6 Amazing Things to Know About ‘Mare of Eastown’ and ‘Hacks’ Star Jean Smart

Jean Smart is having a moment. The actor was recently nominated for two Emmy Awards for her work on Mare of Easttown and Hacks. But whether fans have just discovered the celebrity or followed her since her star turn on Designing Women, Smart still has some surprises in her past.

According to IMDb, she was one of four children in her family and grew up in Seattle. Her father was a high school teacher, and her mother was a stay-at-home mom. From a young age, Smart knew she wanted to act. And what a career she’s had.

1. Jean Smart has an impressive résumé

Actor Jean Smart in a scene from 'Mare of Easttown
Jean Smart in ‘Mare of Easttown | Michele K. Short/HBO

After graduating from college, Smart dove right into acting, and she didn’t start small. Her first professional job was with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where she appeared in Much Ado About Nothing and Henry VI. She also co-starred in Romeo and Juliet with William Hurt in 1975.

2. She’s never had a ‘day job’

Mental Floss reports that since she finished her degree, Smart has never worked another job other than acting. This is an astounding feat to generations of struggling actors who have scrambled to make it while holding down jobs as servers and bartenders. 

3. A sitcom made Smart famous

Smart had already appeared in many critically acclaimed plays and starred in a handful of TV shows, but her breakthrough role came in 1986. That year, she was cast as Charlene Frazier in Designing Women, making her a star. 

4. ‘Designing Women’ changed her life in more ways than 1

The popular sitcom brought Smart more than fame. In the first season, actor Richard Gilliland appeared on the show as JD Shackleford, the boyfriend of Annie Potts’ character. Smart found him fascinating, and she sent co-star Delta Burke to see if he was single. He was, but not for long. Smart soon began dating him.

The couple married a year later in Dixie Carter’s rose garden. They went on to have two children: Connor, born in 1989, and Bonnie, whom they adopted in 2009.

Today reports that Gilliland died unexpectedly of a heart condition this past June. He and Smart had been married for 34 years. Shortly after his death, she was back on the job.

“I still had a week of Hacks left to do,” she said. “That was hard. I had to do a funeral scene. I was a wreck, but it actually turned out to be very funny.”

5. Smart almost chose a different career

Smart’s ability to transform tragedy into comedy has made her a success. In fact, she once thought about becoming a stand-up comedian. But she decided against it when she realized how “terrifying” it could be to tell jokes in front of a live audience. 

6. Joking around once landed her in the hospital 

Although Smart’s comedic talents have served her fans well, playing the room for laughs hasn’t always been a good idea for her.

Once, on the set of Mare of Easttown, she was sitting on a staircase railing for a scene. She pretended to fall off to scare her co-workers. But she lost her balance and fell to the next floor. The accident gave her a concussion, a broken rib, and a five-day hospital stay. 

At nearly 70 years old, Smart is still delighting fans with her talent. It’s probably safe to say she isn’t done surprising people yet. 

RELATED: ‘Mare of Easttown’: How Many 2021 Emmy Nominations Did the HBO Drama Receive?