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DELTA BURKE IS MOVING ON AFTER TRAUMA OF `DESIGNING WOMEN'

More than a year ago Delta Burke was fired by the producers of "Designing Women," but much of that pain still remains.

"There's still a lot of emotion there. A lot of frustration and anger," she said by phone from her California home. "I felt very much the fall guy."Burke went public during the summer of 1990 with her charges that she had been psychologically abused by the executive producers of the CBS sitcom, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason. The Thomasons - backed by the show's other stars - countered that it was Burke who was making life difficult for everyone.

The producers, backed by the network, won a showdown with Burke and she was fired after the 1990-91 season. The actress found herself with few believers.

"If you are in a work environment where the situation is so bizarre that people don't believe you, it's like Martians landing. It's hard for people to understand because it didn't make any sense," she said.

"Basically, it became unbearable into the second season for me. By the end of the fourth season, I just couldn't live like that anymore.

"I went to the network and studio to ask help from people who had power to intervene because it had reached an explosive situation, and they didn't do that."

Burke said she misses her character, Suzanne Sugarbaker, but has no regrets about being off the show.

"There were a lot of good times, but there were an awful lot of bad times that didn't have to happen. Basically, it was like putting in five tours of duty of Vietnam," she said. "You have to be patient and persevere - that's why I named my company Perseverence."

And she won't be off the tube for long. Not only does she have a made-for-TV movie, "Dayo," that airs Sunday on NBC, but she has a sitcom that will debut sometime next season on ABC.

"Unless we stink real big, we should be on the fall schedule," she said.

Actually, she had no intention of working again until next season.

"I have really enjoyed the year off," Burke said. "I really wanted to take the whole year off and recover. But then the `Dayo' came along and the script was so good I said, `I've got to do this.' "

"Dayo" is a light-hearted, rather lightweight family film from Disney that airs Sunday at 6 p.m. on Ch. 2. Burke plays Grace DeGeorgio, a 35-year-old woman who, under considerable stress, is revisited by her childhood invisible friend, Dayo.

"It reminded me more of the old-time comedies," Burke said.

For the part - and for the foreseeable future - the actress has changed her look.

"I'm blond, honey," she said.

And while she says she's still trying to lose weight, she appears heavier in "Dayo" than she ever was on "Designing Women."

"There's been so much written for so long now, I'm kind of used to the weight stuff," Burke said. "A lot of that hurt very much.

"I guess that's part of the adjustment of becoming famous. No one really expects it to be as intrusive as it is. As the years go by, it gets easier, though."

Burke has changed more than her hair color, however. In her new ABC series, tentatively titled "Delta," she's not only the star but one of the producers.

"What's really exciting is I never thought of producing and I wouldn't have had things worked out differently on `Designing Women.'

"I'd have been happy where I was and hoped for a spinoff with Meshach Taylor. Who could have anticipated what happened? It made me want to be involved in the producing side of the business. And here I am. Life is kind of funny that way."

Burke is working with Barry Kemp, the man behind such hits as "Newhart" and "Coach." "It's been quite an education. I'm learning a lot," she said.

Burke describes the situation for her situation comedy like this - she plays a woman in her 30s who's frustrated. Who's never achieved her dreams. Her marriage isn't working out very well, so one day she decides to leave home, head for Nashville and try to make her dream of becoming a country singer come true. The character "Delta" will move in with her hairdresser cousin and get a job at a country-western club where she'll waitress and occasionally sing.

"Just getting up and singing is a big change, because everybody told me I couldn't do it," she said. "It doesn't matter if I'm really not all that good because she's aspiring, after all."

One thing she's looking forward to is working on the same studio lot (Universal) as her husband, "Major Dad" star Gerald McRaney.

"I'm in (stage) 44 and he's in 41," Burke said.

Burke said that she and McRaney (whom she met when he appeared on "Designing Women") are even more in love now than when they married in 1989.

"Yeah, it's disgusting. As much in love as we were then, it gets better, which surprises the hell out of both of us," she said. "I just got real lucky when I met Mac because I didn't think I'd ever get married."

As for "Designing Women," Burke said she has watched only last fall's season premiere since she left. While she professes to wish the show well, she also takes some small bit of satisfaction that, while the series is still a big success, the ratings have declined throughout the season.

"I would rather that it was going like this than that it was great guns. That'd be hard to take," she said.