Delta Burke details her meth use for weight loss and 'ugly' “Designing Women ”exit in first interview in decades

The actress behind Suzanne Sugarbaker got candid about her fallout with series creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and past drug abuse in a rare interview.

Delta Burke is looking back at her contentious 1991 departure from Designing Women.

"It got ugly and very sad," the Emmy nominee — beloved for her role as former beauty queen Suzanne Sugarbaker on the hit sitcom — said in a rare interview with Chelsea Devantez on her Glamorous Trash podcast.

Opening up for the first time in decades, Burke recalled how she looked to series creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, whom she worked with on the sitcom Filthy Rich before Designing Women, as a mentor. "We do Designing Women, and I'm so happy to be there," she said. "I love everything. But then things started to change, which I won't go into. But that combined with becoming famous, I simply couldn't cope with."

<p>Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic</p> Delta Burke

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Delta Burke

"I wanted to leave," she added, "and I wasn't allowed to leave. I don't know what would have happened to me if I had been allowed to leave. Staying gave me an amazing character to get to play… and I loved it, how she evolved. I had that even though it could be difficult sometimes."

Burke called her relationship with Bloodworth-Thomason a "love-hate" one. "I'm very thankful for everything that she's done for me, but there's other issues," she said. "Basically we tried to kill each other, but you know, we survived."

Centered on four women who run an Atlanta design firm — played by Burke, Dixie Carter, Annie Potts, and Jean SmartDesigning Women ran for seven seasons on CBS. Burke left at the end of season 5 in 1991. She accused Bloodworth-Thomason and her husband, Harry Thomason — also an executive producer on the show — of psychological abuse a year later, claiming that Bloodworth-Thomason pressured her to lose weight. Meanwhile, the Thomasons blamed Burke's husband, Major Dad star Gerald McRaney, for the falling-out, claiming Burke's relationship with the cast and crew changed after she began dating him.

<p>CBS via Getty</p> Annie Potts (as Mary Jo Shively), Dixie Carter (as Julia Sugarbaker), Jean Smart (as Charlene Frazier Stillfield), and Delta Burke (as Suzanne Sugarbaker) in 'Designing Women'

CBS via Getty

Annie Potts (as Mary Jo Shively), Dixie Carter (as Julia Sugarbaker), Jean Smart (as Charlene Frazier Stillfield), and Delta Burke (as Suzanne Sugarbaker) in 'Designing Women'

The press ruthlessly covered Burke's weight gain at the time, leading to her disillusionment with Hollywood. On Glamorous Trash, she discussed resorting to essentially taking crystal meth to shed pounds during her time on her pre-Designing Women series Filthy Rich.

While attending acting school in London, she was prescribed weight loss pills, "which made my heart race." Upon returning to the United States, she discovered they were illegal there and relied on someone who worked on Filthy Rich to get her the street equivalent, which she referred to as "Black Beauties." She said she would take them each morning "like medicine" until she built up a tolerance and they stopped working. Her Filthy Rich co-worker then suggested something stronger.

"Nobody knew about crystal meth at the time," she said on the podcast. "[They told me,] 'You chop it up. You snort.' I said, 'I don't want to snort it.' So I put it in cranberry juice and [drank] it… and wouldn't eat for five days, and they were still saying, 'Your butt's too big. Your legs are too big.' And I now look back at those pictures and go, 'I was a freaking goddess.'"

Meeting McRaney (who won an Emmy in 2017 for guest-starring on This Is Us) was one of the best things to come from that dark period, Burke said. "Whatever went down that was bad, it was worth because I met him. No one had ever loved me completely for me, not even my mother or grandmother. They would judge what I looked like. He never did."

Though she would take occasional roles, she mostly stepped away from Hollywood, rarely making public appearances or doing interviews. "You kind of go along with these work schedules where one of you is out of town for months at a time or whatever. You're going along working and then finally it just got too much for me," said Burke, who now lives in Florida with McRaney. "It got too ugly. And all of a sudden, one day, it was like the joy of acting left me. It had been ruined by the ugliness that goes, unfortunately, with a lot of the business. I just withdrew from the work because the joy was not there anymore."

Listen to the podcast below for more from Burke, including how she hired the crew from Hoarders to help her sift through dozens of storage units she had before moving to Florida.

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