Jean Smart Talks 'Unimaginable' Reality of Life As a Single Mom

by Lauren Levy
jean Smart SAG Awards
Jean Smart, winner of Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series for Hacks. Photo by Amy Sussman/WireImage.

The mom of two opened up about life as a single mom after her husband of 34 years died suddenly

Actress Jean Smart may is a new Screen Actors Guild Award winner — but in that moment, she is reflecting on the loss of her husband and her life as a single mother as much as on her acting career.

Smart, who won a SAG award on Sunday night for her role in Hacks, took the opportunity after her big win not to gloat in the glory of it but to reflect on what led up to her award-winning performance. In the SAG Awards press room, the 70-year-old mom of two opened up to Australia’s Network 10 about her husband, Richard Gilliland, who died in March 2021. She described as life in the past year without him as “unimaginable” as she and their two children Forrest, 13, and Connor, 32, grieve their loss.

“Well, certainly losing my husband was very unexpected, not something that I thought would happen for at least another 20 years. And having a young child, it’s been unimaginable, she said. “Being a single mother is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

During the ceremony, which Forrest escorted her to, she also gave a separate nod to her kids. “This has been such a joy, this late in the game it’s such a treat,” Smart said. “To my two children, Forest and Connor, you are my life and please everybody, let’s pray for peace. Thank you.”

Thankfully, she’s found solace in her work and admits that starring in different projects during this time has been comforting as she continues to mourn.

“We were both actors and the work has brought me great satisfaction and a great distraction, certainly, from my grief,” she said. “I work with the most loving, wonderful people who have just supported me and loved me and helped me through all of this.”

This isn’t the first time that Smart has acknowledged her husband and the impact he had on both her life as well as her career during an award win. During her 2021 Emmy acceptance speech, she thanked him after another Hacks win, this time for best actress in a comedy series.

“Before I say anything else, I have to acknowledge my late husband, Richard Gilliland, who passed away six months yesterday,” she said, emotionally. “I would not be here without him, without his kind of putting his career on the back burner so that I could take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities that I’ve had.”

The pair had been married for 34 years when Gilliland unexpectedly died on March 18, 2021, from a heart condition, she told The New Yorker.

At the time, Smart was in the process of filming Hacks, which she went on to take home an award for. She was also nominated for outstanding performance by a female actor in a television movie or limited series for her role in another show, Mare of Easttown.

“I just would have liked to have shared these two shows with him,” she previously told TODAY during an interview in May 2021. “I know he loved the Hacks script. He thought they were brilliantly written, very funny, and it’s just hard not to share that with him.”

Now looking back on 2021, Smart said that she’s experienced “incredible highs and incredible lows” both personally and professionally. But as a newly single mom who is coping with the loss of her beloved husband, she’s just doing the best she can.

“I try not to overanalyze it too much,” she says.