Jean Smart, a highly acclaimed actress, was born on September 13, 1951, in Seattle. From a young age, she knew she wanted to pursue acting. During the 1970s, she performed in various community theater plays and theater festivals nationwide.

In 1981, Smart made her Broadway debut. Her role in “Piaf,” which was adapted for television, marked her transition to screen acting. In 1986, she gained widespread recognition for her role as Charlene Frazier on the all-female comedy “Designing Women.”

It was on this show that she met her future husband, Richard Gilliland, who played the love interest of another character. Reflecting on their meeting, Smart humorously recalled, “I met him while he was kissing someone else.”

Thanks to their co-star Delta Burke, Smart and Gilliland were introduced, started dating and eventually married in 1987 in Dixie Carter’s yard. Their son, Connor Douglas Gilliland, was born on October 25, 1989, after a pregnancy complicated by gestational diabetes.

To expand their family, Smart and her husband adopted Forrest Gilliland in 2009 when he was 10 months old, a process that took five years longer than expected. Despite the challenges, they were thrilled with the new addition, and Connor enjoyed being an older brother.

Smart often acknowledged her fortune in meeting her husband, who became a supportive partner, especially when her career demanded more of her time. She credited him with making significant sacrifices for her success, stating, “He gave up a lot in terms of his profession so that I could make the most of the opportunities that came my way. I owe it all to him.”

Gilliland passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2021, due to complications related to his heart condition, at the age of 71. Smart, deeply affected by his sudden death, continued to work on her HBO show “Hacks,” finding solace in her work and support from her on-set family during this challenging time.

Gilliland was a talented actor known for his stage work and roles in TV shows like “Matlock,” “Party of Five,” “Desperate Housewives,” and “Dexter.” After “Designing Women,” he and Smart appeared together again in the fifth season of “24” and were set to co-star in another film in 2021.

After 34 years of marriage, Smart described life without her husband as “strange.” She missed sharing joys and ideas with him, and his absence left a significant void in her life. Adjusting to life as a single mother to Connor and Forrest has been one of her most challenging roles.

Reflecting on her loss, Smart said, “We were both performers, and work has provided me a great deal of happiness and a fantastic diversion from my grief.”

Connor, now 35, prefers to stay out of the spotlight, while Forrest is navigating his teenage years. Smart found the transition back to work particularly difficult, feeling the absence of her husband acutely and worrying about her son’s well-being.

Hannah Einbinder, Smart’s co-star on “Hacks,” described her as a “ferocious momma bear,” highlighting Smart’s struggle to balance her grief with protecting and guiding her children.

After a year of grieving, Smart shared, “Now, slowly, the reality of my new existence is setting in, and I find it very sad and lonely.” Despite the pain, she has received numerous accolades, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a SAG Award for best performance by a female actor in a comedy series.

At 71, Jean Smart remains a striking presence, known for her talent and resilience. Her ability to bring wit and depth to her roles, on stage and screen, has ensured a lasting and fulfilling career, demonstrating that even in the face of adversity, life can still hold great meaning and joy.