Jean Smart

Jean Elizabeth Smart (born September 13, 1951) is an American actress. After beginning her career in regional theater in the Pacific Northwest, she appeared on Broadway in 1981, as Marlene Dietrich in the biographical play Piaf. Smart was later cast in a leading role as Charlene Frazier Stillfield on the CBS sitcom Designing Women, which she starred in from 1986 to 1991.

Jean Smart
Smart at PaleyFest 2015, New York City
Jean Elizabeth Smart

(1951-09-13) September 13, 1951
EducationBallard High School
Alma materUniversity of Washington
Years active1979–present

Smart was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for the 2000 Broadway revival of The Man Who Came to Dinner, and would go on to receive two Primetime Emmy Awards for her role as Lana Gardener on the NBC sitcom Frasier (2000–01). She won a third Primetime Emmy Award for her starring role as Regina Newley on the ABC sitcom Samantha Who? (2007–09). She also portrayed Martha Logan on the action drama series 24 (2006–07). For her performance as Floyd Gerhardt on Noah Hawley's FX crime series Fargo (2015), she earned a Critics' Choice Television Award and a Primetime Emmy Award nomination. From 2017 to 2019, she starred as Melanie Bird in the FX science fiction series Legion, and in 2019, she starred as Laurie Blake (né Juspeczyk) in Watchmen.

Smart's film credits include Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993), The Brady Bunch Movie (1995), Guinevere (1999), Sweet Home Alabama (2002), Garden State (2004), I Heart Huckabees (2004), Youth in Revolt (2009), The Accountant (2016), and A Simple Favor (2018).

Early life

Smart was born and raised in Seattle, Washington,[1] the daughter of Kathleen Marie "Kay" (Sanders) and Douglas Alexander Smart, a teacher.[2][3][4] She is the second of four children. Smart was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was thirteen years old.[5] On Season 10 of the television show Who Do You Think You Are?, Smart discovered she is a direct descendant of Dorcas Hoar, one of the last women convicted of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials.[6]

She is a 1969 graduate of Ballard High School in Seattle; it was there that she gained an interest in acting in the drama program. She graduated from the University of Washington Professional Actors Training Program with a BFA.[2] Smart is a member of the University of Washington chapter of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority.[7]


1975–1984: Early work; theater

After graduating from college, Smart began her career appearing in regional theater throughout the Pacific Northwest, including in Washington, Alaska, and Oregon.[8] She performed with the Seattle Repertory Theater as well as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.[2] In the mid-1970s, she moved to New York City with college friend and fellow actress, Elizabeth Wingate (Lavery), and began working in Off-Broadway and professional regional productions.[8]

In 1980 she appeared as Lady Macbeth at the Pittsburgh Public Theater opposite Tom Atkins as Macbeth and Keith Fowler as Macduff. In 1981, Smart was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for her performance in the Off-Broadway play Last Summer at Bluefish Cove.[2] In February 1981, Smart appeared in a Broadway production of Piaf playing Marlene Dietrich,[8] a role which she would later reprise for the 1984 television version.[2]

In addition to theater, Smart began working in television in several smaller to mid-size guest parts in the late 1970s and early 1980s, appearing on The Facts of Life, Alice, and Remington Steele among several others.[2] According to Smart, after roles on the short-lived series Teachers Only and Reggie in 1983, "casting directors just decided I was funny. When that happens, you usually get pigeonholed, but I was fortunate. I got to move back and forth."[8] The following year, she had a supporting part in the thriller Flashpoint (1984).[9]

1985–1999: Designing Women; film

In 1985, Smart was cast in the starring role of Charlene Frazier Stillfield on the comedy series Designing Women,[10] a role she played from the show's beginning in 1986 through its fifth season.[11] After leaving Designing Women, her work mostly concentrated within made-for-television movies and supporting roles in films. Notably she portrayed serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, in the TV movie, Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story (1992), followed by a supporting part in the black comedy Mistress (1992), opposite Robert De Niro and Eli Wallach.[12] Critic Roger Ebert praised the film and called Smart's character portrayal "calculating."[13]

The following year, she appeared in the family drama Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993), and as Ory Baxter in a television version of The Yearling (1994). She was then cast as Sally Brewton in the television miniseries Scarlett (1995), and appeared in a supporting role in The Brady Bunch Movie (1995).[14] She would also appear in the television thriller film A Stranger In Town (1995), opposite Gregory Hines.[15]

In 1995 Smart was cast as the lead in the comedy series High Society, which co-starred Mary McDonnell and ran for 13 episodes,[2] followed by a role opposite Nancy McKeon in another short-lived CBS sitcom, Style & Substance. Other roles included a part in Neil Simon's The Odd Couple II (1998), and as Deborah Sloane in the drama Guinevere (1999).[2] She had a lead role in the comedy Forever Fabulous (1999) as an aging beauty queen.[16]

2000–2011: Television and critical success

In 2000, Smart was cast as Lana Gardner on the hit show Frasier, set in her home town of Seattle. She went on to win two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.[17] Reflecting on the role, Smart said: "I had loved that role on Frasier so much, particularly that first episode. It’s nice to get nominated and win for something you were particularly proud of. At the time I was a little bit snobby about doing guest parts. Based on what I don’t know. It wasn’t something I was seeking. But my agent said, “You have to read this.” I thought it was hilarious and the show was brilliant so I didn't even hesitate. I remember when we did the table read with the rest of the cast we could hardly get through it we were laughing so hard."[17]

The same year, she played in a Broadway production of The Man Who Came to Dinner, which earned her a Tony Award nomination.[18] Soon after, she landed roles in several high-profile films including Sweet Home Alabama (2002), playing the mother in law of Reese Witherspoon,[19] and in the comedy Bringing Down The House (2002), opposite Queen Latifah.[20] She also had a supporting role in the independent drama Garden State (2004). Between 2000 and 2004, Smart played the role of Supervisor of Detectives and ex-wife to Chief Jack Mannion of the Metropolitan Police Department on The District.[21]

From 2002 to 2007 she voiced Dr. Ann Possible in Kim Possible,[22] and also provided the voice of the alcoholic chain-smoking, Pickles Oblong, on The Oblongs. In 2004, she reprised her voice role as Reba Heyerdahl in an episode of the Nickelodeon series Hey Arnold!.[3] The same year, she was cast in a lead role in the short-lived Center of the Universe.[23] She also had a supporting role in David O. Russell's I Heart Huckabees (2004).[24][25]

In January 2006, Smart joined the cast of the Fox series 24, playing the mentally unstable First Lady of the United States, Martha Logan, to actor Gregory Itzin's President Charles Logan.[26] She received back-to-back Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama for the role in 2006 and 2007.[17] She also appeared in several films between 2006 and 2010, including the Curtis Hanson-directed drama Lucky You (2007), opposite Drew Barrymore; Youth in Revolt (2009); and the independent comedy Barry Munday (2010).[27]

Smart won her third Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for portraying Samantha's overbearing mother in the sitcom Samantha Who?, opposite Christina Applegate,[28] which she played from 2007 to 2009. She later was cast as Hawaii Governor Pat Jameson during the first season of the CBS-TV remake of Hawaii Five-0.[29]

2012–present: Fargo and other projects

In 2012, Smart was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her role in Harry's Law.[30] She then had a supporting role in the Lifetime film Call Me Crazy: A Five Film (2013).

In 2015, Smart starred in the second season of the FX television series, Fargo, portraying Floyd Gerhardt, whose husband is Fargo's most prominent organized crime syndicate, and who is forced to take over after her husband suffers a debilitating stroke. She later finds herself having to lead the Gerhardt dynasty and deal with her sons who are vying to replace their father. For her performance, Smart won the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Movie/Miniseries, and was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.

In 2016, Smart had a role in the thriller The Accountant, opposite Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, and John Lithgow.[31] In 2018, Smart played a guardian angel, to co-star Candace Cameron, in Hallmark's A Shoe Addict's Christmas, which aired Sunday November 25, 2018.

In 2019, Smart portrayed Laurie Juspeczyk in the HBO television series Watchmen.[32]

Personal life

Smart is married to actor Richard Gilliland, whom she met while working on the set of Designing Women (he played J.D. Shackelford, the boyfriend of Annie Potts's character, Mary Jo Shively). They have a son, Connor Douglas (born 1989),[2] and a daughter, Bonnie Kathleen (adopted as a baby from China in May 2009). Gilliland played Captain Stan Cotter on 24 while Smart later played First Lady Martha Logan on the same series.



Year Title Role Notes
1979 Gangsters N/A
1984 Flashpoint Doris
1984 Protocol Ella
1986 Fire with Fire Sister Marie
1987 Project X Dr. Criswell
1992 Baby Talk Narrator
1992 Mistress Patricia
1993 Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey Kate
1994 The Yearling Ora Baxter
1995 The Brady Bunch Movie Dena Dittmeyer
1996 Edie and Pen Wendy the Waitress
1998 The Odd Couple II Holly
1999 Guinevere Deborah Sloane
2000 Forever Fabulous Loreli Daly
2000 Snow Day Laura Brandston
2000 Disney's The Kid Deidre Lefever
2002 Sweet Home Alabama Stella Kay Perry
2003 Bringing Down the House Kate Sanderson
2004 Garden State Carol
2004 I Heart Huckabees Mrs. Hooten
2004 Balto III: Wings of Change Stella (voice)
2006 Whisper of the Heart Asako Tsukishima (voice)
2007 Lucky You Michelle Carson
2008 Hero Wanted Melanie McQueen
2009 Youth in Revolt Estelle Twisp
2010 Barry Munday Carol Munday
2010 Life As We Know It Holly's Mother Uncredited
2012 Hope Springs Eileen
2016 The Accountant Rita Blackburn
2017 Awaken the Shadowman Evette
2018 Life Itself Linda
2018 A Simple Favor Margaret McLanden
2020 Superintelligence Completed


Year Title Role Notes
1979 Before and After N/A Television film
1983 Reggie Joan Reynolds 6 episodes
1983 Teachers Only Shari 13 episodes
1984 Maximum Security Dr. Allison Brody 3 episodes
1984 Single Bars, Single Women Virge Television film
1984 Piaf Marlene Dietrich Television film
1986 A Fight for Jenny Valerie Thomas Television film
1986–1991 Designing Women Charlene Olivia Frazier Stillfield 119 episodes
1987 Place at the Table Susan Singer Television film
1991 A Seduction in Travis County Karen Television film
1991 Locked Up: A Mother's Rage Cathy Television film
1992 Overkill: The Aileen Wuornos Story Aileen Wuornos Television film
1992 Just My Imagination Pally Thompson Television film
1993 Batman: The Animated Series Helen Ventrix (voice) Episode: "See No Evil"
1994 Scarlett Sally Brewton 3 episodes
1994 The Yarn Princess Margaret Thomas Television film
1995 A Stranger in Town Rose Television film
1995–1996 High Society Elinore 'Ellie' Walker 13 episodes
1997 Hey Arnold! Phoebe's mother (voice) Episode: "Freeze Frame/Phoebe Cheats"
1997 Undue Influence Dana Colby Television film
1998 Style & Substance Chelsea Stevens 13 episodes
1998 A Change of Heart Elaine Mitchell Television film
2000–2003 Static Shock Maggie Foley (voice) 3 episodes
2000–2004 The District Detective Sherry Regan 14 episodes
2000–2001 Frasier Lana Gardner 7 episodes
2000 The Man Who Came to Dinner Lorraine Sheldon Television film
2001 The Oblongs Pickles Oblong (voice) 8 episodes
2002–2007 Kim Possible Dr. Ann Possible (voice) 40 episodes
2002–2003 In-Laws Marlene Pellet 15 episodes
2004 Audrey's Rain Audrey Walker Television film
2004 Killer Instinct: From the Files of Agent Candice DeLong Candice DeLong Television film
2004 A Very Married Christmas Ellen Griffin Television film
2004–2005 Center of the Universe Kate Barnett 12 episodes
2004 Hey Arnold! Reba Heyerdahl (voice) Episode: "Phoebe's Little Problem/Grandpa's Packard"
2006–2007 24 Martha Logan 24 episodes
2007–2009 Samantha Who? Regina Newly 35 episodes
2008 American Dad! Miriam Bullock (voice) Episode: "One Little Word"
2010–2011 Hawaii Five-0 Governor Pat Jameson 4 episodes
2010 Psych Gillian Tucker Episode: "Chivalry Is Not Dead...But Someone Is"
2011 $h*! My Dad Says Rosemary Penworth 4 episodes
2011 A Royal Romance The Duchess of Cornwall Television film
2011–2012 Harry's Law Roseanna Remmick 7 episodes
2013 Hot in Cleveland Bess Episode: "Conoga Falls"
2013 Call Me Crazy: A Five Film Claire Television film, segment: "Allison"
2014 Halt and Catch Fire LouLu Lutherford Episode: "High Plains Hardware"
2014–2015 Sirens Nora Farrell 3 episodes
2014 Getting On Arlene Willy-Weller 2 episodes
2015 The McCarthys Lydia Episode: "Gerard's Engagement Party"
2015 Fargo Floyd Gerhardt 9 episodes
2015–2016 Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce Katherine Miller 5 episodes
2016 Bad Internet President Powers Episode: "The President Goes Viral"
2017–2019 Legion Melanie Bird 19 episodes
2017 Angie Tribeca Carnie Episode: "License to Drill"
2017 Veep Mrs. Walsh Episode: "Judge"
2018–2019 Big Mouth Depression Kitty (voice) Episodes: "The Department of Puberty", "The ASSes"
2018 A Shoe Addict's Christmas Charlie / Guardian Angel Television film
2018–2019 Dirty John Arlane Hart 5 episodes
2019 Arrested Development Mimi 2 episodes
2019 Watchmen Agent Laurie Blake Series regular
TBA Mare of Easttown Helen Upcoming miniseries

Stage credits

1980–1981 Last Summer at Bluefish Cove Lil
1981 Piaf Marlene
1992 The End of the Day Various
1996 Fit to Be Tied Nessa
2000 The Man Who Came to Dinner Lorraine Sheldon [33]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Refs
1981 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
Last Summer at Bluefish Cove
Nominated [34]
1999 Independent Spirit Award Best Supporting Female
2000 Tony Award Best Actress in a Play
The Man Who Came to Dinner
Nominated [35]
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
Won [36]
2001 Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series Won [37]
Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
The District
American Comedy Award Funniest Female Guest Appearance in a TV Series
2006 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Satellite Award Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated
2007 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Nominated
2008 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Samantha Who?
Won [38]
2012 Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
Harry's Law
2016 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie
Critics' Choice Television Award Best Supporting Actress in a Movie/Miniseries Won [39]



  1. Krug, Kurt Anthony (March 13, 2006). "Seattle native Jean Smart happily back in the TV grind for a stint on "24"". The Seattle Times. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  2. "Jean Smart- Biography". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  3. "Jean Smart Biography". FilmReference. Retrieved December 22, 2016.
  4. Stated on Who Do You Think You Are?, June 18, 2018
  5. Bandler, Michael J. (May 10, 1992). "Against The Odds". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  7. "Jean Smart Biography". Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  8. Nassour, Ellis (July 2000). "Jean Smart Commutes From TV & Film To The Stage". Total Theater. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  9. Pitts 2013, p. 111.
  10. Shapiro & Jicha 2015, p. 142.
  11. "Designing Women". Delta Burke, Dixie Carter, Annie Potts. Retrieved 2018-03-20.CS1 maint: others (link)
  12. "Mistress (1992) - Overview". Turner Classic Movies. Rovi. Retrieved December 29, 2016.
  13. Ebert, Roger (August 21, 1992). "Mistress Movie Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  14. "The Brady Bunch Movie Cast and Crew". TV Guide. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  15. "'A Stranger in Town'". Jet. Television: 66. July 15, 1996.
  16. "Forever Fabulous (1999)". Retrieved January 21, 2017.
  17. Berkshire, Geoff (August 11, 2016). "Jean Smart Remembers Her Emmy-Winning 'Frasier' Guest Role". Variety. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
  18. "The Man Who Came to Dinner". Roundabout Theatre Company. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  19. "Sweet Home Alabama (2002)". Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  20. "Bringing Down the House". Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  21. Kuklenski, Valerie (February 26, 2001). "`The District' Gets Smart -- Jean Smart". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  22. "Dr. Ann Possible". Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  23. Fonseca, Nicholas (December 13, 2004). "Smart and Soul". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  24. Fonseca, Nicholas (December 13, 2004). "Jean Smart is the new indie queen". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  25. Russell & Baena 2004, p. vi.
  26. Keck, William (January 9, 2006). "Fox's '24' makes Smart move". USA Today. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  27. Propst, Andy (March 12, 2010). "Chris D'Arienzo's Barry Munday, with Jean Smart, Patrick Wilson, et al. to Bow at Southwest Film Festival". Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  28. "JEAN SMART 'SAMANTHA WHO?'; Roles of the Season, Maybe a Lifetime". The New York Times. June 8, 2008. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  29. Collis, Clark (March 10, 2010). "Jean Smart says 'Aloha' to 'Hawaii Five-O' remake". EW. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  30. "Primetime Emmy Awards". Retrieved November 16, 2012.
  31. Gliatto, Tom (October 13, 2016). "The Accountant Review: Ben Affleck Crunches Numbers and Crushes Enemies in Enjoyable Thriller". People. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
  33. Willis 2004, p. 11.
  34. "Jean Smart". Drama Desk Award database. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  35. "Jean Smart awards". IBDB. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  36. "52nd Emmy Award Nominees and Winners". Emmy Awards. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  37. "53rd Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Emmy Awards. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  38. "60th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Emmy Awards. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  39. "Critics Choice Awards 2016: Fargo and Mr Robot top TV winners list". Digital Spy. Retrieved 19 November 2016.


  • Pitts, Michael R. (2013). Western Movies: A Guide to 5,105 Feature Films (2 ed.). McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-46372-5.
  • Russell, David O., and Jeff Baena (2004). I Heart Huckabees: The Shooting Script. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-1-557-04656-7.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Shapiro, Mitchell E., and Tom Jicha (2015). The Top 100 American Situation Comedies: An Objective Ranking. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-476-66404-0.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  • Willis, John, ed. (2004). Theatre World 2000-2001: Special Tony Honor Edition. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. ISBN 978-1-557-83521-5.
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