Richard Gilliland, a prolific actor who nearly 50-year career included Designing Women, Thirtysomething and series-regular roles on Just Our Luck, Operation Petticoat and Heartland, has died. He was 71. His family said he died March 18 in Los Angeles after an unspecified brief illness.
Born on January 23, 1950, in Fort Worth, Texas, Gilliland appeared in dozens of TV shows, ranging from The Streets of San Francisco, Medical Center, a recurring role on McMillan & Wife and Marcus Welby, M.D. in the 1970s through The Waltons, Fantasy Island and The Love Boat to St. Elsewhere, Night Court, Matlock, Judging Amy, Becker, Crossing Jordan, 24, CSI, Criminal Minds, Dexter and Murder, She Wrote. He also co-starred in the 1978 NBC miniseries Little Women.
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He also was a series regular on three ABC comedies during the 1970s and ’80: playing a World War II Navy officer opposite John Astin in Operation Petticoat (1977-79), a TV reporter who finds a bottled genie (T.K. Carter) in 1983’s Just Our Luck and as the son-in-law of Brian Keith’s Archie Bunker-like character in the Heartland (1989).
It was during his five-season recurring stint on CBS’ Designing Women that Gilliland met his future wife, series star Jean Smart. He played a Major League Baseball talent scout who was the boyfriend of Mary Jo (Annie Potts) during its first five seasons from 1986-91. During that time he also recurred on ABC’s thirtysomething as Jeffrey Milgrom, who leaves his second wife for Ellyn (Polly Draper) only to leave her for his first wife.
On the film side, he appeared in Airplane II: The Sequel, Happy Hour, The White Buffalo and Arnold Schwarzenegger first major pic Stay Hungry.
Grant got his start playing Jesus in an early production of Godspell.
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