Annie Potts – Then
Annie Potts played the lead designer, Mary Jo Shively. Over the course of the show, Mary Jo tries to get her groove back, as she was recently divorced shortly before the start of the series.
Annie Potts – Now
Since 1977, Annie Potts has bee enjoying an incredible career in both film and television. Prior to being cast in Designing Women, Potts was a part of the Ghostbusters franchise. After the show wrapped, she moved on to Love & War, which ran until 1995. In 2012, she starred in the short-lived comedy, GCB, though she was never short for work. Since 2013, she starred in The Fosters, but has since moved on to play the oft-talked about Meemaw in Young Sheldon.
Jean Smart – Then
It’s often the case that the secretary is the backbone of any business, and this definitely goes for Jean Smart as the office manager and secretary, Charlene Frazier-Stillfield. As practical as Charlene could be when it came to her work at Sugarbaker and Associates, she was still frequently caught up in matters that concerned the spiritual realm, for which she’d frequently consult her psychic. All in all, Charlene was much more of a small town girl, despite having moved to Atlanta, which made her an easy target for city slickers.
Jean Smart – Now
While her character got married onscreen, Jean Smart also found love behind the scenes, marrying costar Richard Gilliland before ending her run on the series. Since then, she has been a voice artist for several popular animated series in addition to frequent guest appearances on Frasier, The District, and 24. From 2007 until 2009, Smart was a regular on the series Samantha Who? before moving on to the film Youth in Revolt. Between 2015 and 2016, Smart appeared in the show Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. She can currently be seen in Legion.
Richard Gilliland – Then
Playing the one time Atlanta Braves scout, J.D. Shackleford, Richard Gilliland made his mark on Designing Women early in the show’s run. J.D. made a deep impression on the newly divorced Mary Jo Shively after they were set up on a date by Suzanne. The pair liked each other a lot but found that their pasts often got in the way of their romance, whether it was their exes or their respective children. Their relationship was cut short when J.D. moved away.
Richard Gilliland – Now
While Richard Gilliland and his on-screen love interest, Annie Potts didn’t hit it off behind the scenes, he did find love with a different lady on Designing Women, as he married Jean Smart after being set up by one of their costars. Since the end of the show, Gilliland has made appearances in a wide variety of television series and movies, though many of his arcs were short-lived. These days, you can find Gilliland playing Arlen Jonson on Imposters.
Douglas Barr – Then
First introduced to the ladies as a prospective client, Colonel William ‘Bill’ Stillfield charmed Charlene from the start. Stillfield finds the Sugarbaker and Associates while looking for someone to redecorate at the V.A. hospital, a project he was undertaking in honor of his deceased father. Like Julia Sugarbaker, Stillfield had been widowed before the start of the show, though he eventually manages to let down his guard and fall in love with Charlene, whom he later marries.
Douglas Barr – Now
Douglass Barr spent the vast majority of his acting career onscreen, beginning with his role in Where the Wind Blows, in which he played Buzz Dillard. Prior to being cast on Designing Women, Barr starred in The Fall Guy as Harry Munson, a role he played from 1981 until 1986. After he departed from the show in 1991, he found he favored directing over acting with his last role coming in 1994, when he appeared in the film Temptation. Barr last directed Site Unseen in 2017.
Alice Ghostley – Then
Alice Ghostley played the zany Bernice for the entirety of the series. Bernice was introduced to the ladies of the design firm through Julia and Suzanne’s mother, Perky. However, the ladies would soon find themselves responsible for Bernice’s antics. A constant source of comic relief, Bernice still had motherly affection for the women of the firm, even if she was often more of a handful for them to deal with. Bernice’s popularity helped propel her towards becoming the most popular recurring character.
Alice Ghostley – Now
Alice Ghostley began her career in the earliest days of television when she booked her first role in 1951. Her talent as a character actress was clear from the start, and she quickly found success in all manner of shows on the small screen. After she concluded her arc on Designing Women, she moved on to the show Evening Shade, where she played Irma Wallingsford until 1994. Her last television role was in Mothers and Daughters in 2006. Ghostley passed away in 2007.
Hal Holbrook – Then
They may say opposites attract, but in the case of Reese Watson and Julia Sugarbaker, it seems like was far more drawn to like. Each was driven by their dominating personalities, but had it been otherwise, the widow and the widower would have likely steamrolled over any other partner they had. Even so, Reese often managed to smooth things over when Julia lost her cool, as he would frequently laugh at how quick she was to anger.
Hal Holbrook -Now
By the time Hal Holbrook joined the cast of Designing Women, he was already a well-established actor with numerous awards to his name, both for his work on the stage and on the screen. Holbrook has often played major political figures from history, from Abraham Lincoln, which was his breakout role, to John Adams. Holbrook moved from Designing Women to Evening Shade. Holbrook began a noteworthy run on the show Sons of Anarchy, which continued from 2010 to 2014. His last role was in Hawaii Five-0.
Julia Duffy – Then
When Julia Duffy was brought onto the show to play the conniving cousin Alison, she brings a new dimension to the relations in the firm, as she seemed to cause trouble with every step. Allison rarely seemed to care much about the affairs of the firm, and as things began to go south, she ultimately decided to pull the money she was going to invest and put it into opening a new Victoria’s Secret franchise, outside of Atlanta.
Julia Duffy – Now
Julia began her extensive TV career in the 1970s when she began starring in the show The Doctors. After Designing Women was canceled, Duffy moved on to the series The Mommies only a year later, which appeared in until 1995. Throughout the years, Julia was a guest star on a number of the most popular shows on TV at that time. Between 2011 and 2013, Julia made several guest appearances on the hit drama, Shameless. Most recently, she appeared in an episode of American Housewife.
Jan Hooks – Then
Jan Hooks joined the ladies of Designing Women later in the game when she was brought on to play Charlene’s sister, Carlene. Carlene came aboard Sugarbaker and Associates in order to take over after Charlene moved overseas to England. Carlene’s country roots are much stronger than her sisters, as she often appears to be a little bit clueless about the world. Nonetheless, Carlene has musical aspirations, despite not having the talent of her other country music brethren.
Jan Hooks – Now
Jan Hooks joined the cast of Designing Women as a well-established comedian whose prior credits included roles in PeeWee’s Big Adventure, as well as a long-lasting run on Saturday Night Live. Hooks continued to build on her momentum, as she starred in 3rd Rock From the Sun from 1996 until the year 2000. During that time, she began working as a voice artist on the Simpsons. Her last television appearance occurred in 2010, when she guest starred on 30 Rock. She passed away in 2014.
Scott Bakula – Then
Playing Dr. Theodore ‘Ted’ Shively, Mary Jo’s ex-husband, Ted was set up to be an antagonist to his fragile ex-wife right from the start. Part of the problem during their marriage was that Ted liked to pursue other women a little too frequently. He was often status obsessed, a sharp contrast to Mary Jo’s more pragmatic sensibilities, which she worries will rub off on their children. Despite Mary Jo’s relationship struggles, in the end, she is the one who is happy.
Scott Bakula – Now
After Scott Bakula concluded his arc on Designing Women, he moved on to star in the science fiction drama, Quantum Leap, where he played Dr. Sam Beckett until 1993. He then moved on to Murphy Brown, which was similarly female-centric. Bakula bounced back to the world of sci-fi when he joined the cast of Star Trek: Next Generation in 2001. Since 2014, Bakula has been a regular part of both NCIS and one of its spin-offs, NCIS: New Orleans.
Olivia Brown – Then
Olivia Brown played the role of Vanessa Hargraves, one of Anthony’s most serious love interests throughout the course of the series. While the relationship was ultimately short-lived, Anthony fell hard for Vanessa, who was often frivolous and didn’t boast the best reputation. Under his influence, however, Vanessa was determined to improve the way people perceived her, which she worked at under the guidance of Suzanne Sugarbaker. To Anthony’s dismay, Vanessa disappeared without a trace by the end of the fourth season.
Olivia Brown – Now
Olivia got her first major role when she was cast in the hit police drama, Miami Vice. She portrayed Detective Trudy Joplin until 1990, from which she went on to join Designing Women. Brown continued to earn acting roles on television, but her most significant job following Designing Women was a continued guest role on 7th Heaven as Patricia Hamilton. Brown then took a break from the camera, but she made a comeback in the 2017 film called Our Dream Christmas.
George Newbern -Then
Cut from similar cloth as his mother, Julia’s son Payne still often managed to differentiate himself from her in striking ways. Julia was fiercely proud of him, even though he often made decisions that horrified her, especially when it came to his romantic life. Despite his impulsivity, Payne tended to be more rational than the rest of his family. Like many young adults, Payne would still turn to his mother for her help, even as he was beginning to build a career in NYC.
George Newbern – Now
When George Newbern came aboard Designing Women, he was nearly undiscovered, but would soon see his profile rise astronomically, especially after he landed roles in feature films like Adventures in Babysitting and Father of the Bride. By the mid-1990s, Newbern began focusing more of his energy on film roles, though he would return to TV in 1997 in Chicago Hope. Starting in 2012, Newbern joined the cast of Scandal, where he plays the role of Charlie, a run that continues to this day.
Judith Ivey – Then
Judith Ivey was brought onto the show as a second attempt to replace the hole left by Delta Burke after she departed the series in season 5. Playing Bonnie Jean ‘B.J.’ Poteen, Ivey brought a new dimension to the dynamics between the women, as her wealth helped to save the flailing design firm. Although she was a millionaire, she managed to befriend the ladies, given that she never acted like she was above them just because of her financial status.
Judith Ivey – Now
Judith Ivey may have a celebrated career on TV and film, but she is also a Tony award-winning actress for her work in two separate Broadway plays. After Designing Women, Ivey became a regular feature in the show The 5 Mrs. Buchanans, which she followed up with Buddies. As the decade wore on, Ivey’s TV work became more scarce as she continued to land an increasing number of film roles. In 2017, she appeared in several episodes of The Accidental Wolf.
Gerald McRaney- Then
When Gerald McRaney was brought on to the show, the producers had no idea that his onscreen chemistry would end up translating into off-screen chemistry with Delta Burke. McRaney played the writer Dash Goff, who had previously been married to Suzanne, which he said was only done in an attempt to suffer enough to be a better writer. The two might have had a fiery relationship, but unfortunately, they couldn’t control the blaze enough to stay together.
Gerald McRaney – Now
While one hesitates to say that McRaney is typecast as a villain, he has often found himself in the shoes of the antagonist. McRaney spent most of the 1980s appearing in the series Simon & Simon, a run which ended in 1989. McRaney has enjoyed a busy film career, as he has consistently worked in film and television since he got his start in the 1970s. From 2013 until 2017, he appeared in House of Cards, though he also began a run on This Is Us in 2016.
Meshach Taylor – Then
When Anthony Bouvier was first introduced on Designing Women, he was simply a delivery man who frequently visited Sugarbaker and Associates during the course of his work day. As the show wore on, he became close with the other ladies, which put him in the position of being the only male member of the main cast. By the end of the show’s run, Anthony’s life has changed considerably as he became a partner in the Sugarbaker’s firm.
Meshach Taylor – Now
Designing Women may have been Meshach Taylor’s most memorable role, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have an extensive resume of credits. When Designing Women wrapped, Bouvier moved on to star in the show Dave’s World where he played Shel Baker from 1993 until 1997. From 2004 until the year 2007, Taylor appeared as Mr. Wright in the children’s show, Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. Taylor’s final role before his 2014 death was a singular episode in Criminal Minds, where he reprised his 2012 character.
Sheryl Lee Ralph – Then
When Sheryl Lee Ralph came to Designing Women as Etienne Toussant Bouvier, she was already a bonafide star, having won a Tony Award for her performance as Deena Jones in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls. As Etienne, Ralph was introduced to the show as Anthony’s showgirl wife, who he accidentally married on a trip to Las Vegas. Even so, she threw herself into the task, hoping to create the perfect family life, though her efforts weren’t always so successful.
Sheryl Lee Ralph – Now
Ralph has continued to be a frequent presence on both the stage and the screen, often bringing her considerable musical talents to her roles, which included a short arc on the Broadway-centric television show, Smash, where she appeared as Jennifer Hudson’s on-screen mother. Ralph was a frequent guest on the hit drama, Ray Donovan, between 2013 and 2014. These days, she can be seen in The Quad, MacGyver, and Claws. She will also be seen in the musical film, Revival!
Priscilla Weems – Then
Priscilla Weems had made her on-screen debut several years before joining the cast of Designing Women as Mary Jo’s moody teenaged daughter from her first marriage. Claudia Marie, like most teenagers, was often a headache for her mother, as her choices of romantic partner tended to cause more trouble than happiness. Things ultimately began to settle down between mother and daughter, like in many real-life families, when Claudia finally left her mother’s house in order to attend college.
Priscilla Weems – Now
After leaving Designing Women, Priscilla Weems decided to leave show business behind in favor of focusing on her marriage and starting a family. However, after her marriage went south, Priscilla needed to reevaluate her choices, ultimately deciding that the time was ripe for her to get back into show business. It wouldn’t be a straight shot back to Hollywood for Weems though. First, she set out to make her name as a country singer and is only now working to rebuild an acting career.
Patrick Warburton – Then
As an incredibly attractive young man, Patrick Warburton was the perfect choice to play Craig Coleman, the younger man that Mary Jo begins dating in season 7. Unfortunately, their relationship was doomed from the start, as Craig turned out to be more of an airhead than anything else, even if Mary Jo found him to be particularly good looking. As she debates whether or not she should break up with him before he bores her to death, he takes the hint and ends the relationship first.
Patrick Warburton – Now
With a soothing baritone voice, Patrick Warburton has certainly grown up since his Designing Women days, though it was his role as David Puddy on Seinfeld that brought greater attention to the dashing Warburton. Many voice-over studios also picked up on Warburton’s vocal talents, frequently employing him in a whole host of animated series. After six years on Rules of Engagement, which went off the air in 2013, Warburton has continued to find himself swamped with acting jobs. Most recently, he’s played Lemony Snicket.
Dolly Parton – Then
Dolly Parton is probably the biggest guest star to ever have appeared on an episode of Designing Women, in which she played herself. What makes the appearance more notable, however, is that the country queen was the one to request the guest slot. Dolly appeared on a New Year’s Eve themed episode, where she came to Charlene in a dream as her guardian movie star. During the dream sequence, Dolly told Charlene that she would give birth to a baby girl.
Dolly Parton – Now
Working as a country musician, actress, and self-made woman, Dolly Parton has attained legendary status after more than 50 years on the country music scene. Most recently, she’s opened up about her half a century-long marriage, which she has generally kept under wraps. In doing so, Dolly was happy to get candid with her fans about the struggles she dealt with during that time, while also renewing her commitment to her long-term husband, Carl Dean. Dolly will soon debut a series of her own on Netflix.
Brian Lando – Then
Brian Lando was the youngster who had the opportunity to play Mary Jo’s rambunctious 9-year-old son, Quinton Shively. Like many boys his age, Quint was always getting himself into trouble by breaking the rules, though his antics were more often harmless than not, at least for a child of his age. Mary Jo frequently worried about how to manage Quint, even sometimes enlisting Anthony’s help to try and reel him in. Ultimately though, Mary Jo did a-ok.
Brian Lando – Now
Brian Lando may have started his early childhood off as a young actor, but he would come to realize after several years in front of the camera that it wasn’t the right position for him. He’d felt more comfortable being a normal kid, rather than spending his free time on set or at auditions. By the time he reached early adulthood, Lando was ready to return to TV, but as a producer. By 2006, Lando began working for Food Network, where he would become VP.
Ray McKinnon – Then
Ray McKinnon came to the cast of Designing Women in its later years when he popped up as Carlene’s no good ex-husband. A quintessential car salesman, Dwayne Dobber had an inflated opinion about his professional and interpersonal skills. One of the biggest reasons for their break up was how Dwayne treated Carlene throughout their marriage, as he was more focused on drinking with his buddies than paying attention to the needs of his wife. Altogether, Carlene was much better off without him.
Ray McKinnon – Now
If Ray McKinnon looks familiar to you, that’s because he probably is. McKinnon has appeared in a vast number of hit dramas, including a long arc on Deadwood in 2004, as well as Sons of Anarchy. McKinnon is also a frequent presence in many hit films, including the remake of Footloose, which also debuted in 2011, in addition to The Last Ride and Mud. From 2012 to 2016, McKinnon took a break from acting to focus on producing, directing, and writing for show Rectify.
Gregg Henry – Then
Gregg Henry was already an established actor by the time he made his appearance on Designing Women, where he joined the cast for several episodes as one of Suzanne’s ex-husbands. Their relationship had never been all that stable, as it was based mostly on passion and physical intimacy. Jack Dent was another of the men to appear on the show who played for a Major League Baseball team, as Jack had risen to the position of all-star pitcher for the Atlanta Braves.
Gregg Henry – Now
Gregg Henry is an actor that you often love to hate, though his acting skill is so nimble, that you may not have noticed how many charming characters he’s also appeared as over the years. He had notable arcs on mid-2000s hits like Gilmore Girls, where he played the media mogul Mitchum Huntsberger, in addition to simultaneous work on Eyes and The Riches. Henry is another actor from Designing Women to play a frequent role on Scandal, in which his last appearance was this year.
Dixie Carter – Then
Dixie Carter as Julia Sugarbaker was easily the anchor of the show, despite it being an ensemble style cast. Julia was the founder of Sugarbaker and Associates, and given her outspoken nature, it seems the character wouldn’t have had it any other way. Julia’s defining features were her logical method of problem-solving, as well as her resoluteness when it came to following her own opinion. Julia still managed to undergo significant character growth, as she slowly relaxes over the years.
Dixie Carter – Now
Before becoming an actress, Dixie had dreams of being a classical singer, which were sadly dashed at a young age. Carter broke into the television industry in the mid-1970s, and though she still harbored a love of music, hardly looked back. She was a regular on Diff’rent Strokes before she signed on to a starring role in Designing Women. After the show wrapped, she began working on Family Law. Her final role before she passed away was in 2009’s That Evening Sun.
Tony Goldwyn – Then
Tony Goldwyn may have only appeared in one episode of Designing Women, but the impact his character had on audiences was profound, as he introduced the ladies to the struggle of dealing with AIDS. The young man, named Kendall Dobbs, was another designer with whom the Sugarbaker firm was friendly. Dobbs came to the ladies in order to ask for help designing the funeral he knows is approaching soon. At the time, little was known about the disease, and the show wanted to break the stigma.
Tony Goldwyn – Now
Tony Goldwyn’s hard-hitting performance in Designing Women came early on in a career that would now be considered ‘illustrious.’ Goldwyn began taking on well-regarded film roles throughout the 1990s, before returning to TV in 2007 in several episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Beginning in 2012, Goldwyn was cast as President Fitzgerald Grant in the Shonda Rhimes-helmed series Scandal. At the same time, he has continued to appear in other films, while also working on several directing and producing projects.
Delta Burke – Then
Delta Burke played Suzanne, Julia Baker’s more outlandish younger sister. Long before the start of the series, Suzanne won the title of Miss Georgia World, an honor she continues to flaunt, even though the title is nearly meaningless by that point in time. Suzanne could often be counted on to somehow work herself and Anthony in increasingly bizarre situations, which helped to deepen their friendship. During seasons four and five, Suzanne’s appearances became more sporadic, until she left the show when season five ended.
Delta Burke – Now
Burke’s departure from the show was spurred in part by very public creative differences she began having not only with the producers, but with her fellow cast mates. She tried to make a comeback with a show of her own called Delta that only lasted a single season. Though she appeared in several episodes of Boston Legal in 2006 and 2007, it was her last character arc on TV. She came back to screens for Counter Culture in 2012, which is her last film appearance to date.