The much-loved cast of Designing Women gave TV audiences many laughs over its successful run. We’re taking a look at where the many stars of the show find themselves today…
Annie Potts Then
Annie Potts played the lead fashion designer, Mary Jo Shively. Over the course of the series, Mary Jo is on a quest to get her groove back. She went through a trying divorce just before the start of the show.
Annie Potts Now
Since 1977, Annie Potts has enjoyed a thriving career in both film and television. Prior to being cast in Designing Women, Potts was featured in the iconic Ghostbusters movie franchise. After the show’s final season, she moved on to Love & War, which had a successful run until 1995. In 2012, she starred in the short-lived comedy show, GCB, despite the show’s abrupt cancellation, she had no difficult finding other work. Since 2013, she has starred in The Fosters. She since landed the role of Meemaw in the Big Bang spin-off series, Young Sheldon.
Jean Smart Then
Jean Smart played the office manager and secretary, Charlene Frazier-Stillfield. As practical and efficient as Charlene could be when it came to her extensive work at Sugarbaker and Associates, she was still frequently concerned with matters of the spiritual realm, for which she’d consult her eccentric and trusted psychic. Charlene a small town girl, despite having moved to the bustling city of Atlanta, which made her a gullible target for opportunistic city slickers.
Jean Smart Now
While her character married onscreen, Jean Smart also found love behind the scenes, marrying her long-time costar Richard Gilliland. Since then, she has had notable guest appearances on popular shows like Frasier, The District, and 24. From 2007 until 2009, Smart was a regular on the comedic series Samantha Who? before moving on to the indie film Youth in Revolt. Smart then appeared in the show Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. The actress can currently be seen in the show, Legion.
Priscilla Weems Then
Priscilla Weems joined the cast of Designing Women playing Mary Jo’s moody adolescent daughter from her first marriage. Like most teenagers, Claudia Marie was often a handful for her mother, as her romantic choices caused her more trouble than happiness. When Claudia left her mother’s home to attend college, the mother-daughter relationship became a lot more smooth-sailing.
Priscilla Weems Now
After leaving the show, Priscilla Weems made the difficult decision to leave show business and give her undivided attention to motherhood and marriage. After her marriage ended, Priscilla ultimately made the choice to return to Hollywood, but reviving her career proved difficult. She first set out to pursue success as a country singer and is now working hard to rebuild her acting career.
Richard Gilliland Then
Playing the Atlanta Braves scout, J.D. Shackleford, Richard Gilliland made his mark on Designing Women early in the series. J.D. made a deep impression on the newly single Mary Jo after they went on a blind date, set up by the hopeful Suzanne. The pair were soon infatuated but found that their romantic histories often got in the way of their budding relationship, whether it was their ex-partners or their children. Their relationship was cut short when J.D. moved from Atlanta.
Richard Gilliland Now
While Gilliland and his on-screen love, Annie Potts clashed behind the scenes, he did find love with a different cast member. He married Jean Smart after being set up by one of their fellow costars. Since the show ended, Gilliland has made appearances in a long list of popular series and movies, though many of his television stints were sadly short-lived. Today, you can catch Gilliland playing Arlen Jonson on the series, Imposters.
Douglas Barr Then
First introduced to the ladies as a potential client, Colonel William ‘Bill’ Stillfield instantly charemed the lovely Charlene. Stillfield finds the Sugarbaker and Associates while looking for someone to redecorate at the V.A. hospital, a large-scale project in honor of his beloved late father. Like Julia Sugarbaker, Stillfield had unfortunately been widowed before the show’s start. He eventually finds new love with Charlene, whom he later weds.
Douglas Barr Now
Barr kickstarted his acting career with his role in Where the Wind Blows, in which he starred as Buzz Dillard. Prior to being cast on Designing Women, Barr had a successful five-year stint on the show The Fall Guy as Harry Munson. After he left Designing Women in 1991, Barr moved to work behind the camera as a director. Barr last directed Site Unseen in 2017.
Alice Ghostley Then
Alice Ghostley starred as zany Bernice for the entirety of the show. Bernice was introduced to the ladies through Julia and Suzanne’s mother, Perky. The designers would soon find themselves responsible for Bernice’s eccentric and unexpected antics. A constant source of comic relief, Bernice was a beloved character and a handful for the rest of the characters. Bernice’s became the most popular recurring character.
Alice Ghostley Now
Alice Ghostley began her long-lasting acting career in the early days of TV, she landed her first role in 1951. With her obvious acting talents, she quickly found success on the small screen. After she concluded her role on Designing Women, she moved on to star in Evening Shade, where she played Irma Wallingsford until 1994. Ghostley passed away in 2007.
Hal Holbrook Then
The compatible characters of Reese Watson and Julia Sugarbaker were instantly drawn to one another. Each of the characters were dominating personalities. The widow and the widower were a perfect match. Reese often managed to calm Julia when she lost her cool, finding her short temper endearing.
Hal Holbrook Now
When Holbrook first joined the cast of Designing Women, he was already a well-established actor, acclaimed for his extensive work on the stage and on the screen. Holbrook often played memorable historical political figures, from Abraham Lincoln to John Adams. Holbrook moved from Designing Women to the series, Evening Shade. Holbrook began a noteworthy stint on the series, Sons of Anarchy, which continued from 2010 to 2014.
Julia Duffy Then
Julia Duffy starred as the conniving cousin Alison, bringing with her a new dimension to the dynamics in the firm. Troublesome Allison rarely seemed concerned about the affairs of the firm, and as things began to go south, she decided to pull out of investment and open a new Victoria’s Secret franchise.
Julia Duffy Now
Julia began got her start onscreen in the 1970s when she landed a role on the show The Doctors. After Designing Women was canceled, Duffy moved on to star in The Mommies. Throughout her career, Julia has appeared in a long list of the most popular shows on TV at that time. Julia made several guest appearances on the hit drama, Shameless.
Jan Hooks Then
Jan Hooks joined the cast when she was brought on to play Charlene’s sister, Carlene. Carlene came aboard the firm in order to take over after Charlene made the move to England. Carlene’s often ditzy chracter had much stronger country roots than her sisters. Nonetheless, Carlene had grand musical aspirations, despite lacking the talent needed for stardom.
Jan Hooks Now
Jan Hooks joined Designing Women as a well-established comedian whose credits included roles in PeeWee’s Big Adventure and a successful run on the comedy sketch show, Saturday Night Live. Hooks then starred in 3rd Rock From the Sun from 1996 until the year 2000. During the same period, she began work as a voice artist on the long-running animated show, the Simpsons. She sadly passed away in 2014.
Scott Bakula Then
Playing Dr. Theodore ‘Ted’ Shively, Mary Jo’s ex-husband, Ted was the antagonist to his fragile, sensitive ex-wife. Ted was a known philanderer whose wandering ways ultimately led to the end of their marriage. He was status obsessed, a clear contrast to Mary Jo’s pragmatic sensibilities. Despite Mary Jo’s romantic struggles, she is the character who has a happy ending.
Scott Bakula Now
After Bakula concluded his stint on the show, he went on to star in the science fiction drama series, Quantum Leap, playing Dr. Sam Beckett. He then starred in Murphy Brown. Bakula later joined the cast of the popular sci-fi series Star Trek: Next Generation in 2001. Bakula has since regularly appeared in the crime shows NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans.
Dixie Carter Then
Carter as Julia Sugarbaker was the undeniable anchor of the show. Julia was the original founder of the design firm. With her bold and outspoken nature, the character was a natural leader. Julia had a knack for quick-thinking problem-solving and was always outright when it came to her strong opinions. Julia’s character becomes more relaxed over the course of the show.
Dixie Carter Now
Before her start as an actress, Dixie had dreams of becoming a classical singer, which sadly never came to be. Carter broke into the TV industry in the 1970s, and though she still harbored a passion for music, she became committed to her new career path. She starred in Diff’rent Strokes before joining the cast of Designing Women. Her final role before she passed away was in 2009’s That Evening Sun.
George Newbern Then
With a similar character to his loving mother, Julia’s son Payne still managed to differentiate himself from her in bold ways. Julia was fiercely proud of her son, even though he often made questionable decisions that she disapproved of, especially when it came to his love life. Despite his impulsive nature, Payne tended to be more rationally-minded than the rest of his family. Payne would often turn to his mother for career guidance.
George Newbern Now
When George Newbern got his start on Designing Women, he was relatively unknown, but he would soon become a recognizable face when he landed roles in popular feature films like Adventures in Babysitting and Father of the Bride. By the 1990s, Newbern began focusing his attention on movie roles, he would return to the small screen in 1997 when he starred in Chicago Hope. In 2012, the actor joined the cast of Scandal, playing the role of Charlie.
Sheryl Lee Raph
When Sheryl Lee Ralph landed the role of Etienne Toussant Bouvier on the show, she was already a well-known star. She had won a Tony Award for her onstage performance as Deena Jones in the successful Broadway production of Dreamgirls. Ralph joined the cast playing Anthony’s showgirl wife, whom he wed on a whirlwind trip to Las Vegas. Despite the relationship’s unusual start, Etienne threw herself into her role as the loving wife, though her good intentions were not always successful.
Sheryl Lee Raph Now
Ralph career’s continued to be fruitful on the stage and the screen. The actress often showed off her extensive musical talents in her acting roles, which included a short-lived stint on the Broadway-centric show, Smash. Ralph was a frequent star on the widely popular drama, Ray Donovan. Today, she stars in The Quad, MacGyver, and Claws. She will also soon be seen in the upcoming musical movie, Revival!
Olivia Brown Then
Olivia Brown memorably starred as Vanessa Hargraves, one of Anthony’s serious romantic interests. While the relationship was not successful, Anthony fell hard for the frivolous character. With Anthony’s encouragement, Vanessa was determined to improve her less than favorable reputation. To Anthony’s shock, Vanessa mysteriously disappeared at the end of the fourth season.
Olivia Brown Now
Olivia got her first lead role in the police drama, Miami Vice. She played Detective Trudy Joplin before joining Designing Women. Brown’s most significant role following the end of Designing Women was a recurring role on 7th Heaven playing Patricia Hamilton. Brown then took a hiatus from acting but made a comeback in the 2017 film, Our Dream Christmas.
Dolly Parton Then
Dolly Parton was the biggest star featured on Designing Women, in which she played herself. Rather surprisingly, the country superstar actually requested the guest slot. Dolly appeared on a memorable New Year’s Eve themed episode, where she appeared in a dream of Charlene’s. During the dream sequence, Dolly predicted the sex of Charlene’s baby.
Dolly Parton Now
Working as a country music superstar, an acclaimed actress, and a self-made woman, Dolly Parton has become an icon with a career spanning five decades. Most recently, the star has opened up about her high profile 50-year-long marriage. Dolly was happy to get candid with her millions of fans about her trying personal struggles over the course of her partnership with Carl Dean. Dolly will soon debut a series of her own on Netflix.