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After Bowen Yang announced Jean Smart’s name as the winner of lead actress in a comedy series for her turn as Deborah Vance on HBO Max’s Hacks at September’s Emmy Awards, the well-heeled crowd jumped up for a lengthy standing ovation. During an emotional speech, Smart, also nominated that night for HBO’s Mare of Easttown, dedicated the trophy to late husband, actor Richard Gilliland, who passed away in March at age 71.
Once she returned to her seat, Smart says the emotions continued to flow as she waited to see if Gilliland would be featured in the In Memoriam segment. “I was very worried because they won’t guarantee to you that [a person will be included]. I don’t know why they can’t tell you maybe the day of the ceremony because I don’t think they’re going to change it the day of, but it’s just their policy that they can’t promise anybody,” Smart told The Hollywood Reporter at the recent Women in Film honors.
Gilliland starred on dozens of projects dating back to the mid-1970s including such shows as Designing Women (starring Smart), Thirtysomething and Matlock. “I was sure he would be included because he’s so deserving and had worked in this industry for 40 years, but I just thought, ‘What if he’s not included? What will I do?'”
She was especially concerned because she attended the ceremony with their son, Forrest. Fortunately, he made the cut.
Smart’s Hacks co-star Hannah Einbinder also told THR that Emmys night offered a beautiful sight as Smart soaked in the love and tribute to Gilliland. “I want everything for Jean. I want her to have the world, and she deserves the respect and recognition that she received that night, and I just love her. It’s so moving to see her up there where she belongs.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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