiring them to pursue their dreams.

One instance of Gilliland’s mentorship was with fellow actor Joe Mantegna. Mantegna and Gilliland shared a passion for the stage, particularly when they both took part in the musical Godspell early in their careers. This collaboration allowed them to grow together as actors and provided invaluable learning opportunities for both. Gilliland’s ability to nurture talent and create an environment for growth left a lasting impact on those around him.

Inspiration for Aspiring Actors

In addition to his acting work on films and television shows, Richard Gilliland’s personal life was a testament to his compassion and dedication. A devoted father, he and his wife, actress Jean Smart, adopted a child and raised two children together. They were loving parents, creating a nurturing environment for their children to grow and thrive.

Gilliland’s journey was an inspiration to aspiring actors due to his commitment to his craft and belief in the power of storytelling. His achievements serve as a reminder of how passion and dedication can lead one to success and impact the lives of others.

  • Key roles in Richard Gilliland’s career:
    • The Waltons
    • Thirtysomething
    • Party of Five
    • Little Women
    • Designing Women

By intertwining his talent and commitment with his personal life values, Richard Gilliland’s influence has left a mark on the acting world. His contributions as a skilled actor and mentor will continue to inspire and shape the lives of aspiring actors, encouraging them to persevere and chase their dreams.

References in Popular Culture

Richard Gilliland was an accomplished actor whose work has made lasting impressions in popular culture. The following subsections highlight references from both sitcom and drama appearances, as well as biographies and documentaries that have documented his fascinating career and life.

Sitcom and Drama References

Richard Gilliland is best known for his roles in popular TV shows like Designing Women, Thirtysomething, and Beverly Hills, 90210. In Designing Women, he portrayed J.D. Shackleford, a recurring love interest for Annie Potts‘ character, Mary Jo Shively. This CBS sitcom was particularly well-received, receiving critical acclaim and running for seven seasons.

In addition to his work in acclaimed sitcoms and dramas, Gilliland also starred in the lesser-known It Had to Be You. In this CBS sitcom, he played alongside his wife, Bonnie Gilliland, showcasing their on-screen chemistry.

Biographies and Documentaries

Due to Richard Gilliland’s significant impact on the entertainment scene, his career and personal life have been covered in various biographies and documentaries. One such biography is the article “22 Extraordinary Facts About Richard Gilliland” by, which delves into his captivating life and successful career. The article highlights Gilliland as a true industry icon and presents many intriguing aspects of his character.

Apart from written biographies, a prominent documentary titled “Tate Taylor” is also known to feature Gilliland’s work. This documentary sheds light on the actor’s involvement in the film and the experiences of working with the prominent director.

Notably, Richard Gilliland’s passing in March 2021 was covered by several news and media outlets. His wife, Jean Smart, openly discussed the sudden loss of her husband and its impact on her life. These personal accounts reflect the strong emotional bond they shared and further enhance the understanding of Gilliland’s life beyond his acting career.

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