Jean Smart is an American film, TV, and film actress who got famous for her appearance in the plays The Man Who Came to Dinner and Piaf and her role of “Lana Gardener” in the television series Frasier.
The Early Life of Jean Smart
Jean Smart, also known as Jean Elizabeth Smart, was born to Douglas and Kay Smart in Seattle, Washington, on 13 September 1951. Smart’s father was a teacher, and her mother was a homemaker. Other than her parents, her family includes three siblings. Smart’s childhood was just like any other normal kid until 13 – after that, she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
In 1969, smart graduated from Ballard High School in Seattle; this was the point where she started taking an interest in acting and drama. Her interest in acting made her attend the University of Washington, from where she graduated in the Professional Actors Training Program with a BFA.
Smart is also a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority at the University of Washington.
After graduation, Jean Smart appeared in several theatre productions throughout the Pacific Northwest. The theatre she worked with includes Seattle Repertory Theatre and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland. In 1980, Jean appeared as “Lady Macbeth” in the play Macbeth presented by the “Pittsburgh Public Theatre.” She also got nominated for the Drama Desk Award for her role in the play “Last Summer at Bluefish Cove” (an off-Broadway production).
She continued her theatre acting from 1975 to 1984; however, in the mid-1980s, Smart decided to move to New York with a fellow actress and friend Elizabeth Wingate. After moving to New York, Smart started appearing in professional regional and off-Broadway productions. She appeared in “Piaf,” a Broadway production, in 1981 and played the role of “Marlene Dietrich,” and later reprised this role for the television version of the production in 1984.
In 1985, Jean secured the role of “Charlene Frazier Stillfield” in the comedy series Designing Women. She played this role for five seasons. After Designing Women, Smart mostly worked as supporting roles in films and made-for-television movies. She also portrayed the serial killer “Aileen Wuornos” in the television movie “Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story” in 1992.
Her works include supporting roles in films such as Mistress; her role in this drama film was critically acclaimed, and her portrayal was called “calculating.” She also appeared in the drama Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993), the TV version of The Yearlings (1994),” and TV miniseries Scarlett (1995). Smart also played a supporting role in The Brady Bunch Movie in 1995.
In 2000, Jean Smart was cast for the comedy series Frasier to play the role of Lana Gardner. Jean won two Primetime Emmy Awards in the category of “Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series” for her role in Frasier.
Apart from being an actress, Jean Smart also worked as a voice artist and lent her voice to “Dr. Ann Possible” in Kim Possible. She also voiced the Pickles Oblong in the American adult animated series “The Oblongs” in 2004. Smart won another Emmy Award for Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role of Samantha in the sitcom “Samantha Who?”
In 2011 and 2012, Smart made guest appearances in TV shows like My Dad Says and Harry’s Law. In the same years, she also appeared in the flick Hope Springs as “Eileen.”
Even in 2021, Smart appeared in the HBO crime Drama “Mare of Easttown,” playing the role of Winslet’s mother. She is also a part of HBO Max’s dark comedy series Hacks.
Jean Smart and Richard Gilliland met each other at the set of “Designing Women” and married each other in 1987. The couple had a son Connor Douglas and an adopted daughter Bonnie Kathleen (adopted from China in 2009). Sadly, Richard Gilliland died in March 2021.
Jean Smart started her acting career as a theatre actress and a stage performer. But with her amazing skills and talent, she marked her name in the film and TV entertainment industries soon after arriving in New York. After being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 13 and losing her father to Alzheimer’s, Smart became very active in Alzheimer’s association and juvenile diabetes education.
Smart is still active in her acting career, and we hope to see her for several more years.