Delta Burke Talks About ‘Designing Women’ And Her Drug Abuse Struggles

Delta Burke was once addicted to crystal meth as a way to lose weight.

Speaking with Chelsea Devantez on her Glamorous Trash podcast, Burke – who played Suzanne Sugarbaker on sitcom Designing Women – talked about her falling out with series creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and subsequent drug abuse.

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“It got ugly and very sad,” said Burke. She worked with Bloodworth-Thomason on the sitcom Filthy Rich before Designing Women, and claimed she viewed her as a mentor.

“We do Designing Women, and I’m so happy to be there,” she said. “I love everything. But then things started to change, which I won’t go into. But that, combined with becoming famous, I simply couldn’t cope with.”

“I wanted to leave,” she added, “and I wasn’t allowed to leave. I don’t know what would have happened to me if I had been allowed to leave. Staying gave me an amazing character to get to play… and I loved it, how she evolved. I had that even though it could be difficult sometimes. I’m very thankful for everything that she’s done for me, but there’s other issues,” she said. “Basically we tried to kill each other, but you know, we survived.”

Burke, Dixie Carter, Annie Potts, and Jean Smart were the main players of Designing Women, which ran for seven seasons on CBS. Burke left at the end of season 5 in 1991.

At the time, she claimed psychological abuse by Bloodworth-Thomason and her husband, Harry Thomason, an executive producer on the show. She said that Bloodworth-Thomason pressured her to lose weight. Meanwhile, the Thomasons blamed Burke’s husband, Major Dad star Gerald McRaney, for the falling-out. She changed after she began dating him, they claimed.

Burke struggled with her weight throughout her TV career. She began with pills, which she said she took every morning. When her tolerance made them no longer effective, she went in search of something else. That’s when crystal meth entered her world.

“Nobody knew about crystal meth at the time,” she said. “[They told me,] ‘You chop it up. You snort.’ I said, ‘I don’t want to snort it.’ So I put it in cranberry juice and [drank] it… and wouldn’t eat for five days, and they were still saying, ‘Your butt’s too big. Your legs are too big.’ And I now look back at those pictures and go, ‘I was a freaking goddess.'”

McRaney’s presence eased the moments for her.

“Whatever went down that was bad, it was worth because I met him. No one had ever loved me completely for me, not even my mother or grandmother. They would judge what I looked like. He never did.”

Burke stepped away from Hollywod and kept a low profile.

“You kind of go along with these work schedules where one of you is out of town for months at a time or whatever. You’re going along working and then finally it just got too much for me,” said Burke, who now lives in Florida with McRaney. “It got too ugly. And all of a sudden, one day, it was like the joy of acting left me. It had been ruined by the ugliness that goes, unfortunately, with a lot of the business. I just withdrew from the work because the joy was not there anymore.”

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