Jean Smart remembers her 'Designing Women' co-star Dixie Carter: 'She was such a cool lady.'
Image Credit: David Livingston/Getty Images; Stephen Shugerman/Getty ImagesEmmy Award-winning actress Jean Smart (Samantha Who?) talked to EW about her Designing Women co-star Dixie Carter, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 70. Smart, who was actually married in Dixie and husband Hal Holbrook’s rose garden, shared her memories both on and off-set of the warm and witty Carter.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you have specific memories of Dixie?
JEAN SMART: The first time I ever saw her was actually a couple years before I ended up meeting her and working with her. I was in New York and I saw an off-Broadway play called A Coupla White Chicks Sitting Around Talking. This woman came out onstage and pranced around on stage like a thoroughbred and I thought “Who is that?!” One of the most gorgeous creatures I’ve ever laid eyes on. Was just delicious and hilarious and gorgeous. And then a year or so later, I walk on the set of Designing Women and met her. The thing I always thought about Dixie was that chronologically she wasn’t the youngest of the four of us, but she was definitely the youngest in anything that counts. She was like a teenager! Lots of times when people saw her on TV, she was marching around in a suit or something. I mean she was like a teenager. Like a teenager!
You mean in personality and energy?
Yes! And just being girlish! I’ve never met a woman ever, anywhere, bar none, that was more feminine than Dixie Carter. She didn’t have an ounce of testosterone in her body. She was just adorable. And she was crazy about her husband. She was crazy about her daughters. She was completely devoted to her family. I so admired her relationship with her daughters. My son was born when we were doing the show and I remember saying to her, “Oh my god, what’s the secret? Your daughters are teenagers and they idolize you! They idolize you! They just adore you!” I got married in Dixie and Hal’s rose garden. And I remember her girls that day just looking at her saying, “Isn’t she cute?” Obviously you can say about anybody they were one of a kind. Everybody is one of a kind. But she really, she really was and just amazing. She was way too young.
When’s the last time you had seen or spoken to her?
I hadn’t seen her since the beginning of November, or it might have been the end of October. She came over to my house to meet my baby. I adopted a little girl. She came over to have lunch. So we had lunch just the two of us and she met the baby. It was just wonderful and she looked gorgeous and it was just great.
What do you think her legacy is?
Well the thing is she did it all. She did tons of theater. She was a fantastic singer. She just had such joy. She just exuded joy and just loving life.
Her Designing Women character Julia was so brassy and tough.
Dixie was far more of a lady and far more traditional than that character she played. She was the best thing about a Southern belle.
Those scenes where she tears into people still crack me up.
I know! Just priceless. I think it was a day or two before we lost her, I happened to run across her book and I thought, Oh, I’ll have to reread this again. I set it on my bed, and I was putting some books away for my son. And behind the books had slipped this letter and it was a letter from Dixie. It was so strange the timing of it. It was the letter she wrote to him a couple years ago when he graduated from high school. She and Hal had sent him this lovely book. It was just the sweetest letter. I said, “This is precious. Connor, we have to put this in a special place.” Because she was such a cool lady. You can’t lose that. If she loved you, you were a lucky person.