From 1986 to 1993, the world tuned in to watch the lives of four independent Southern belles who worked at the interior design firm – Sugarbaker and Associates. The hilarious CBS sitcom put strong and funny female characters to the forefront. Almost 3 decades later, the show has left its mark on television, leaving many fans with a huge question. Where are they all now?
Annie Potts As Mary Jo Shively
There was no doubt that Annie Potts, who played the show’s lead designer, Mary Jo Shively, was a woman on the road to success. As the lead character of such a big cast, she was certainly at the center of it all. Audiences fell in love with her as her character dealt with the aftermath of a divorce and how she slowly pieced together her a new life for herself.
Potts was indeed becoming the queen of the screen throughout the ’80s. She was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Corvette Summer (1978) and won a Genie Award for Heartaches (1981). She also starred in a string of blockbusters like Ghostbusters, Pretty in Pink, Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Who’s Harry Crumb?
Annie Potts Today
For a long time, Annie Potts showed no real sign of slowing down. Her success during the ’80s didn’t quite take her through the later years. After some sporadic appearances here and there, she did manage to change her luck and bag the lead role in the popular 90s show, Love & War.
Fortunately for us, Potts is now back on our screens in the Big Bang Theory Spinoff show, Young Sheldon. The beloved actress plays the heartwarming Connie “Meemaw” Tucker. Also, in 2018, it was announced that a Designing Women sequel series was in the works! Surely there is no way that will get greenlit without Potts on board.
Jean Smart As Charlene Frazier-Stillfield
Jean Smart perfectly captured the role of this often overwhelmed small-town girl and secretary at the Sugarbaker Associates. Named Charlene Frazier- Stillfield, This character hilariously stumbled her way through the fast-paced corporate life.
Her coping methods were often unorthodox, to say the least, as she was often seen running to her psychic for guidance. Even with all her quirks, Charlene was definitely a fan favorite. Smart was once so synonymous with the show, at one point you couldn't imagine her as anything else. Though that is certainly not the case now.
Jean Smart Today
Film and TV sets are breeding grounds for tense relationships. Sometimes it's heated arguments, other times its wild love affairs. For the actress, it was, fortunately, the latter. Smart fell in love with her co-star Richard Gilliland. The two have been married ever since! That sure is one strong bond.
With a lucky love life, Smart has also kept her self pretty active in the biz. She's had a number of roles on shows such as The District, 24, and Frasier, Arrested Development and Dirty John just to name a few. She even starred alongside Michael Cera in the indie flick Youth In Revolt.
Richard Gilliland As J.D. Shackleford
J.D Shackleford was one of the first love interests that Mary Jo encountered. The character, who worked as a scout for the Atlantic Braves caught the eye of the newly divorced lead character, but it was also the handsome Richard Gilliand who caught the eye of the many female viewers.
In the show, Suzanne sets the two up on a romantic date. Though the sparks flew pretty quickly at first, as these characters continued with their relationship, they both slowly revealed their share of baggage. In the end, it fizzled out and the two parted ways.
Richard Gilliland Today
While things didn't exactly end up as happily ever after between Mary Jo and J.D, it did work out for J.D and someone else. J.D, or rather, Richard Gilliland fell in love with Jean Smart from the very beginning. The two have amazingly lasted all these years, a feat quite rare in Hollywood.
Gilliland has remained active on the silver screen, consistently appearing in a string of TV shows. Just some of them including, Desperate Housewives, CSI, and most recently, a new dark comedy series called Imposters.
Douglas Barr As Bill Stillfield
The show did focus largely on the gals' careers, but that doesn't mean they were made of stone. Another handsome love interest swooped in and stole the heart of one of our favorite ladies. Yup, The character Colonel William "Bill" Stillfield, played by the great Douglas Barr charmed us all and especially the sweet Charlene.
While Stillfield had something going on with Julia Sugarbaker, his story arc ended up matching up better with Charlene, who ultimately, he married.
Douglas Barr Today
Before Designing Women, Barr garnered some attention as the character Harry Munson, on the show, The Fall Guy. It was viewed as a pretty noteworthy performance back in the 80s, which is why he got such a significant role on the CBS sitcom. Following his departure from the show in 1991, it may have looked like Barr would have a pretty good TV career ahead of him.
Unfortunately, the actor was last seen in the 1994 film, Temptation. Things may have not panned out in that department, but in 2017 the Designing Women actor directed Site Unseen: An Emma Fielding Mystery.
Alice Ghostley As Bernice
Alice Ghostly was one of the three actresses to stay on for the longest. She played the very quirky Bernice who was brought on by Perky, the mom of Suzanne and Julia.
While everyone adored her cooky sense of humor, it wasn't always great for the workplace. Still, this mother figure was one of the most loved figures on the show.
Alice Ghostly has had a long career and was a staple on American TV shows since the 1950s, still, her role on Designing Women has definitely been her most iconic to date, that or her role on Evening Shade.
In this series, she played the role of Irna Wallingford for a few years. But in 2007, the actress sadly past away. Just a year before that she had also starred in the TV show Mothers and Daughters.
Hal Holbrook As Reese Watson
Generally, we tend to fall for our opposites. Though this is not always the case. An example of this? Julia Sugarbaker and Reese Watson played by Hal Holbrooke. These two very similar characters, both widowed, were made for each other.
The two characters balanced each other out. If the one got a little too worked up, the other would be there to calm them down. While we know the fate of Reese, what became of Hal?
Hal Holbrook Today
With or without Designing Women, Hal Holbrooke has had an incredibly accomplished career. Most of his roles seem to make up of iconic political and historical figures, some of which include John Adams and Abraham Lincoln - he just has that look about him. As far as married life goes, Holbrook tied the knot with one of his co-stars, Dixie Carter. The two were inseparable until her passing in the year 1984.
The 95-year-old actor has not slowed down one bit and has recently been involved in the hit show Sons of Anarchy. Hal's great-nephew Boyd Holbrook has also made it into acting. It must be in the genes.
Julia Duffy As Allison
Allison was the show's main antagonist. This couldn't have been achieved without the flawless acting of Julia Duffy, who just so perfectly captured the character's cunning ways.
Her indifference to the company definitely made everyone pretty angry. Not that she was bothered. If all else failed, Allison planed to take her share from the business, leave Atlanta and open up a new branch of Victoria's Secret!
Julia Duffy Today
When Designing Women wrapped, Julia Duffy had a great reputation. She very quickly found work on the show The Mommies where starred in this show for the better part of the 1990s, cementing her as a well-established actress.
There are no future signs of stopping. The TV fave has gone on to appear in a number of shows such as Shameless, and most recently, American Housewife.
Jan Hooks As Carlene
This was definitely a wonderful little character in the show. Charlene had a sister named...Carlene. Carlene was played by the very talented Jan Hooks who joined the towards its last couple of seasons.
Carlene stepped into ultimately replace her sister who had moved to England. While she may have not been as sharp as Charlene, Carlene was without a doubt a sweetheart. She also had a real passion for the music biz.
Hooks racked up quite a lot of comedic roles in her time. She was even a cast member on Saturday Night Live in the 80s. She starred in many other comedies such as PeeWee's Big Adventure, and 3rd Rock From the Sun in the late 90s.
She also took on a fair show of animated shows where she voiced various characters, one of which was on The Simpsons. Tragically, the actress passed away in 2014 after struggling with cancer.
Scott Bakula As Dr. Ted Shively
Sitcoms of the 80s and 90s would be nothing without Scott Bakula. The man was a staple on TV back then as a star of shows like Quantum Leap and Murphy Brown. In Designing Women, however, Bakula plated the Ted Shively, Mary Jo's ex-husband.
Bakula embodied this sneaky womanizer who had trouble keeping a marriage together. It was always odd to fathom how Mary Jo and Ted had a relationship, to begin with.
Scott Bakula Today
Unlike the unreliable Ted, Scott Bakula is a real stand up guy. He has struck the perfect balance between his personal life and his professional life. How? When the actor got cast as Captain Jonathan Archer in Star Trek: Enterprise, he had it put in his contract that he would leave every filming day at 6 pm.
The reason for this was so that he could spend dinner every night with his family. He also made sure that this would happen when he worked on NCIS: New Orleans. It seems like this is a major priority for him. Good going.
Judith Ivey As Bonnie “BJ” Poteen
Following Delta Burke's exit from the show in the fifth season, the wonderful actress, Judith Ivey was brought essentially as her replacement Not only did she replace Burke, but she also brought something rather special.
Even with her millionaire status, her character has no problem fitting in with her co-workers. In fact, she even ends up saving the day by stopping the company from declaring bankruptcy. How nice!
Judith Ivey Today
Judith Ivey is not only known from film or TV but also from the stage. Over the course of her career, the actress has starred in several Broadway plays, some of them even earning her a Tony.
Some of her TV shows include The 5 Mrs. Buchanans and Buddies. While it's fair to say that the TV offers have waned over time, you can still catch Ivey on a few episodes of the new show The Accidental Wolf.
Gerald McRaney As Dash Goff
TV writers are often tasked with throwing their characters into relationships. But sometimes they unknowingly ending playing matchmaker for the real actors themselves.
This is the case for actor Gerald McRaney who fell for his co-star Delta Burke. McRaney played the writer, ex-husband of Suzanne, Dash Goff.
Gerald McRaney Today
For some reason, Gerald McRaney has an impressive list of playing bad guys. At roughly the same time as Designing Women, the actor took on another antagonistic role in the show Simon & Simon.
The actor has not been short of work since his big break in the 70s. Consistently appearing on both film and TV, he is now in two super popular shows, Netflix’s House of Hards and This Is Us.
Priscilla Weems As Claudia Marie
The '80s welcomed this then bright new star, Priscilla Weems. The actress played the character Claudia Marie, Mary Jo's difficult teenaged daughter. Claudia often had issues with the many men that came in and out of her mother's life and rightly so.
Ultimately, when Claudia left for college, the relationship instantly improved. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of distance to work things out.
Priscilla Weems Today
After the show, it became clear to Weems that her career in acting was not long term. The former teen actress moved her focus to family. Unfortunately, that plan didn't work either and after her divorce, she began to seriously examine her life's direction.
Weems went back to showbiz but, once again, struggled to find work. When she saw that it just wasn't taking off, the entertainer took a break. She has recently attempted to forge a career in country music. Let's hope she makes it.
Sheryl Lee Ralph As Etienne Toussant Bouvier
This Tony Award winner played the fantastic Etienne Toussant Bouvier. The actress Sheryl Lee Ralph had caught the attention of many from her Broadway performance on Dreamgirls. It was from that, that she launched into a successful TV career.
Etienne made it very clear to TV execs that was ready to make a success of herself and support her family. Thankfully, she was included in the cast
Sheryl Lee Ralph Today
She is one busy actress. It's no surprise that the also talented singer always manages to incorporate music into her work as seen on the hit Broadway-themed show, Smash. In the show, she stars along Jennifer Hudson. Those two know how to bring it.
Recently, Ralph has appeared in a string shows, including, Claws, MacGyver, and The Quad, and Ray Donovan. As expected, she is also in the new musical film Revival!
Olivia Brown As Vanessa Hargraves
If there ever was a serious match for Anthony, it was only Vanessa Hargraves, played by Olivia Brown. While they certainly spent a lot of time together, they weren't the only pair.
Vanessa spent a lot of time with one and only Suzanne Sugarbaker. In an effort to climb up that corporate ladder, Vanessa wouldn't leave her side. Sadly at the end of the fourth season, Vanessa said goodbye to the show for good.
Olivia Brown Today
If you're a fanatic of '80s shows, you would know that Olivia Brown made her debut on the classic crime drama, Miami Vice. Her character, Trudy Joplin, was essentially the reason she got cast on Designing Women.
After her time on the CBS sitcom, the actress appeared in handful more shows, one of which was 7th Heaven. The actress decided to withdraw temporarily from the TV biz and pursue family life. Most recently, she appeared in the 2017 film, Our Dream Christmas.
Brian Lando As Quinton Shively
At just nine years old, Quinton Shively was the baby of the show. The young boy who was played by actor, Brian Lando was the cute and charming son of Mary Jo.
While he certainly was loveable, Quinton knew how to get into trouble. This stubborn little kid would often go galavanting around causing mischief. It was Anthony who sometimes had to step in and act as a positive male role model in his life.
Brian Lando Today
So often, kid stars fizzle the second they hit adulthood. This is not the case for Brian Lando though. While the then child actor took a good break from Hollywood and pursued a "normal life", he came back in an unexpected way.
After his time away, and even with some skepticism about Hollywood life, he came back, but this time, as a producer. He now has a successful career producing several TV shows.
Dolly Parton As Herself
When the show gained enough success, creators always had someone special in mind to bring on the show. That was none other than the legendary country singer, Dolly Parton. The songbird had always been a fan of the show, so you can imagine just how excited she was when she was asked.
And so it would be, on New Year's Eve, Dolly joined the team as the special guest by appearing in Charlene's dream and hinted at something that eventually would come to be - Charlene would have a daughter.
Dolly Parton Today
As pretty much the most famous country singer that ever lived, Dolly certainly hasn't fallen off the radar. In her career that has roughly spanned five decades, she has performed at countless concerts, acted in movies and TV and mentored many young talents.
Amazingly, through all this success, she has kept her personal life private and intact. Recently she renewed her marriage vows with her longtime husband Carl Dean. They have been together since 1964!
Ray McKinnon As Dwayne Dobber
A later addition to the cast, Ray Mckinnon played Carlene's ex-husband, Dwayne. The guy seemed to one no-good individual. It became clear quite quickly why Carlene left him.
Mckinnon portrayed the sleazy car salesman and made it easy for fans to dislike him. Carlene sure did dodge a bullet with that one.
Ray McKinnon Today
Ray Mckinnon has gone on to have countless roles in both TV and film over the years. Having some significant parts in Sons of Anarchy and Deadwood, 'Dwayne' is certainly recognizable to many audiences.
In fact, his showreel is getting more impressive as the years go by. In addition to some solid TV work, he also acted in a couple of movies such as Mud and The Last Ride. The actor has even occasionally stepped behind the camera.
Patrick Warburton As Craig Coleman
Patrick Warburton was the quintessential ladies man of the '80s so it was only fitting that he would be cast in the role Craig Coleman, one of the many, but probably more notable love interests of Mary Jo.
Unfortunately, his lack of intelligence, a problem many hunky beefcakes are afflicted with, was the reason that it just couldn't last with Mary Jo. With that said, even though it was short, that was one hot affair.
Patrick Warburton Today
Lucky for us, Warburton leveled up after the show and appeared on the massively popular show, Seinfeld. That move did wonders for his career and landed him in a ton of roles over the years.
As David Puddy on Seinfeld, we saw just how strong his comic chops were. With his deep and soothing voice, he has also made a name for himself in the voice over and animation world. You can see his most recent work in the hit sitcom Rules of Engagement.
Tony Goldwyn As Kendall Dobbs
Although this character, Kendall Dobbs only appeared in one episode, it was definitely a memorable one. Dobbs played a man with AIDS, and since this show aired in the '80s, the epidemic was at its peak.
The premise was a controversial one, leaving viewers in awe. Dobbs came to the firm with the hope that they will design his funeral. Goldwyn howeever managed to breathe life into the characters, making him relatable to everyone.
Tony Goldwyn Today
You will be pleased to know that after the show, especially through the '90s, Goldwyn's career took off in a big way and has since given a string or meaningful performances.
With great films behind him like The Pelican Brief, The Last Samurai and Ghost, the actor has certainly had an illustrious career and shows no sign of stopping. He now stars in Scandal and Chambers.
Gregg Henry As Jack Dent
When Gregg Henry joined the show as Jack Dent- Suzanne's ex-husband, the creators just knew that this would be a special addition to the already stellar cast. Oddly enough, his stay did not last long.
In the end, their characters were just not compatible, even with all the passion between them. Still, Gregg Henry made this character a memorable one. Fans will remember how he went from a pitcher in the MLB team to the Atlanta Braves.
Gregg Henry Today
While Gregg Henry may have not been particularly likable in Designing Women, he did get a bit of reputation for being a great media businessman as Mitchum Huntsberger on Gilmore Girls.
The actor has also had parts on shows Eyes and The Riches. Coincidentally, the actor is another former castmate who got a part on the show Scandal. Everyone is connected.
Meshach Taylor As Anthony Bouvier
Without a doubt the most loveable character on the Southern set sitcom, Anthony Bouvier played by Meshach Taylor was the girls trusted friend and delivery man.
Initially, the character wasn't seriously involved, but as time went on, Antony became a part of the Designing Women family. His arc evolved over the seasons and even took a surprising turn when he became a partner of the company.
Apart from the memorable Anthony Bouvier, Taylor still went on to achieve success in the world of TV. When the '90s show Dave’s World came onto our screens, we saw Taylor as Shel Baker.
Ten years after that show, the actor appeared in the kids' show Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide as Mr. Wright. Sadly, that was one of his final roles before he passed away in the year 2014.
Dixie Carter As Julia Sugarbaker
While there were characters who contributed more to the show than others, none could really compare to the character of Julia Sugarbaker. She was an integral part of it all as she played the head of the Sugarbaker and Associates company - as the name suggests.
Her strong presence and charismatic personality kept her head and shoulders above the rest. As a mainstay of the show throughout, she made Sugarbaker and Associates what it was. This could only be achieved with the talented Dixie Carter.
There is no doubt that carter is a great actress. But before all of that happened, she was a classical singer. It was in the '70s when she found fame on the screen. Her big break came when she showed up on Diff’rent Strokes.
Soon after, the actress got more and more offers. After Designing Women, there was a slight lull. But thing got back on track when she got a part on family Law. Her last role before passing would be in the 2009’s That Evening Sun. She will be missed.
George Newbern As Payne McIlroy
Payne McIlroy certainly had an impressive mother to look up to. But while he took after her in a number of ways, he was still his own person and chose to do many things in his own Payne way. Luckily, the character was played by the loveable George Newbern
You couldn't get mad at that sweet face. Payne eventually packed up to New York to pursue his own career, but still wouldn't hesitate in calling up his mom for advice.
George Newbern Today
Newbern became especially recognizable after his role on Designing Women. Shortly after the show ended he was becoming a pretty prominent actor and had appeared a few '90s family classics like Father of the Bride and Adventures in Babysitting.
After some success in film, Newbern found his way back into the TV screen for the medical drama series Chicago of Hope. Recently he has been on the show, yup, you guessed it...Scandal.
Delta Burke As Suzanne Sugarbaker
Every show needs a wild one. For Designing Women, that came in the form of Suzanne Sugarbaker, played by the fabulous Delta Burke. Suzanne played Julia's younger, more 'free-spirited' sister. She definitely brought a lot of spice to the show
Often getting caught up in shenanigans with Anthony, her contribution was a great one. Unfortunately, it didn't last forever, as the show went on, she lost some screen time. She left at the end of season 5.
Delta Burke Today
It wasn't a total secret as to why we saw less of Burke as time went on. There were many behind the scenes disputes. Burke, unfortunately, crashed with a large part of the cast and crew.
Burke had a brief comeback show, aptly named Delta but aside from that, the actress had a tough time getting work. In the mid-2000s she starred in a few episodes of Boston Legal. Her last role was in the film Counter Culture.