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Richard Gilliland, Designing Women and 24 actor, dies at 71

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Richard Gilliland, the veteran character actor whose credits included Designing Women, 24, Desperate Housewives, and many other TV shows and films, has died at 71.

Gilliland died March 18 in Los Angeles after a brief illness, according to a statement from his family. He was married to his Designing Women costar Jean Smart, who he met while working on the CBS sitcom and wed in 1987. Gilliland had a recurring role on the series as J.D. Shackleford, the on-again, off-again love interest of Annie Potts' Mary Jo.

"I met him when he was kissing someone else," Smart quipped to EW in 2017. The couple also worked together on 24, with Gilliland as Captain Stan Cotter and Smart as First Lady Martha Logan, and in the TV movies Just My Imagination and Audrey's Rain. They were slated to perform together again this summer in a film directed by Tate Taylor.

Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Richard Gilliand in 1977

Born Jan. 23, 1950, in Fort Worth, Texas, Gilliland attended Chicago's prestigious Goodman School of Drama before moving to Los Angeles. He worked steadily from the 1970s through the 2010s, frequently appearing in guest roles on TV, in everything from The Love Boat to St. Elsewhere to Dexter. He also worked frequently on stage, appearing in productions of Cops, Beyond Therapy, I Remember You, Little Egypt and Amadeus (as Salieri).

Of transitioning from theater to sitcom work, Gilliland said in a 2012 interview, "There was a conflict in the sense that I considered myself a very serious actor. I approached the sitcom realm the same way I would've approached a play… I remember a network executive once saying to me, 'This isn't real. It's television.' Because he thought I was taking it too seriously, and he had a good point."

In addition to Smart, Gilliland is survived by his children Connor and Bonnie, his sisters Ann Norberg and Wendy Knaack, and his brother John Wells.

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