Ahead of her Hollywood Walk of Fame honor, icon Jean Smart looked back at some of her incredible roles — including the one that put her on the map globally. In 1985, she joined CBS’ “Designing Women” as Charlene Frazier Stillfield, a role she held for five seasons.
The sitcom earned 18 Emmy nominations and catapulted Smart’s career — and she completely knows why.
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“There weren’t a lot of shows that were just about women back then. Linda [Bloodworth-Thomason] is such a good writer that she made the characters so distinct from each other,” she says. “A lot of times, back in the day on sitcoms, you could practically all trade lines and nobody could tell the difference. The jobs are kind of all the same.”
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Since this show was different, it had a staying power others didn’t. “She was very specific about our characters,” says Smart. “She would do another thing that nobody did back then: Give us page-long monologues. Nobody had that in sitcoms, and that really made it fun and made the characters, I think, much more interesting for the audience and much more entertaining.”
The actor notes that now, it’d be excited to play another role like Charlene.
“I would kill to play a part like that again — someone who’s kind of sweet and gullible. It’s funny, in some ways I see myself more that way than some other roles I’ve played recently,” she tells Variety. “Like a Betty White on ‘The Golden Girls’ kind of part, that’s what I need.”
That said, she’s pretty thrilled and feels grateful for the career she has now, working on HBO Max’s massive hit, “Hacks,” about to kick off season 2. Still, there a few things she would tell her younger self if she had the chance.
“You’re always figuring out, ‘I’ve got to give them what they have, what they want!’ ‘How do I come across?’ ‘What are they looking for?’ ‘I’ve gotta try to be sexy or funny.’ Go in and do what your first instinct is. That’s going to ultimately make you stand out — maybe not the first few times but it will definitely pay off,” she says before laughing and adding, “Also, I would have started wearing hair pieces sooner.”
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