The actor who portrayed Lt. Nick Holden in “Operation Petticoat’ passed away at 71. His wife of nearly 34-years, Jean Smart, confirmed Richard Gilliland’s death on March 25, 2021.
He died in Los Angeles, California, on March 18, according to a statement released by Ame Vandlen, a representative for the deceased family.
Gilliland’s acting career began as Jeff in a made-for-TV movie “Single Dad.” He appeared in numerous television programs and movies through the years, including Mary Ellen’s husband, Jonesy, on “The Waltons” in 1981. He reprised the role three times in TV movies in 1982.
Fans of “The Love Boat” will remember him from more than a dozen guest appearances as four different characters. Other TV programs include “McMillian and Wife,” 1976-77, “Just Our Luck,” 1983, “Heartland,” 1989, “Thirtysomething,” 1989-90, and “Designing Women” 1986-91.
It was on the set of “Designing Women” where he met his wife. He played J.D. Shackelford, Mary Jo Shively’s love interest — Annie Potts. Smart found herself attracted to him as the story is told and asked Delta Burke to find out if he was married.
In a 2017 interview, Smart recalls meeting Gilliland “when he was kissing someone else.” They married in June 1987. According to USA Today, the couple has two children; their son, 31-year-old Connor Douglas, and adopted daughter Bonnie Kathleen, who will be 12 in May.
In addition to TV and the big screen, Gilliland’s acting career on stage in Los Angeles, Chicago, and off-Broadway in New York; “Amadeus,” “Cops,” “Beyond Therapy” and “Little Egypt,” according to IMDb.
While attending the Goodman School of Drama in Chicago, Gilliland played Jesus to Joe Mantegna’s Judas in “Godspell.”
Gilliland and Smart worked together in stage productions, “It Had to be You” and ‘Love Letters.” They also appeared together on “24” in 2006, and made-for-TV movies “Just My Imagination” in 1992, then in 2003 “Audrey’s Rain.”
According to People Magazine, before his death, the couple were set to work together again this summer in a film. Gilliland’s last movie hit screens in a sci-fi docudrama on March 3, 2020 — “CASE 347.”
He was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on Jan. 23, 1950. In addition to his wife and children, he is survived by his brother, John Wells, and sisters, Ann Norberg and Wendy Knaack. The family states that donations can be made in his name to the M.I.T. Institute for Medical Engineering and Science.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
People Magazine: Actor Richard Gilliland, Husband of Jean Smart, Dies at 71 Following a ‘Brief Illness;’ by Ally Mauch
USA Today: ‘Rest peacefully dearest’: Richard Gilliland, actor and husband to Jean Smart, dies at 71; Cydney Henderson
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Alan Light’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License