Viewers have grown to know and enjoy the cast of Designing Women over seven seasons, starring Dixie Carter, Delta Burke, Annie Potts, Jean Smart, and Meshach Taylor. Loyal fans of the Sugarbakers & Associates office cannot help but wonder what happened to the original cast members, taking entertainment to homes across America from 1986 to 1993, and discussions of a Designing Woman revival in the works. The actresses and actors have come a long way from their interior design days in Atlanta, whether you were a fan of Southern beauty Julia Sugarbaker or laughed along with spunky Mary Jo Shively.
1. THEN: Julia Sugarbaker by Dixie Carter
Julia, played by Dixie Carter, was the designing woman. She was a class act, a genteel Southern belle, elegant, intelligent, and outspoken when something was needed, as the owner of Sugarbakers & Associates, a design company, she ran out of her beautiful Atlanta home. There wasn’t an episode that went by when she didn’t put someone in their rightful place.
NOW: Dixie Carter
Carter went on to play Randi King in Family Law after the show concluded in 1993 and made a string of guest appearances on shows such as Law & Order: SVU and Desperate Housewives (for which she earned an Emmy nod). Unfortunately, the actress died of cancer complications in 2010 at the age of 70.
2. THEN: Suzanne Sugarbaker by Delta Burke
The role of Julia’s sister, Suzanne Sugarbaker, was adopted by actress Delta Burke, taking inspiration from her own pageant days as Miss Florida. A shallow former beauty queen, the Designing Woman character was the lavish foil to the subdued elegance of her sister. For her depiction of the self-centered, but essentially harmless and cherished, character, Delta won two Emmy nominations.
NOW: Delta Burke
Delta was let out after the fifth season because of controversy involving disputes with producers. Soon after, she landed a short-lived series of her own, Delta, and then a Designing Woman spin-off, called Women of the House. In 2003, in Thoroughly Modern Millie, she made her Broadway debut. Now, the 62-year-old actress has since had numerous TV guest roles, including Drop Dead Diva.
3. THEN: Mary Jo Shively by Annie Potts
The cynical and self-deprecating head designer at the company was Mary Jo, played by the actress Annie Potts. The character, loved for her sense of humor, was often considered one of TV’s most modern ladies. Before the beginning of the famous series, the character has actually gotten divorced and become a single mother of two. In other words, she was a hard-working boss lady.
NOW: Annie Potts
Annie continued her work on Love and War and Any Day Now on tv voiced Little Bo Peep in Pixar’s Toy Story movies (including the last fourth installment) and appeared as a guest in hit shows such as Two and a Half Men and Grey’s Anatomy. The petite, pixie-haired star, now 66, has been part of the main cast of Young Sheldon, the hit CBS program, since 2017.
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4. THEN: Charlene Frazier Stillfield by Jean Smart
Charlene, the country bumpkin for the crew, was the company’s office manager. Portrayed by Jean Smart, she spent most of the series in her hometown of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, recalling the good old days and struggling miserably at dating. The performance was the first big break in show business for Jean.
NOW: Jean Smart
But it was just the beginning of Smart’s television career: She appeared on many other hit series, including Frasier and 24, (both earned her Emmys). The 67-year-old actress also starred in Sweet Home Alabama, a cult favorite movie, and more recently, A Simple Favor. On TV, in shows such as Dirty John and Watchmen, she manages to prosper.
5. THEN: Anthony Bouvier by Meshach Taylor
Meshach Taylor began as Anthony Bouvier, the falsely-accused ex-con delivery man of Sugarbakers, and finishes the series as Mr. Bouvier, Esquire, after graduating law school. Fun fact: his role was only meant to be a one-episode gig, but the producers liked his dynamics with the ladies, so for the rest of the series they kept him going. He was the perfect sidekick to the endless shenanigans of Suzanne’s.
NOW: Meshach Taylor
Taylor landed a role in Dave’s Universe after the show concluded and co-hosted Living Me! on Retirement Living TV with Florence Henderson. He also appeared in Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast as Lumière. Sadly, the star died of colorectal cancer at the age of 67 in 2014.
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