Jean Smart remembers her 'Designing Women' co-star Dixie Carter: 'She was such a cool lady.'

Jean-Smart-Dixie-CarterImage 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?
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.

Comments (15 total) Add your comment
  • Jay

    Such lovely words, for a lovely individual. She was truly loved by all that worked with her and knew her. Says a lot about who she was.

  • Chris

    Classy words from one classy lady to another. She is right. Ms. Carter was ONE of a kind. Rest in peace… and to Ms. Smart… thank you for sharing with us your sweet memories.

  • jfms777

    Jean Smart: thank you. thank you. thank you.

  • gigi

    So sweet. Thanks to Ms. Smart for sharing her memories.

  • marissa

    that was the sweetest remarks from the sweet and the ever lovey Jean Smart to a great lady friend of her Ms. Dixie Carter.Thank you Jean!:)

  • Teri Smith

    What a loss to all. She was a beautiful and talented actress and will be missed. I wonder why Delta Burke has made no comments on her friends death.

  • Heather


    I was wondering the same thing, but you know… Delta has long had a battle with depression, and she and Dixie were oh so close.

    Before their fallout, and even after they patched things up, they have both said it was like they were never apart, and had such a deep bond.

    Of course, I knew neither of them personally… but..

    I bet it’s just too painful to talk about… or at least that’s how I’d probably react. I’ve been wondering about Delta, and Dixie’s passing, how its impacted her… maybe she will make a statement soon though.

    So sad, all around… what a loss!

  • sj price

    there are no finer acters the the woman of designing woman.dixie was an jewel in her own right.she brought the show to its full life and brought a wonderful cast along with her.i will truely miss her. i have missed seeing their sparkling faces on tv each day, they all touched my life so very much

  • Tom

    Real talent…you wish there were more like her. Ms. Smart is the real deal too.

  • Roxy

    R.I.P., my fave ‘Designing Woman’… all four ladies are Class Acts.

  • carla

    i had the joy of getting to know Dixie and Hal. She touched my life i shared one of my happiest moments with her. i know she is in heaven with JESUS AND MY MOM

  • Lonnie Smith

    I am looking for more machuine designs by C schmidt, she did both machine, and hand embroidery

  • Lonnie Smith

    looking for machine designs by C Schmidt, she used to both hand and machine

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    Outstanding info it is without doubt. I have been seeking for this content.

  • Karen

    Totally ADORED Dixie Carter on Designing Women….use to love the person Jean Smart played… have since learned of the piece of crap she is when it comes to politics…..would NEVER support or watch her again….woman is without an doubt a lowlife!!

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