The 'Designing Women' Cast: Where Are They Now?

Updated on April 10, 2019
Rachelle Williams profile image

I'm an Internaut, and a general tech geek who's obsessed with creating web content!

The Original Designing Women Cast - 80s TV at its finest...
The Original Designing Women Cast - 80s TV at its finest...

If you were around during the 1980s, and you were a fan of 80s TV sitcoms, there's absolutely now way you missed Designing Women. After the Mary Tyler Moore Show and at the beginning of The Golden Girls, the Designing Women cast was giving the world prime examples of smart, strong, independent women who were making it on their own.

The series focused on the lives of four self-reliant women who worked together as co-owners of an interior design firm. The fifth member of the group was a self assured hired hand who had sense enough to give the women the lead in their firm, and still smart enough to provide aid and sometimes take control whenever it was necessary.

Julia and Suzanne Sugarbaker, Mary Jo Shively, Charlene Frazier and Anthony Bouvier were portrayed by Dixie Carter and Delta Burke, Annie Potts, Jean Smart and Meschach Taylor respectively. In this article we'll catch up with the Designing Women cast to see what they're up to today.

Hal Holbrook and Dixie Carter
Hal Holbrook and Dixie Carter

Dixie Carter (Julia Sugarbaker)

If there is one woman who made this show the icon it was, for me personally, it was Dixie Carter and the way she played her character, Julia Sugarbaker. Julia was a smart, sharp and fierce woman who loved her family, her friends and her Southern Roots.

Julia Sugarbaker was an astute business woman, devoted partner and mother and a passionate liberal feminist. Surprisingly enough, Dixie Carter was also all of these things, but with one exception...she was a conservative, proper lady who used to joke that she might have been "the only Republican in Hollywood."

Before the show, Dixie Carter was known to most audiences as the wife of Phillip Drummond from Diff'rent Strokes, and significantly before that, she starred in a short-lived TV Sitcom Filthy Rich, alongside Delta Burke. After Designing Women ended its run in 1993, Dixe Carter went on to several guest appearances in classic 90s TV shows like Diagnosis Murder opposite Dick Van Dyke, Christy, alongside Kellie Martin and she took on meatier roles in 2000s TV shows, Family Law and Desperate Housewives.

Dixie Carter began her Hollywood career in the mid 1970s on the soap opera, The Edge of Night and she married actor Hal Holbrook in 1984, and you'll remember that Holbrook played the part of Julia Sugarbaker's fiancee, attorney Reese Watson. Holbrook was her third husband, and the couple had two children.

In 2009, Dixie Carter and her husband Hal Holbrook starred in a film called That Evening Sun. The premise of the film was that of an aging man (Holbrook) who was haunted by flashbacks and dreams of his beloved, deceased wife (Carter). Sadly, this was Carter's last role. Dixie Carter died of endometrial cancer on April 10, 2010 in Houston, Texas, she was 70 years old. The Dixie Carter Performing Arts and Academic Enrichment Center ("The Dixie") in Huntingdon, Tennessee is named in honor of Carter.

Gerald McRaney and Delta Burke
Gerald McRaney and Delta Burke

Delta Burke (Suzanne Sugarbaker)

Actress Delta Burke's Suzanne Sugarbaker is perhaps the most popular character on the series. Loud, brash, spoiled and incredibly beautiful, Suzanne Sugarbaker was an ex beauty pageant queen who was often "too much" to deal with for the show's other characters. While Julia could be counted on for the show's wit, Suzanne supplied the slapstick comedy.

Before Designing Women, Delta Burke had juicy roles in The Chisholms, Filthy Rich, and notably, 1st & Ten: The Championship. Due to rumored constant squabbles between the Designing Women co-stars, mainly Dixie Carter, and its executives, Delta Burke was not asked back to the show after its fifth season in 1991.

Shortly after she was dismissed from the show, Burke donned a blonde wig to star in her self-titled TV sitcom, Delta. The show lasted only one season, but her feud with Dixie Carter lasted for more than a decade. Burke and Carter reconciled and the two made an appearance together in Carter's Family Law series.

Afterwards, Burke went on to hefty roles in Popular, Touched by an Angel, Dag and Boston Legal. She even did another stint as Suzanne Sugarbaker in the series Women of the House. This time around, Sugarbaker has left Atlanta for DC, to take over her recently-deceased husband's seat in Congress.

Burke married actor Gerald McRaney in 1989, and the two are still together today. McRaney had a recurring role on Designing Women as Dash Goff, the writer and on again, off again boy fried of Suzanne Sugarbaker. Delta Burke was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, and in light of the diagnoses, the actress loss weight. Burke and McRaney are the owners of a clothing line and antique store.

The actress has revealed her struggles with panic attacks and lifelong bouts of depression and she recently shared that she is a victim of compulsive hoarding syndrome. Delta Burke is open to talking about her issues, and she credits her husband McRaney as holding her together all these years.

Annie Potts
Annie Potts

Annie Potts (Mary Jo Shively)

Annie Potts played the former demure housewife turned firecracker business woman, Mary Jo Shively. The character had been married to a man she put through medical school, but once he had become the prominent physician, he cheated on her every chance he got. Shively divorced her husband, grew a backbone as tough as nails and went to work as a partner/designer at Sugarbakers.

As for Annie Potts, the world had already come to know the actress through her roles in the 1980s TV series' Goodtime Girls and Romance Theatre and the blockbuster hit film, Ghostbusters (1984).

After the end of Designing Women, Annie Potts has been on fire and all over the screen. She starred in four TV series, Dangerous Minds, Over the Top and notably Love and War and Any Day Now, for which she won an Emmy and SAG Award respectively.

She voiced the character of Bo Peep in Disney's Toy Story and Toy Story 2, and she's been unstoppable since then with roles on shows ranging from Joan of Arcadia, Law & Order: SVU, Chicago Med, The Fosters and Young Sheldon. Currently, Annie Potts is working on Toy Story 4.

The actress has been married four times, her last marriage was to TV producer, director and cinematographer, James Hayman. The couple have been together since 1984 and they have two children.

Jean Smart and Richard Gilliland
Jean Smart and Richard Gilliland

Jean Smart (Charlene Frazier-Stillfield)

Jean Smart breathed life into Designing Women's bold, brassy, wide eyed, romantic dreamer, Charlene Frazier. Often referred to as a "Hillbilly" by Suzanne Sugarbaker and her cousin Allison Sugarbaker, who would come along much later in the series, Charlene indeed hailed from the back hills of Missouri.

Frazier was the business manager of Sugarbakers and she eventually met and married an U.S. Air Force Officer, the two welcomed a daughter and they presumably lived happily ever after.

Before Designing Women, Smart appeared in TV series Teachers Only and Reggie and she had a few small roles in icon 80s TV shows like The Facts of Life, Alice, and Remington Steele.

Since the end of Designing Women Smart's career has been just as lit as Annie Potts'. She had prominent roles in TV series like High Society, Style & Substance and Frazier for which she won two Emmys, and she lent her voice to animated projects like The Ooblongs and Static Shock. She went on to even more successful series' like 24 and Harry's Law, and she had a notable run on the acclaimed TV drama, Fargo. Currently she's in post production on four projects, and she shows no sign of slowing down.

Jean Smart has been married to actor Richard Gilliland since 1987. You might remember Gilliland as J.D. Shackleford, the boyfriend of Mary Jo Shively. Smart and Gilliland met on the set of Designing Women, they have two children and they're still together today.

Meschach Taylor with his Wife and Kids on His 67th Birthday
Meschach Taylor with his Wife and Kids on His 67th Birthday

Meshach Taylor (Anthony Bouvier)

Rounding out the Designing Women cast is the man of the house, Meshach Taylor. This section will be short, because there is a full article coming out dedicated entirely to Taylor, but I had to include him here in this look back of the iconic 80s TV show.

The actor portrayed ex convict, Anthony Bouvier. It is important to note that Bouvier was wrongly convicted, and he proved the content of his character time and time again. Oddly enough, Anthony and Suzanne grew close and the wacky pair became best friends - this trend crossed over into real life as Meschach Taylor and Delta Burke were close friends. Quiet honestly, Bouvier often played the Ethel Mertz to Sugarbaker's Lucy Ricardo, but he was always there for her in the end.

Taylor busted onto the scene the scene in the sequel to the 1970s mega hit film, The Omen, in Damien: Omen II. In Damien, Taylor had a tiny role as a doctor who's fate is sealed in the memorable elevator scene. Afterwards, he went on to bit parts on typical late 70s TV shows, and the 1981 film, The Howling. By far, his most notable film role was as a flamboyant window dresser in the film, Mannequin in 1987.

After he departed Designing Women at the end of its run in 1993, Taylor went on to a bevy of guest starring roles in shows from Burke's Law and Caroline in the City to to Dave's World and Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide.

Taylor's last television appearance was in Criminal Minds in 2014. He married Bianca Ferguson in 1983, and the couple had four children together. Sadly, Meschach Taylor passed away on June 28, 2014, after suffering with colorectal cancer.

Designing Women was an iconic 80s TV show with an amazing cast. Eventually, the show would go through many cast changes, but the original five set the tone for the rest of the show.

As the saying goes, "they don't make them like this anymore," and in the case of Designing Women, nothing could be truer.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)