It’s hard to imagine the world of entertainment without John Smart. With “hacksand ‘Mare of Easttown’ bringing her back to prominence in recent years, some call it a Jean Smart revival – but that’s not really the case. In fact, she never worked – maybe we we just didn’t pay attention.

“Over the past five or six years I’ve had some amazing roles given to me on a silver platter, which have been truly amazing – ‘Watchmen’, ‘Fargo’ and of course ‘Hacks’ ‘ I couldn’t have written something for myself that I would have enjoyed more,” Smart told Variety. “But there are other things I’ve done that weren’t as visible as the most shows.

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The four-time Emmy winner has made a huge impact in the industry, so much so that she will receive a star on the Hollywood walk of fame April 25. But before the star arrived in Los Angeles, Smart had set her sights on New York, performing on stage.

“I did a play in New York that launched my whole career, ‘Last Summer at Blue Fish Cove’, which I’m very proud of. Obviously plays don’t draw attention to they like movies and TV do,” she says. “I didn’t really think about LA, I just went to New York. I loved theater so much and the program I was in at the University of Washington at that time had no emphasis on television or film at all – maybe they should have covered all the basics !

In fact, while in college, the head of her drama program only focused on plays, not even musicals, which had a direct effect on her.

“We all went to New York with our noses in the air about musicals, which I regret now because I wish I had pursued that. I think I would have a great time,” she said.

Still, Smart spent three summers at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and is still pleasantly surprised today at how amazing the experience was.

“I feel guilty sometimes because I feel like I haven’t really struggled like a lot of actors have to have to work another job. I’ve worked with professional theaters in Seattle and I just gained invaluable experience playing amazing roles that gave me a lot of confidence,” she says. “I think acting gives actors a lot of confidence and it teaches you how to play with your whole body. rather than with your face.”

Dixie Carter, Jean Smart and Jonathan Banks in “Designing Women.”  - Credit: ©Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Dixie Carter, Jean Smart and Jonathan Banks in “Designing Women”. – Credit: ©Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

©Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Curiously, it was in television that Smart began to gain worldwide recognition. In 1985, she was cast in CBS’s “Designing Women” and went on to play Charlene Frazier Stillfield for five seasons. The sitcom garnered 18 Emmy nominations and catapulted Smart’s career.

“There weren’t a lot of shows that were all about women back then. Linda [Bloodworth-Thomason] is such a good writer that she made the characters so distinct from each other. A lot of times in the days of sitcoms you could pretty much swap every line and no one could tell the difference. The jobs are pretty much all the same. She was very specific about our characters,” she says when asked about comedy stamina. “She would do another thing that no one was doing at the time: give us one-page monologues. Nobody had that in sitcoms, and it really made it fun and made the characters, I think, a lot more interesting to the audience and a lot more entertaining.

She adds, “I Would kill to play a role like that again – someone who is kind and gullible. It’s funny, in some ways I see myself more like that than some of the other roles I’ve played recently. Like a Betty White in ‘The Golden Girls’ kind of part, that’s what I need.

Throughout her career, Smart has thrived in both comedy and drama. her four Emmy wins are for her comedy work in “Frasier,” “Samantha Who?” and ‘Hacks’, while his nominations include his dramatic work in ‘The District’, ’24’, ‘Harry’s Law’, ‘Fargo’, ‘Watchmen’ and ‘Mare of Easttown’.

Yet she has no intention of choosing one genre over another.

“I would never want to have to choose,” she says. “If I am able to do both all the time, I would be very lucky and very happy.”

Smart can't wait for the public to see her back in

Smart can’t wait for audiences to see her return to HBO’s ‘Hacks’ in Season 2. – Credit: Courtesy of HBO

Courtesy of HBO

In 2021, Smart landed a role that made audiences feel lucky: legendary Las Vegas comedy diva Deborah Vance on HBO’s “Hacks.” Not only does she jump off the screen, but the series shines overall – something Smart had a feeling would happen by the time she read the pilot script.

“There was no doubt I was going to say yes. The script already had so much on the page – the comedy was there, obviously, but there were times where you see behind his defenses and those dark moments. What more could you ask for as an actor?” she says. “It makes a person a real person. You can see a lot of what drives them, even more in the upcoming second season. I’m also really happy that it’s as funny as last season, because the second seasons are always a little scary, because especially if the series was a success, it seems that everyone dies of it urge. I think the writers knocked it out of the park.

With over 40 years of experience behind her, she has learned what works and what doesn’t and continues to learn today. As for the advice she would give to other actors, especially women, it’s simple: Stop worrying about what other people want.

“You always say to yourself, ‘I have to give them what they have, what they want!’ ‘How can I meet?’ ‘What are they looking for?’ “I have to try to be sexy or funny. Come in and do what your first instinct is. It will eventually make you stand out – maybe not the first few times, but it will definitely pay off,” she says before doing pause and laugh. “Besides, I would have started wearing hairpieces sooner.”

Looking to the future, Smart has some ideas of what she’d like to do next: more period pieces and returning to New York for another show. However, with her youngest son starting high school in the fall, the Big Apple will have to wait as she finds a way to navigate doing a bit of everything.

“I don’t really think I have the secret to balancing it all out. I would like. Especially since I lost my husband, it changed everything. Being a working single mom is very hard – harder than I ever imagined,” Smart says of her husband, Richard Gilliland, who passed away in 2021. “I feel so lucky to have so much support and resources that most single working mothers do not have. I take my hat off to them in the most humble way. It’s hard – and it’s not just the hours of the day, it’s also the constant worry of knowing when you’re working. We work 15 hours a day [on ‘Hacks’] and the family is always present in your mind your work. The first season, I didn’t have that, so it all felt a lot lighter and more carefree because I was just thinking about what I’m supposed to think about and who my job was. So, I don’t really feel like I have the secret. I wish I could say I did. You just need to put your family first when humanly possible.

TIP SHEET
WHAT: Jean Smart receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. on April 25
WHERE: 6150 Hollywood Blvd.
WEB: walkoffame.com

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