Jean Smart, born as Jean Elizabeth Smart, is an American stage, film, and television actress who has appeared in numerous hit projects till date. She is best recognized for appearing in the plays ‘Piaf’ and ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner’. She is also known for playing the roles of Charlene Frazier Stillfield and Lana Gardener on the sitcoms ‘Designing Women’ and ‘Frasier’ respectively. Smart has also impressed the audience with her role of Regina Newley on the ABC drama ‘Samantha Who’. She has guest starred on numerous TV shows including 'Getting On', 'Sirens', 'Veep', 'Scarlett' and 'Maximum Security'. In addition, the American actress has contributed to the silver screen by acting in the movies ‘The Brady Bunch Movie’, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, ’Guinevere’, ‘I Heart Huckabees’, ‘The Accountant’, 'Snow Day', 'Garden State', 'Project X' and ‘Fire with Fire', to name a few. Very few people know that Smart is also a voice actress and is known for voicing the character of Dr. Ann Possible in Disney’s animated action comedy-adventure ‘Kim Possible’. Smart, who is a three-time Emmy Award winner, is a part of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority at the University of Washington. On a personal note, the artiste is a mother of two children. She firmly believes that life offers people to take chances as well as to make changes all the time.
Childhood & Early Life
Jean Smart was born as Jean Elizabeth Smart on September 13, 1951, in Seattle, Washington, USA to Kay and Douglas Smart. Her parents were a homemaker and a teacher. She has three siblings.
At the age of 13, Smart was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She attended Ballard High School and graduated from there in 1969. It was here that she first became interested in the acting field.
She then attended the University of Washington Professional Actors Training Program and graduated with a BFA.
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After graduating from college, Jean Smart started her acting career by appearing in theater productions throughout the Pacific Northwest. In the mid-1970s, she flew over to New York City and began working in Off-Broadway as well as professional regional productions.
From 1980-1981, she acted in the play ‘Last Summer at Bluefish Cove’. Soon after this, she performed in the Broadway production of ‘Piaf,’ appearing as Marlene Dietrich.
In addition to theater, the actress started working in television, playing numerous roles in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She appeared in the shows ‘Reggie’, ‘Teachers Only’, ‘Maximum Security’ as well as in the television films ‘Single Bars, Single Women’ and ‘Piaf’.
During this time, Smart was also featured in the 1984 movies ‘Flashpoint’ and ‘Protocol’. In 1985, she was cast as Charlene Frazier Stillfield in the comedy series ‘Designing Women’. She played this role from the show’s beginning till its fifth season.
In 1986, the American beauty played Sister Marie in the flick ‘Fire with Fire’. Soon after this, she performed in the film ‘Project X’ as well as in the TV movie ‘Place at the Table’.
During 1991 and 1992, she did many television films, such as ‘A Seduction in Travis County’, ‘Locked Up: A Mother's Rage’, ‘Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story’ and ‘Just My Imagination’.
From 1993 to 1999, Smart got the opportunity to act in several films including ‘Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey’, ‘The Brady Bunch Movie’, ‘Edie and Pen’, ‘The Odd Couple II’ and ‘Guinevere’. She was then cast as Lana Gardener in the show ‘Frasier’ in 2000. The same year, she performed in the play ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner’.
Soon after this, she was cast in many high-profile movies including ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and ‘Bringing down the House’. Between 2000 and 2004, Smart also played the role of Supervisor of Detectives on ‘The District’. In 2004, she had a lead role in the series ‘Center of the Universe’ and a supporting one in the flick ‘I Heart Huckabees’ respectively.
In January 2006, the actress joined the cast of the series ‘24’. Between 2006 and 2010, she did numerous movies, such as ‘Lucky You’, ‘Youth in Revolt’, ‘Barry Munday’ and 'Hero Wanted'.
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From 2011 to 2012, Smart guest-starred on the television programs ‘$h
! My Dad Says’ and ‘Harry's Law’ respectively. During this time, she also played the role of Eileen in the flick ‘Hope Springs’.
She then played roles in the shows ‘Sirens’ and ‘Getting On’. In 2015, she was cast in the series ‘Fargo’ as well as in ‘Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce’. Since 2017, Smart has been portraying the lead role of Melanie Bird on the series ‘Legion’.
Jean Smart voiced the character of Dr. Ann Possible on Disney’s ‘Kim Possible’ from 2002 to 2007. The series was a massive hit among the audience and also received acclaim from the critics.
She played the role of Regina Newly in the drama ‘Samantha Who?’ from 2007 to 2009. Her portrayal of the title character’s overbearing mother earned her the Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
Awards & Achievements
Jean Smart won two back-to-back Emmys in 2000 and 2001, under the category ‘Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series’ for her performance in ‘Frasier.’ She won the third Emmy in 2008 under the same category for ‘Samantha Who?’
In 2016, the actress received the ‘Critics' Choice Television Award’ for Best Supporting Actress in a Movie/Miniseries for her work in ‘Fargo.’
Smart has also earned several nominations for prestigious awards like Drama Desk Award, Tony Award, Independent Spirit Award, Satellite Award and Screen Actors Guild Award.
Jean Smart met her husband Richard Gilliland when the latter guest-starred on ‘Designing Women.’ The two got married in 1987.
The couple has a son, Connor Douglas Gilliland, who was born on October 25, 1989. They also have a daughter, Bonnie Kathleen Gilliland, who was adopted from China in May 2009.
Jean Smart often portrays divorcees who are free-willed and libertarian.
At the age of 13, the actress was diagnosed with diabetes.
According to her, she has never met a woman more feminine than Dixie Carter.