Long-term relationships can be incredibly rewarding, regardless of who you are. Gerald McRaney and Delta Burke can certainly attest to that, as they’re set to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in 2019. And at the 2017 Emmy Awards, the pair revealed the secret behind their lengthy marriage.
Born in August 1947, McRaney grew up in Collins, Mississippi, alongside his siblings Anne and Buddy. He started to develop a fondness for acting during his high school years, in fact, after an injury prevented him from playing sports. From there, the teenager signed up to the school’s drama club before taking the next step a few years later.
Indeed, McRaney became a drama student at the University of Mississippi, as his aspirations continued to grow. The future star didn’t complete his degree at the college in the end, however, leaving his classes ahead of graduation. At that point, he found employment at a local theater company in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Alongside that job, McRaney also worked in the Louisiana oil fields before earning a spot as a performer with the theater company. And in 1969 the Mississippi native’s life changed forever, when he made his movie debut in Night of Bloody Horror, which kick-started his screen career.
Some 12 months on from that, McRaney featured in his second movie, titled Women and Bloody Terror. From there, he made his small-screen bow in 1972, when he appeared in an episode of the TV show Night Gallery. And the actor then started to establish himself on television over the next few years.
McRaney was cast in plenty of well-known shows throughout the 1970s, in fact, such as The Waltons, Hawaii Five-O, Gunsmoke and The Six Million Dollar Man. Moreover, his impressive run continued into the 1980s, when he earned parts in a number of other high-profile series. However, everything changed in 1981.
That year, McRaney bagged one of the leading roles in Simon & Simon, a new TV series about a pair of siblings operating their own detective firm. The show proved to be a big hit at the time, running for eight seasons. He starred in over 150 episodes of the drama, in fact, before it came to an end in 1989.
In addition to that, McRaney also returned to the big-screen in the mid-1980s, featuring in The NeverEnding Story and Jackals. Outside of Simon & Simon, the Mississippi native was still a regular fixture on the small-screen as well, as he made appearances in a variety of TV movies and shows.
In 1987 McRaney earned a role in the comedy series Designing Women, taking on the character of Dash Goff. He went on to feature in two episodes of the show, in fact, which eventually ran for seven seasons. And the actor’s appearance proved to be momentous, because he fell for one of the series’ stars.
Born in July 1956 Delta Burke grew up in Orlando, Florida, and was victorious in the 1974 Miss Florida beauty contest. Off the back of that success, she made her small-screen debut some four years later, taking on an uncredited role in the TV movie Zuma Beach. And from there, Burke’s career really started to take off.
Indeed, Burke earned roles in two more TV movies in 1979 before being cast in a mini-series called The Seekers later that year. The actress then scored a part in The Chisholms in 1980, featuring in close to ten episodes of the western show. Her rise didn’t end there, though.
Following some more work in the early 1980s, Burke scored one of the leading roles in the comedy series Filthy Rich in 1982. Taking on the character of Kathleen Beck, she starred in all 15 episodes of the show, before it came to an end in 1983. After that, the Florida native went on to feature in a number of recognizable programs over the next few years.
Burke appeared in shows such as The Love Boat, Remington Steele and T.J. Hooker during that period, ahead of earning her biggest role yet. Alongside the likes of Annie Potts, Dixie Carter and Jean Smart, she was cast in Designing Women in 1986. And over the next five years, the actress starred in close to 120 episodes of the comedy.
Moreover, some 12 months into the show’s run, Burke’s life changed forever when she met McRaney at a formal lunch. “There’s something about Southerners,” the latter told People magazine in June 1989. “We’re just more physical. When we were introduced, we started to shake hands, but that just didn’t seem like enough.”
“So we hugged each other,” McRaney continued. “I kept trying to catch glances at her during lunch, thinking I was being terribly subtle about it. It wound up with me staring at her through a good deal of the festivities.” On that note, the Mississippi native proceeded to send Burke a bunch of flowers, prior to his appearance in Designing Women.
On the show, McRaney played Burke’s former husband, and the pair were scripted to kiss during one of the episodes. And when the moment came, they both seemed to lose themselves in it. “[The kiss] went on for a long time,” he recalled. “I didn’t know then she hadn’t had a date in a year.”
Before long, McRaney and Burke became an item, going out on a couple of dates. And the Simon & Simon star sensed a deep connection even in those early stages, which prompted him to make a massive decision. While out on their second date, in fact, he summoned up the courage to propose to Burke.
“After a few of those rum drinks, I got up the nerve,” McRaney told People. “Sure, logic was telling me it was a bit soon. But I had a gut feeling that this woman will be my friend for the rest of my life. I still think she’s about the most beautiful creature God ever put on the Earth.”
With that in mind, McRaney and Burke eventually got hitched in 1989 in Los Angeles, California, surrounded by hundreds of well-wishers. It marked the actor’s third marriage, although prior to falling for Burke he hadn’t had any intentions of walking down the aisle again. Those previous splits appeared to have taken their toll on him.
“I was not looking for a wife,” McRaney said. “I’d decided ‘never again’ for me. I wasn’t angry or bitter about anything. I just thought I wasn’t very good at it.” Burke, meanwhile, was also fairly skeptical about her chances of meeting a soulmate. Indeed, the actress has suggested that prior to McRaney coming into her life, she’d envisaged a very different future for herself.
“I figured I’d turn into the crazy woman down the street with all the dogs and a stack of newspapers so deep you can’t find the body for days,” Burke told People. “And then I met [McRaney], and it’s so weird, but right off the bat you knew [he was the one].”
On that note, one of Burke’s Designing Women co-stars lifted the lid on the couple’s relationship from an outside perspective. According to Potts, McRaney lavished Burke with plenty of attention. “Delta told me how good he was to her,” Potts informed the magazine.
“Crates of white roses started coming to the set every day,” Potts continued. “After work, he met her at the door with a hug, then he ran a tub for her, gave her a back massage, cooked her dinner and served her a drink on a silver tray. She told me this, and I said, ‘Delta, what do you do for him?’ She said, ‘I enjoy it.’”
After McRaney and Burke tied the knot, some of their friends reflected on the changes they’d observed since the pair got together. In their minds, the lovebirds had been transformed. “Delta was not quite trusting of our brethren before she met Mac,” fellow Designing Women star Smart recalled.
“[Burke] went, ‘Who needs it?’” Smart continued. “But it was amazing to see someone who was so defensive around men so instantly fall in love.” As for McRaney, Jared Snyder shared a heartwarming assessment of his friend’s transformation, suggesting that a few people were willing him on to find love again.
“[McRaney’s] always been like the big lovable basset hound that’s asleep on the couch,” Snyder told People. “You just love and adore him, but you wish he’d get up and do something once in a while. He has life now. Thunder struck him when Delta came along.”
Following the wedding, McRaney and Burke continued with their respective acting careers. With Simon & Simon behind him, the former was cast in another TV show in 1989, taking on the lead role in Major Dad. He went on to star in close to 100 episodes of the comedy, in fact, before it came to an end in 1993.
After that, McRaney appeared in a number of other TV movies and shows throughout the 1990s, firmly establishing himself on the small-screen. In the early 2000s, the Mississippi native then started to feature in some prestige programs including The West Wing and Deadwood. His work didn’t end there, though.
As the years progressed, McRaney eventually made his way back to the big-screen, featuring in movies such as Red Tails, The A-Team and Focus. Burke, meanwhile, left Designing Women in 1991, some two years before the show finished. From there, she went on to star in her own series, titled Delta.
Unfortunately for Burke, though, the show only lasted for one season, coming to a close after just 17 episodes. Nonetheless, the Florida native’s career took an interesting turn in 1996, when she made her big-screen debut. It saw her star in the thriller Maternal Instincts, taking on the character of Tracy Horton.
Burke continued to work on television after that, with her next film role being in 2000’s Sordid Lives. Later the same year, she then featured in the romantic comedy What Women Want, which starred the likes of Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. The actress has subsequently appeared in just two more movies, however, the last of which came back in 2003.
In more recent times, though, McRaney and Burke enjoyed a big evening in 2017. The former won an Emmy award that year thanks to his work on This Is Us. And while working the red carpet, the couple reflected on their near 30-year marriage, with the actor touching upon the night he proposed.
“I wasn’t going to let [Burke] get away,” McRaney told People on that September 2017 evening. “I already had competition. There were people asking her out on dates, and I was going to move in right away.” From there, Burke spoke about the importance of her husband’s achievement in finally receiving an Emmy nomination for his TV work.
“This has been huge for me,” Burke said. “I have wanted [McRaney] to be nominated for so many years, I cannot tell you. I think that he’s richly deserved it and that they’ve noticed him and acknowledged him this year makes me want to cry.” And after winning the Emmy, McRaney then shared some loving words about his wife.
McRaney also spoke about the importance to his work of Burke’s feedback, shining a light on their relationship. “As a man, I’ve had the love of the finest woman I can possibly imagine,” the Mississippi native said. “As an actor, when she tells me something is good, I accept that I’ve done okay, because she knows what she’s talking about.”
“When other people say it, it’s nice, I appreciate the compliment,” McRaney added. “When [Burke] says it, it’s real, because she’ll tell me when I suck, too. She has no hesitation about that. So it’s a good partnership for me. It keeps me toeing the line.”
As for the secret behind McRaney and Burke’s long-lasting relationship, the latter had dropped a fairly big hint back in 2008. The actress had suffered from depression in the past, while she also needed to keep her diabetes under control. Due to those issues, her weight became a cause for concern.
However, McRaney was on hand to help his wife through that period. “It didn’t matter to him how fat I got,” Burke told Diabetic Living magazine in 2008. “He reminds me what I should be doing or shouldn’t be eating. He likes to give me my [insulin] shots and says it makes him feel like he’s taking care of me.”
McRaney, meanwhile, offered his own assessment of their relationship at the Emmys, suggesting that their bond is as strong as ever. “At the end of a day’s work, I get to come home to [Burke],” he told People. “That’s the fun.” Burke agreed, chiming in, “And we get each other. As nutty as we both are, we get each other.”
With that in mind, McRaney shared one more heartwarming story that further underlined the strength of their marriage. “We did a renewal of our vows once, and one of the things that Delta wrote into the vows was that we embrace each other’s insanity,” he said. “Not just accept it – embrace it.”