Delta Burke Opens Up About ‘Ugly and Very Sad’ Exit from “Designing Women”: ‘I Simply Couldn’t Cope’

The actress says she faced public scrutiny over her weight and even turned to crystal meth to try to lose weight at the height of her career

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

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Delta Burke

For the first time in more than a decade, Delta Burke is opening up about her years on one of TV's most beloved sitcoms.

The Designing Women star, 67, appeared on the Glamorous Trash podcast with Chelsea Devantez on April 19 and discussed her five-season run on the hit show, as well as her 1998 memoir, Delta Style: Eve Wasn't a Size 6 and Neither Am I.

Burke exited Designing Women in 1991, reportedly over a high-profile disagreement with the show’s creator, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, whom she claimed had psychologically abused her, along with Bloodworth-Thomason’s husband, Harry Thomason.

"It got ugly and very sad," she told Devantez of how the dream TV role went downhill with time.

<p>Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic</p>

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

“We do Designing Women, and I'm so happy to be there. I love everything. But then things started to change, which I won't go into. But that, combined with becoming famous, that I simply couldn't cope with,” Burke continued of the show, in which she starred alongside Annie Potts, Jean Smart and the late Dixie Carter. “And I wanted to leave. And I wasn't allowed to leave.”

She noted that she “loved” how her character, Suzanne Sugarbaker, “evolved” on the show over the course of five seasons, and that remaining on the sitcom gave her "an amazing character to get to play, grow older and fatter with,” which is something that she said she treasures despite the difficulties.

Related: 'Designing Women' Creator Linda Bloodworth Thomason Accuses Les Moonves of Ruining Her Career

Speaking to her relationship with Bloodworth-Thomason, whom she’d worked with prior to the sitcom on Filthy Rich and went on to work with again on Women of the House, Burke said it’s a “love-hate” dynamic.

“I love her very much, I admire a lot that she’s done, I’m very thankful for everything that she’s done for me, but there's other issues. Well, basically, we tried to kill each other, but you know, we survived.”

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

CBS via Getty

From left: Meshach Taylor (as Anthony Taylor), Delta Burke (as Suzanne Sugarbaker), Dixie Carter (as Julia Sugarbaker), Annie Potts (as Mary Jo Shively) and Jean Smart (as Charlene Frazier) in 'Designing Women'

Another major topic that Burke discussed on the podcast was the scrutiny she faced over her weight — which also contributed to her exit from the show.

She admitted she was “emotionally too fragile” to deal with how "incredibly ugly" the narratives about her weight became, recalling people constantly questioning whether she was pregnant and one particularly alarming time when a fan "jerked" her coat open and said, "Let's see, how fat are ya?"

“I thought I was stronger. I tried very hard to defend myself against lies and all the ugliness that was there and I wasn’t gonna win. I’m just an actress, you know. I don’t have any power,” she said on the podcast. “I remember on the set, when it got to be really bad, and I wasn’t handling it well with a smiling face, my whole body language changed. I would kind of hunch over... I just tried to disappear.”

She continued, “Hollywood will mess your head up. And I had always thought, ‘I want to be a famous actress.’ I thought that meant that you would be a famous and well-respected actress, but that’s not what it meant. And the moment I became famous, it was like, ‘Oh no, no, no. This is not what I had in mind at all. I don’t think I want to be this anymore.’ But then it’s too late.”

Burke, who was nominated for two Emmy Awards for the role, also shared that she was hospitalized following Designing Women’s second season in 1986. “I did have a breakdown,” she recalled, as “it had become too much. I really couldn’t handle it and didn’t wanna go back.”

Related: Actors Who Decided to Step Away from Acting — and Whether or Not They Stuck to Their Decisions

<p>CBS via Getty </p> From left: Delta Burke, Annie Potts, Meshach Taylor, Jean Smart and Dixie Carter in 'Designing Women'

CBS via Getty

From left: Delta Burke, Annie Potts, Meshach Taylor, Jean Smart and Dixie Carter in 'Designing Women'

The actress also elaborated on a particularly standout anecdote she shared in her memoir, which was that she once turned to crystal meth as a weight loss method. What started with her taking prescribed pills while attending drama school in London turned into something else when she returned to the U.S. and found that the pills she’d been taking were illegal, she said.

She found someone on a set to get them for her, and she would “take them in the morning so you won’t eat.”

“They were like medicine to me,” she told Devantez.

Those pills, which were called “Black Beauties,” eventually stopped working as she built up a tolerance, and crystal meth was offered to her instead.

<p>Albert L. Ortega/Getty </p> Gerald McRaney and Delta Burke in 2020

Albert L. Ortega/Getty

Gerald McRaney and Delta Burke in 2020

“Nobody knew about crystal meth at the time,” she said. She was told to “snort” it but didn’t want to, so instead she “put it in cranberry juice.”

She’d drink it before going to work — she was starring in Filthy Rich at the time — 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.' "

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer​​, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. 

Burke credited her 34-year marriage to Gerald McRaney, whom she met while filming Designing Women, for getting her through the most challenging periods.

“I love my life truly for the first time. And I love him desperately," she said of McRaney. "I know that I’m safe and I’m loved. I didn’t feel that there. I wanted to be so much, and I didn’t get to be what I wanted to be, but I got to go there, and I got to be an actress, and I got to make people laugh, which I loved very much.”

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.