What Happened to Annie Potts, Jean Smart and the Cast of ‘Designing Women’ Before and After the Show

TV of the 1980s was all about its ensemble shows, whether it was dramas like Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law and thirtysomething, or sitcoms like Cheers, WingsThe Golden Girls and, of course, Designing Women. The latter, created by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, ran from 1986 and 1993 and brought together a cast consisting of Dixie Carter, Annie PottsJean SmartDelta Burke and Meshach Taylor.

In an interview with macleans.ca, Linda detailed the origin of the show, noting that CBS had hired her to do a series. “I was going to do a pilot about a man, and one day I got in my car and I said, ‘I can’t write this.’ So they said, ‘What do you want to write?’ And I said, ‘I just want to write some Southern women who aren’t like the usual Southern women you see on television, and I want to have some beautiful, sexy feminists who are man-loving.’ I thought feminism had been so vilified; you were a man-hater if you were a feminist. So I thought, I’m going to make these women beautiful, sexy and desirable, but they’re going to be feminists. That was the point of Designing Women and, to put it frankly, I wanted to show smart hicks. I felt that the American television scene had been only informed by Jed Clampett and The Dukes of Hazzard. I didn’t like that; that didn’t jive with where I came from, and my family. I wanted to show another side of that, and I think these women did that pretty well.”

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Julie Markes/AP/Shutterstock

“These women” were partners in Sugarbaker & Associates, an interior design firm. Dixie is Julia Sugarbaker, president of the company, Annie is head designer Mary Jo Shively, Jean is office manager Charlene Frazier-Stillfield and Delta is Suzanne Sugarbaker, an ex-beauty queen, Julia’s sister and supposedly a silent partner (who, in reality, isn’t silent at all). Also part of the ensemble (beginning in a recurring role until he was elevated to series regular) is Meshach’s Anthony Bouvier, an ex-con hired to be Sugarbaker’s delivery man, who eventually becomes a full partner.

Designing Women finished production 27 years ago, but it remains fondly remembered and is currently in development as a stage play that will continue where the series left off. Entertainment Weekly quoted Linda as saying, “What I really wanted to do was take those women as we last saw them and set them down right now. They’ll have the same history, be the same people, have the same attitudes, the same philosophies, but they’ll be talking about #MeToo and the Kardashians and Donald Trump.”

Something to look forward to, but in the meantime, please join us on a look back at what Dixie, Annie, Jean, Delta and Meshach were up to before and after the series.

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