Jean Elizabeth Smart (born September 13, 1951) is an American film, television, and stage actress. After beginning her career in regional theater in the Pacific Northwest, she appeared on Broadway as Marlene Dietrich in Piaf in 1981. Smart was later cast in a lead role as Charlene Frazier Stillfield on the CBS sitcom Designing Women, which she played from 1986 to 1991.
She 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 win two Emmy Awards for her role as Lana Gardener on the NBC sitcom Frasier (2000–01), and a third Emmy in 2008 for her role as Regina Newley on the ABC sitcom Samantha Who? (2007–09).
Her film credits include The Brady Bunch Movie (1995), Guinevere (1999), Sweet Home Alabama (2002), I Heart Huckabees (2004), and The Accountant (2016). Between 2006 and 2007, she portrayed Martha Logan on the series 24, and later starred as Floyd Gerhardt on the critically acclaimed FX series Fargo (2015), which earned her a Critics' Choice Television Award as well as an Emmy Award nomination.
Smart was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, the daughter of Kay and Douglas Smart, a teacher. She is the second of four children. Smart was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was thirteen years old.
She is a 1969 graduate of Ballard High School, located 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. Smart is a member of the University of Washington chapter of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority.
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. She performed with the Seattle Repertory Theater as well as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. 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.
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. In February 1981, Smart appeared in a Broadway production of Piaf playing Marlene Dietrich, a role which she would later reprise for the 1984 television version.
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. 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." The following year, she had a supporting part in the thriller Flashpoint (1984).
1985–1999: Designing Women; film
In 1985, Smart was cast in the starring role of Charlene Frazier Stillfield on the comedy series Designing Women, a role she played from the show's beginning in 1986 to its conclusion in 1991. After leaving Designing Women, her work mostly concentrated within made-for-TV movies and smaller- to mid-size 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. Critic Roger Ebert praised the film and called Smart's character portrayal "calculating."
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 Betty Thomas's The Brady Bunch Movie (1995). She would also appear in the television thriller film A Stranger In Town (1995), opposite Gregory Hines.
In 1995 Smart was cast as the lead in the comedy series, High Society, which co-starred Mary McDonnell, which lasted for 13 episodes, 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). She had a lead role in the comedy Forever Fabulous (1999) as an aging beauty queen.
2000–2011: Television and critical success
In 2000, Smart was cast as Lana Gardener on the hit show Frasier, set in her hometown of Seattle. She went on to win two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. 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."
The same year, she played in a Broadway production of The Man Who Came to Dinner, which earned her a Tony Award nomination. Soon after, she landed roles in several high-profile films including Sweet Home Alabama (2002), playing the mother of Reese Witherspoon, and in the comedy Bringing Down The House (2002), opposite Queen Latifah. 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.
From 2002 to 2007 she voiced Dr. Ann Possible in Kim Possible, 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!. The same year, she was cast in a lead role in the short-lived Center of the Universe. She also had a supporting role in David O. Russell's I Heart Huckabees (2004).
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. 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. 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), opposite Patrick Wilson and Chloë Sevigny.
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, 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.
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. 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 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 three living sons, each of whom is 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.
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' character, Mary Jo Shively). They have a son, Connor Douglas (born 1989) 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.
|1979||Before and After||N/A||Television film|
|1984||Single Bars, Single Women||Virge||Television film|
|1984||Piaf||Marlene Dietrich||Television film|
|1986||Fire with Fire||Sister Marie|
|1986||A Fight for Jenny||Valerie Thomas||Television film|
|1987||Place at the Table||Susan Singer||Television film|
|1987||Project X||Dr. Criswell|
|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||Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey||Kate|
|1994||The Yearling||Ora Baxter|
|1994||The Yarn Princess||Margaret Thomas||Television film|
|1995||The Brady Bunch Movie||Dena Dittmeyer|
|1995||A Stranger in Town||Rose||Television film|
|1996||Edie and Pen||Wendy the Waitress|
|1997||Undue Influence||Dana Colby||Television film|
|1998||The Odd Couple II||Holly|
|1998||A Change of Heart||Elaine Mitchell||Television film|
|1999||Guinevere||Deborah Sloane||See awards and nominations|
|2000||Forever Fabulous||Loreli Daly|
|2000||The Man Who Came to Dinner||Lorraine Sheldon||Television film|
|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||I Heart Huckabees||Mrs. Hooten|
|2004||Balto III: Wings of Change||Stella|
|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|
|2006||Whisper of the Heart||Asako Tsukishima||Voice role|
|2007||Tales from Earthsea||N/A|
|2007||Lucky You||Michelle Carson|
|2008||Hero Wanted||Melanie McQueen|
|2009||Youth in Revolt||Estelle Twisp|
|2010||Life As We Know It||Holly's mother||Uncredited|
|2011||A Royal Romance||The Duchess of Cornwall||Television film|
|2013||Call Me Crazy: A Five Film||Claire||Television film|
|2016||The Accountant||Rita Blackburn|
|1983||Reggie||Joan Reynolds||6 episodes|
|1983||Teachers Only||Shari||13 episodes|
|1984||Maximum Security||Dr. Allison Brody||3 episodes|
|1986–1991||Designing Women||Charlene Olivia Frazier Stillfield||119 episodes|
|1993||Batman: The Animated Series||Helen Ventrix||Episode: "See No Evil"|
|1994||Scarlett||Sally Brewton||3 episodes|
|1995–1996||High Society||Elinore 'Ellie' Walker||13 episodes|
|1997||Hey Arnold!||Phoebe's mother||Episode: "Freeze Frame/Phoebe Cheats"|
|1998||Style & Substance||Chelsea Stevens||13 episodes|
|2000||Static Shock||Maggie Foley||Episode: "Sons of the Fathers"|
|2000–2004||The District||Detective Sherry Regan||14 episodes|
|2001||The Oblongs||Pickles Oblong||8 episodes|
|2002–2007||Kim Possible||Dr. Ann Possible||40 episodes|
|2000–2001||Frasier||Lana Gardener||7 episodes |
|2002–2003||In-Laws||Marlene Pellet||15 episodes|
|2004–2005||Center of the Universe||Kate Barnett||12 episodes|
|2004||Hey Arnold!||Reba Heyerdahl||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||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|
|2011–2012||Harry's Law||Roseanna Remmick||7 episodes|
|2013||Hot in Cleveland||Bess||Episode: "Conoga Falls"|
|2014||Halt and Catch Fire||LouLu Lutherford||Episode: "High Plains Hardware"|
|2014||Sirens||Johnny's mother||2 episodes|
|2014||Getting On||Arlene Willy-Weller||2 episodes|
|2015||Fargo||Floyd Gerhardt||10 episodes|
|2015–16||Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce||Katherine Miller||5 episodes|
|1980–1981||Last Summer at Bluefish Cove||Lil|
|1992||The End of the Day||Various|
|1996||Fit to Be Tied||Nessa|
|2000||The Man Who Came to Dinner||Lorraine Sheldon|
Awards and nominations
|1981||Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play|| ||Nominated|
|1999||Independent Spirit Award||Best Supporting Female|| ||Nominated|
|2000||Tony Award||Best Actress in a Play|| ||Nominated|
|Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series|| ||Won|
|2001||Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series||Won|
|Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series|| ||Nominated|
|American Comedy Award||Funniest Female Guest Appearance in a TV Series|| ||Nominated|
|2006||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series|| ||Nominated|
|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|| ||Won|
|2012||Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series|| ||Nominated|
|2016||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or a Movie|| ||Nominated|
|Critics' Choice Television Award||Best Supporting Actress in a Movie/Miniseries||Won|