Episode 120: "Cagney & Lacey with Sharon Gless"

Susan and Sharon are thrilled to sit down with show business legend Sharon Gless. Multi-Emmy and Golden Globe winner, Sharon Gless has appeared in dozens of television shows such as “Nip/Tuck”, “Rizzoli & Isles”, “The Rockford Files”, “House Calls,”The Bob Newhart Show”, “Station 19” and “The Exorcist.” She has created iconic and ground-breaking characters in the shows “Burn Notice”, “Queer as Folk”, “The Trials of Rosie O’Neill” and of course “Cagney & Lacey”.
Read Transcript

The Conversation

  • The moment Sharon Gless knew she wanted to be an actress – and knew she would not fail
  • “The first feminist I ever met…” -- Barney Rosenzweig??
  • How Cagney and Lacey we’re NEVER friends.
  • How Sharon was actually the VERY FIRST person approached to play Christine Cagney – and why she turned it down.
  • Earning $186 a week as the last contract player at Universal.
  • “The Woman Behind the Woman”:  how talent manager Monique James left her position as VP at MCA/Universal to become Sharon’s personal manager – and changed her life.
  • Being forced to watch herself on film to learn what she was doing right -- and wrong.
  • Hashing out billing, and rehearsing her first table read as Cagney, with Tyne Daly over a bottle of champagne.
  • Why Christine Cagney wanted to be first through the door with a gun.
  • Improvising and window shopping for the Cagney & Lacey main titles.
  • Participating with Tyne Daly and Gloria Steinem in the 2004 Women’s March on Washington –- and seeing the true impact of “Cagney & Lacey” for the first time.
  • Being Stephen J. Cannell’s “good luck charm!”
  • Falling in love with Debbie Novotny on “Queer as Folk”.
  • How she’s starred in NINE TV shows, and why she’s ready for one more!

So join Susan, Sharon – and Sharon Gless -- as they talk poker nights with Tyne, the “C”-word, the other “C”-word -- and what did she really say to that flasher??

Our Audio-ography

Official website: SharonGless.com 

Sharon Gless Facebook page.

Sharon Gless’ autobiography “Apparently There Were Complaints” at Bookshop

Watch the trailer for Sharon’s upcoming Documentary - Show Her The Money


Cagney & Lacey on ROKU. On PLUTO. On Apple TV.

Trials of Rosie O’Neill on Roku. On Amazon Prime.

Queer as Folk on Amazon. On Apple TV.

Burn Notice on HULU. On Apple TV.

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80s TV Ladies™ Episode 120 – “Cagney & Lacey: Creating Christine Cagney with Sharon Gless” Produced by 134 West and Susan Lambert Hatem. Hosted by Susan Lambert Hatem and Sharon Johnson. Guests: Sharon Gless. Sound Engineer and Editor: Kevin Ducey. Producers: Richard Hatem. Melissa Roth. Associate Producer: Sergio Perez. Music by Amy Engelhardt. Copyright 2023 134 West, LLC and Susan Lambert. All Rights Reserved.


Sharon Johnson  00:02

Hello, and welcome to 80s TV Ladies, I'm Sharon Johnson.

Susan Lambert Hatem  00:07

And I'm Susan Lambert Hatem.

Sharon Johnson  00:08

Let's get started. We are so joyful to be continuing our deep dive into Cagney & Lacey, the female driven Buddy Police show that ran from 1982 to 1988.

Susan Lambert Hatem  00:20

And it proved that women could be buddies under pressure.

Sharon Johnson  00:23

A few episodes ago, we talked to the Creator, Barney Rosensweig, then Tyne Daly and now the incredible 80s TV lady Christine Cagney herself. actress Sharon Gless.

Susan Lambert Hatem  00:36

Miss Gless is a multi-Emmy and Golden Globe winning screen and stage actress.

Sharon Johnson  00:41

She may be best known for her role as Cagney in the 80s TV ladies phenomenal show, Cagney & Lacey, but she also played the title role in the Trials of Rosie O'Neil. She also played the dirty mouth, loving mom to a gay son Debbie Novotny for five years in the daring American version of Queer As Folk, on Showtime, and then a tougher but still loving mother Madeline Westen on Burn Notice.

Susan Lambert Hatem  01:11

As the last contract player at Universal Studios, Gless also guest starred and co-starred in many of TV's top rated series of the 70s and 80s including The Rockford Files, The Bob Newhart Show, Marcus Welby MD,  House Calls and Switch.

Sharon Johnson  01:27

Miss Gless also starred on the stage in major theatrical productions including Misery, Chapter Two and Round-heeled Woman

Susan Lambert Hatem  01:36

And she is an author as well. Gless' award winning, honored biography., Apparently There Were Complaints was published by Simon and Schuster in December 2021. Apple audiobooks named it a must-listen. Publishers Weekly called Gless a masterful storyteller. And I call it a fantastically fun read.

Sharon Johnson  01:56

She's been married to Barney Rosensweig, the executive producer of Cagney & Lacey and a guest of this show, since 1991.

Susan Lambert Hatem  02:04

Welcome, Sharon, thank you so much for joining us at 80s TV Ladies

Sharon Gless  02:08

Thank you. Thank you very much for having me and for asking me.

Susan Lambert Hatem  02:11

How are you doing today?

Sharon Gless  02:12

Doing very well. I'm very happy. I've been looking forward to doing this with you. And I'm very blessed. I'm I'm physically well, and I've had a wonderful career and intend to continue to do so. Somebody did an article on me. You know, I've been doing this book and I'm doing interviews and this man interviewed me and he said, did you know that you've done more television series-- You've done nine television series, you and Cloris Leachman. The only two. Wow. I didn't know that. And he said, Yeah, the only person who beat you was Betty White. She's done ten.

Susan Lambert Hatem  02:55

She's done ten.

Sharon Gless  02:56

I said I'm gonna have to meet, to match Betty. Well, Betty has gone to the great, you know, MCA in sky. But I still have one more me. So I don't intend to beat Betty, but I'd like to match her.

Sharon Johnson  03:14


Susan Lambert Hatem  03:15

I would like to see that.

Sharon Gless  03:17

If I had to beat Betty, that means the next one I tried wouldn't work. Right? And then have to do another. I'm happy to just match her.

Susan Lambert Hatem  03:25

You don't want to jinx anything.

Sharon Gless  03:27


Sharon Johnson  03:28

That actually brings me to a question, actually, I had. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like moving to Florida has really not had an impact on your ability to continue working in television and working in general. Is that correct?

Sharon Gless  03:42

Correct. And very blessed. I-- I moved to Florida because that's where my husband wanted to go. He wanted to retire. And he had a belief that you cannot retire from Hollywood and live in Hollywood. So okay, so we moved to Florida, and he's very, very happy. And I'm married to a man if he's happy, everybody's happy. And but whenever I got an opportunity to work-- He's the first feminist I ever met. So since I moved to Florida, I think I've done three series. So I was just free to go and travel be and just continue to be an actress, regardless of where I live.

Susan Lambert Hatem  04:29

Right. But I want to go back to the first feminist you ever met. Was it really Barney?

Sharon Gless  04:36

He's Barney Rosensweig. Barney approached me to do this series called Cagney & Lacey, and I didn't realize he was a feminist. My background was I'd been under contract Universal for many years, 10 years. And in that day and age, even though Gloria Steinem had been out there swinging that bat, you know, I was not made politically aware. I was not aware of all the work that Gloria was doing while I was under contract to Universal. And when Bernie asked me to do this series, I didn't want to do it. Not because it was two women. I didn't want to do another cop show. Anyway, he's hiring me to do Cagney & Lacey. I started learning. I didn't realize the impact that the show's having. I knew it was about two women, I'd never stared in a show with a woman before. It had always been with men. And what I was trying to say is I never felt-- There was nobody I was in competition with. I didn't have that drive or that fight. Fight to the female because I was the only female. I was the only one wearing a dress. So I always thought I got what I needed and what I wanted. It never occurred to me it ask what the men were making at Universal. But it wasn't until I joined Cagney & Lacey, and I became aware of really what a {} deal were getting. Again, I was raised only with brothers. I don't know how to explain that I was a newcomer in fighting for women's rights. But once I joined Cagney & Lacey and I met Barney Rosensweig, who was the first feminist I ever met, I learned and I had the great pleasure and the great honor to play Chris Cagney and to change lives for other women. Believe me, ladies, I did not know I was doing that when I was shooting Cagney & Lacey.

Susan Lambert Hatem  06:40

But you were.

Sharon Gless  06:41

Apparently I was. But do you know I didn't have the first of all the ego to assume I was changing women's lives. I was just doing a really cool character. Probably-- I still think-- If you don't mind my saying. I still think Christine Cagney was one of the great characters ever, female characters ever written for television, because she was so flawed. And had--

Susan Lambert Hatem  07:11

So many layers and flawed at a time, again, that women just weren't given that many layers.

Sharon Gless  07:16

No, no, I mean, I, I left it. I had-- I had never been offended by any role I had been given to play. I never felt any of the women I played were less than, were treated less than, were boring, were not interesting. But my mind was like that I wasn't in the fighting mode when I first became an actress. I was just so grateful to be working, I'd do anything they'd give me. And I succeeded because I had a very powerful woman behind me -- Monique James, who was the  head of talent at Universal Studios. The reason for my success is a woman. And the reason for my, the longevity of my career is because of a man named Barney Rosensweig. But who put me on that map was a woman who was the first female vice president of MCA. And she saw something in me, she believed in me. I was green. I didn't know anything, except that I knew I wanted to be an actress. And she believed me. Monique James' background was that she and her business partner, Eleanor Kilgallen, were the first females to have a talent agency in New York City. And their first clients were Grace Kelly and Warren Beatty. Hi.

Sharon Johnson  08:43


Sharon Gless  08:43

When they were young girls, and they started their own talent agency. And they had these two really cool actors. And Lew Wasserman, he headed MCA. He decided to buy Universal. So Mini couldn't be an agent with MCA anymore. And Lew Wasserman bought out Monique James and her partner.

Susan Lambert Hatem  09:08


Sharon Gless  09:09

It's the first women ever to have a talent agency. So Monique James and Eleanor Kilgallen became the first two female vice presidents at MCA. Huge, huge. Then MCA bought Universal Studios. And agents were no longer allowed at MCA. The function of agency-- The government came and locked all their their files because you couldn't own a studio that also use your clients.

Susan Lambert Hatem  09:40


Sharon Gless  09:40

See what I'm saying?  So Monique James and Eleanor Kilgallen became the first two female vice presidents of MCA Universal. Monique was head of talent on the West Coast. Eleanor was head of talent  on the East Coast.

Susan Lambert Hatem  09:55

That's amazing.

Sharon Gless  09:56

Yeah. And Eleanor also had the Toronto and England as her markets to pick young actors. but Monique picket Beatty and-- I know I'm talking too much--

Susan Lambert Hatem  10:08

No, this is really fascinating because we, we don't talk about these women that were so groundbreaking enough. That's one of the reasons we started the show. And so I'm very curious about Monique.

Sharon Gless  10:19

Thank you, because you wouldn't want to sit here and talk to me, because I'd have nothing to tell you if it had not been for her.

Susan Lambert Hatem  10:26

And you were how old when you and you were the last contract player at Universal?

Sharon Gless  10:30

Very last one to leave the lot. Yeah, I was. They signed me when I was 26. And they made me lie about my age. Everyone, these Irish moms, I was ever a great beauty, but I passed as a kid. And so she said, Don't tell anybody how old you are. I said, Okay. So I worked for 10 years. And she groomed me and I learned everything she taught me. I know it's in the book, but I'm repeating it because it's for your show. When you're a contract player, you're taken into a screening, big screen-- The days when they had huge screens. Young feel great to know what that means, you know, but they had big, huge, enormous screens, and you'd be forced to sit there and watch your film. And she talked to some man,-- It's like kind of a movie. She talked to some man in the projection room and say, Please run Miss Gless' film. Guards covering Miss Gless in front of me. That mean-- In front of other people she'd call me Miss Gless. And he'd run my film, and I have to look at it. And she told me what I was doing wrong. And she taught me how to do this thing called acting.

Susan Lambert Hatem  11:46

That is amazing. That is so hard for actors to watch themselves, I think, often.

Sharon Gless  11:51

I happen to be an actor who never watches herself. I never watch myself.

Susan Lambert Hatem  11:57

But you were forced to early on.

Sharon Gless  11:58

I had to because of my obligations, and to learn from her. You know, it's something-- Even as simple-- First time she said see that thing you do with your mouth? I said yes. She says stop doing it. And circulate. And then she started teaching me to listen. She said you're not listening. She said you're waiting to see your line. And I said, Yeah, I am waiting to say my line. She said no. And she said, Sharon, if you learn to really listen, listen to your fellow partner, listen to what he's saying. Your face will change because your face does that. And your face will change as you're listening, and they're gonna cut to you instead of the person who's talking. And the truth is, that's when acting became fun for me. I started relaxing, really listening to what somebody was saying. And they'd either-- What they said may hurt me or they may make me laugh or anything. I was able to drop the fear as long as I was locked into that fellow actor. So, sorry.

Susan Lambert Hatem  13:17

No, it's fantastic.

Sharon Johnson  13:18

Do you know if there were any other actors before you that she kind of took under her wing a little bit and help them make the transition that she helped you make to understanding how to basically act on film the way that she taught you?

Sharon Gless  13:33

Well, I know Susan Clark-- I don't know if you remember Susan Clark.

Susan Lambert Hatem  13:36


Sharon Gless  13:37

Was very big in those days. And she was just 'a theatre actress, darling.' And much more training than I ever had. She was theater. But Monique believed in her, saw her, and I don't now if Monique trained her because I think she came in trained. You know?

Sharon Johnson  13:56

But isn't isn't theater acting different in a lot of ways than film acting in terms of, you know--

Sharon Gless  14:03

Well I always joke in theater actor you talk louder.

Sharon Gless  14:11

I do-- I guess there is. I mean Tyne Daly primarily was-- Her background is theater. And her father's. And she went into the family business. She went into acting because her parents were actors. And I think Tyne considers herself a theatre actor. If I had to discern where I excelled, I still call myself a film actor. It's a different skill, or it's, or they'd like to be better on film than they did than on the stage, you know? There's just a place where you land and as long as somebody will listen to me, or cry or laugh or I make them feel. Whatever avenue that is, I'd love to do it. I hope I'm answering your question.

Susan Lambert Hatem  15:00

You are.

Sharon Gless  15:02

Very skilled stage actor and that is her first love. I, however skilled I may be, I, I'm more comfortable in front of a camera. One camera. I don't like those four cameras sitcoms.

Sharon Johnson  15:15

Oh, interesting.

Sharon Gless  15:16

I like my relationship with the lens and it's not there.

Susan Lambert Hatem  15:24

I do know that Monique James in the article I read about her is also credited with discovering Robert Redford, Sharon. Other Sharon. Both Sharons.

Sharon Gless  15:36

How do you know that?

Susan Lambert Hatem  15:37

It was in an obituary that I read about her that they said credited with discovering you, Robert Redford and Warren Beatty.

Sharon Gless  15:45

They called her the Star Maker.

Susan Lambert Hatem  15:47


Sharon Gless  15:48

She was very formidable. She frightened me. But she was wonderful. I loved her dearly.

Susan Lambert Hatem  15:56

And so she was your boss--

Sharon Gless  15:57

She was my boss Universal. She's the reason I had a chance to go to Universal. But then when my time was up at Universal, they were closing the contract system. And I was the last one to leave. And they, of course, asked her to stay on at Universal and do some other executive job and she said she wanted to leave and could become my manager. And so she left Universal MCA. She left to manage me.

Susan Lambert Hatem  16:25

That's that's a pretty big investment. That's a pretty big honor.

Sharon Gless  16:29

And I was her only client.

Susan Lambert Hatem  16:30

Wow. I bet you you both were very formidable walking into a room.

Sharon Gless  16:34

Oh, I never felt I was formidable, buit she was scary. She was. I never thought of myself as formidable. I'd like someone to see me that, maybe that way in a character or something, but I don't think socially I'm ever formidable. I'm shy. You'd never know it by how much I'm talking, but I am shy.

Susan Lambert Hatem  16:57

So your last show under the contract was House Calls.

Sharon Gless  17:01

It was. Thank you. It's so nice when adept interviewers actually do their homework. You know, then we have such a good time. Anyway, thank you. Yes, I left after House Calls. The studio system ended after I'd been there 10 years. All the actors left. And they held me back. Monique said why are you doing this? Let her go. You know, she could make some money 'cause lord knows she don't make any the studio. And they said because we want her to do House Calls to replace Lynn Redgrave. Can you magine? And Monique said well then make her a contract-- Make her a series deal instead of exclusive contract there. You should make her a little dough. So they said Alright. So I stayed at Universaal but I stepped into House Calls with Wayne Rogers. Replaced Lynn Redgrave, if you can imagine.

Susan Lambert Hatem  18:00

Yes, you talk about that in your book. And it's it's some great stories, that section of the book.

Sharon Johnson  18:06

Great stories throughout the book.

Susan Lambert Hatem  18:08


Sharon Johnson  18:08

Really great stories. But in any event, yeah, the contract system is has always been very interesting and intriguing. And on some level, I am not sure if they had the option, if the studios wouldn't want to have it back because of the financial constraints that it provides to them. But--

Sharon Gless  18:25

I think it's expensive for studios, because we got paid every week whether we worked or not. Now, granted, I was paid $186 a week. I would have paid them. I would have. People say to me, don't sign that contract at universal. You'll never be heard from again. I said nobody's ever heard of me now! And it did the right thing. Being a contract player had its drawbacks. The producers on the lot resented hiring contract players. They had some sweet blonde off the lot that they wanted to come in and play this role. But they were, shall we say encouraged to read the contract players you know. They had so many-- They were encouraged to see us. They did not have to hire us. The only thing we got is we got the sides, meaning that sceen the night before. So we could rehearse it the night before instead of walking in and doing what used to be called a cold reading, where you're handed the script. And you were given like 10 or 15 minutes to look at it and then we go in and you read for it. Well, as a contract player, she'd get it to my house. Oh, all the contractors got the scene sent to their house the night before, so you could prep. But that was, that was certainly the only advantage Except you got to hang out at the Westmore Makeup Building and Edith Head had her own design studio there. So you're surrounded with the best, the best in business. It doesn't mean you got to hang with them but you were surrounded by them.

Susan Lambert Hatem  20:16

You could see them across the commissary

Sharon Gless  20:17

Yes! Yes! And Edith Head once dressed me.

Sharon Johnson  20:23


Sharon Gless  20:23

I was just gonna ask you to tell us about that.

Sharon Johnson  20:26

Yes, please.

Susan Lambert Hatem  20:27

Melissa jumping in. She can't help herself.

Sharon Gless  20:31

It's only because of Monique James. I-- Every contract player on the lot got to be in Airport 75.

Sharon Gless  20:39

And the reasons we got to be Airport, we were stewards or stewardess and they just paid-- If we worked we got to make $206 a week. But we were never allowed to speak. If we spoke, then, you know it was more. But every contract player was made a steward or stewardess in Airport 75. Given our little pittance. We didn't care. I started a Monopoly game on the on the set. Because I'd never done a feature before. It takes five hours to light a scene, you know? Television, it's fast but in features it's huge. So I started this Monopoly game going and Edith Head did the stewardesses outfits. And apparently Monique had gone to Edith and said, Edith, I've got one of the stewardess. Let's just do something to make her look different. So we all showed up in front of Edith Head with like camel colored a-line skirts, camel colored heels. Beige hose, Burgundy turtleneck sweaters, and a scarf around our neck. Very stewardess, right? And she looked at all of us and she said Sharon Gless. I said yes, Miss Head. She said come with me. She took me back to the dressing room. And she said take off that skirt. Okay. I took it off. And she had trousers the exact same color same gaberdine, same everything. She said put these trousers on. Okay. She said alright, I like it. She said take that thing off around your neck. I said okay. She said pull your hair back in a ponytail at the nape of your neck. Get the hair off your face. I said okay. And she says, Let me wrap this around the back. So I ended up being in trousers, no, blond hair hanging down, just pulled back with that scarf. No silly scarf around my neck. It was very tailored. Which is really was my style. But she saw it. And all she did was do that switcheroo and I'm-- It was the only stewardess who looked like that.

Sharon Johnson  20:39

Oh, wow.

Susan Lambert Hatem  23:00

That's amazing. I love Monique for doing that. I love her. You know?

Sharon Gless  23:05

I know. And then she asked them if I can have a close up with Karen Black who was the female lead of the show. And so I had a close up, a two-shot with her. So embarrassing. Anyway, but I just stood there looking stupid. And then I got a job while I was on that movie. Monique had had me reading for a miniseries and I got it. Got the miniseries after four readings. And I got a miniseries called Centennial?

Susan Lambert Hatem  23:35

I was going to ask if it was Centennial.

Sharon Gless  23:37

Centennial, right.

Susan Lambert Hatem  23:38


Sharon Gless  23:39

A period piece.

Susan Lambert Hatem  23:40

Yeah, cuz we also spoke with Stephanie Zimbalist, and she was in Centennial.

Sharon Gless  23:44

Oh, no, it wasn't Centennial. But of course, she was in Centennial. No, it was The Immigrants and I was the female lead.

Susan Lambert Hatem  23:52

So that must have been one of your breakout roles, then.

Sharon Gless  23:54

It was. It was. And Stephen Macht who played the immigrant, ended up being my lover on Cagney many, many years later.

Susan Lambert Hatem  24:03

I love how many people have worked on Cagney. & Lacey. Like almost everybody that we talked to, or we're looking at, to talk to have done something on Cagney & Lacey, because it ran for so long, and in particular, had a lot of ladies up in the writing and directing. So I will shout out Barney for that.

Sharon Gless  24:24

Yeah, see, we had a female director. We had Karen! You're gonna be talking to Karen right?

Susan Lambert Hatem  24:30


Sharon Gless  24:31

Karen Arthur?

Susan Lambert Hatem  24:32

Yeah, I'll tell you the numbers. Do you wanna know the numbers on Cagney. & Lacey, because we like to do the numbers on the shows we cover and how many women were sort of behind the camera?

Sharon Gless  24:42


Susan Lambert Hatem  24:42

And Cagney. & Lacey is by the way off the charts. We've only looked at really closely three shows so far, but out of 42 directors listed on imdb, 13 were female directors. That's 31%. It's way higher. than anybody else in the 80s as far as I as we know so far, like significant. So shout out to Barney and and the whole team for that.

Sharon Gless  25:08

He did it. As I say I wasn't-- I gained all the the knowledge and the experience and all the things I didn't know about feminism because of that show. I was exposed to that, that fight, which women had to do. I was so protected at Universal. I never started with another woman. I learned nothing about the female struggle in our industry and in the world until I did Cagney & Lacey.

Susan Lambert Hatem  25:41

And so what-- Was there a moment, was there a moment, whether you were doing publicity or someone came up to you or during the show that you went--

Sharon Gless  25:48

Did somebody told you this story?

Susan Lambert Hatem  25:50


Sharon Gless  25:51

About me politically, publicity?

Sharon Johnson  25:53


Sharon Gless  25:54

Okay, I'm gonna give you the story.

Sharon Gless  25:56

My publicist on Cagney & Lacey was a woman named Pat Kingsley. And Pat said, Sharon, now, we're gonna be doing public service announcements for you to encourage women to register to vote. I said great. I said I should get registered. I swear to god. Now here Tyne's been out there, you know. Barney says to Pat, I think Sharon-- Barney's serious. I think Sharon is interested in getting more politically involved. He said that means she's considering getting registered. I'm so ashamed to tell these stories, but I have come a long way.

Sharon Johnson  25:56


Susan Lambert Hatem  26:53

It was not handed to women. I was raised by a mom who worked and you know, she was single mom of two daughters. And she was a scientist. She worked for CDC in Atlanta. And that was like, she never talked about it. She wouldn't have called herself a feminist. But my sister and I both grew up going, like knowing about it. And then from my sister who was older than me, that she trained me up pretty quick, too, because she was off to college before me. And it was the time of Gloria Steinem, and it was out there. But I think unless you had a world in which you're watching your mom not be able to buy house, even though she has a great job, because the bank wouldn't loan her money. I was like, that doesn't seem right. You're like you're just like, Mm hmm. But I think unless you had an excuse, or reason, or were growing up in that in handed that, a lot of women weren't handed that.

Sharon Gless  27:48


Susan Lambert Hatem  27:48

Weren't handed that they had-- That they were up against a wall. They just didn't know it.

Sharon Gless  27:52

Yeah. I think I had a credit card with and didn't have a credit card because they your husband could have a credit card.

Susan Lambert Hatem  28:01


Sharon Gless  28:02

But I had a credit card, I think, long before most women did. I don't know how I got them because I didn't get married till I was 50. There were just all kinds of things I took for granted. I didn't know how bad it was until I was lucky enough to get Cagney & Lacey. I'm so blessed. And I didn't even know-- I'll tell you the story of me being-- But Tyne and I was invited to march on Washington during the young Bush. And there we were in the front row carrying the banner with thousands and thousands of women behind us. And Whoppi Goldberg was there and Gloria Steinem. We were in the front group carrying this thing and maybe hundreds of thousands of women and maybe five men, one of them was Barney Rosensweig. And we were taken on this stage. It's the stage where far far away is the Washington Monument. That's where we were. I didn't have any idea what we were doing. Or the impact that Cagney & Lacey had had, is really what I'm trying to say. And Gloria came to me and said, Go out there. I said, go out there?  She said go out there, Sharon. I said, What do I say? You know, my dialogue had not been written for me. What do i say? She said just go out there. Tyne, go with her. So I remember I walked our to this-- And Tyne followed me. They went crazy. They started screaming and clapping, and-- Tens of thousands of them, and I didn't know why. That it was because of what we'd done. And I didn't know. I didn't know the impact we were having. I got it then. I got it then. We didn't have mikes, so I just waved and said thank you. You know, we went off stage and everything but I hope you understand the moment I'm describing to you.

Susan Lambert Hatem  30:25

I do. You making me cry.

Sharon Johnson  30:28

And you know, it's it's-- Everybody's used to having access to everything now. And then it was not--

Sharon Gless  30:33

I didn't know!

Sharon Johnson  30:35


Sharon Gless  30:35

-- About us.

Sharon Johnson  30:37

Yeah. You were working how many hours a week and, you know, how many weeks a year trying making this television show and there was no social media, there was no internet. It's totally understandable.

Sharon Gless  30:48

I didn't even know. How could I say to them, thank you. I didn't have a mike, but, Gloria, you know, she knew exactly what she was doing. And I was surprised they recognized us. Blonde and this brunette walked out on this stage with-- I mean, people were miles back at the Washington Monument, you know, like, like it like it was the Presidential Inauguration. And there was-- Anyway, that was the way I learned that we had impact. I was given the gift of playing that part. And the whole time I was doing it, I never knew that I was giving a gift. I was just lucky. I knew I was giving the gift of it's okay to say you're an alcoholic. It's okay.I knew that was a rough one. And no one had ever done that before. No female had ever done it before in character and then me in real life. But then, I don't even know how I got on this except--

Susan Lambert Hatem  31:56

Well, we yeah, we were talking about was there a moment and I think that was the moment where you went oh, well, I'm I'm doing more than just playing a character on a TV show. Did you end up carrying that back to the show with you? Like did you feel like oh boy we better be careful now. Like, I don't know if you felt that responsibility in when you were doing it or were you able to set that aside?

Sharon Gless  32:18

Always thought the responsibility of an actor was to do the finest job I could. I didn't I wasn't-- I never carried the responsibility that I have to represent women properly. I guess through my performance I did. And she was a difficult character. She, you know-- When Mary Beth Lacey you know, rolled down her sleeves and straightened her bow and everything she'd go see lieutenant. And I was always so, whatever. Cagney always had this act. She she had dreams to she'd be the first female police commissioner and, and didn't follow the rules and-- But, no, I never knew that I was giving women permission to do the same thing.

Susan Lambert Hatem  33:04


Sharon Gless  33:05

Go get a job where there are no women, if that's what you want. Because there were no women in the police business when Tyne and I were in it. No partners ever. Never female partners.

Susan Lambert Hatem  33:19

Yeah, and no female, work friendship on television.

Sharon Gless  33:25


Susan Lambert Hatem  33:26

Like that was-- That and even now it's rare. We were talking about the show, like, you know, obviously, 'Rizzo and Isles' and shows that are kind of clearly following in the footsteps. There's also friendship shows Sex and the City, things like that now, but at the same time, it was so-- That I do remember, you know, watching it, and just the normalcy of two women having a conversation about both work and their personal feelings about that work.

Sharon Gless  33:59

Right. Season-- Cagney & Lacey were not friends. They were not friends. They could have been more socially different. Cagney didn't give a-- About children. Mary Beth had her husband and her children. Cagney was sleeping around. Cagney was ambitious. Mary Beth wasn't ambitious. She, she wanted to put it in her 20 and get the retirement funded to help her family. That's who she was. She was a great cop, Mary Beth Lacey was, but they were never friends. But their lives depended on each other. Their lives depended on each other. They were partners. But they were never friends. They didn't socialize with each other. She'd be so bored going over there, pretending she's playing with the children. She did it sometimes, Cagney did. But Barney used to say in a fairer world those two women could have worked at the post office.

Susan Lambert Hatem  34:58


Sharon Gless  34:59

Didn't matter because they they were never-- They weren't pals. He said, police situation was better because their lives were at stake. It was more interesting.

Susan Lambert Hatem  35:08

More dramatic. Immediately dramatic.

Sharon Gless  35:11

We're pals. Now Tyne Daly and I are today are best friends. We weren't when we were shooting show, not because we didn't love each other and moreso respect each other. But we didn't have time to be pals. There was no time.

Susan Lambert Hatem  35:27

It was a lot of long hours.

Sharon Gless  35:29

You know, horse around after work. She had children she was trying to raise and she'd be getting home at midnight, you know? But we, we love-- We supported each other.

Susan Lambert Hatem  35:39

Yeah. You were partners.

Sharon Gless  35:41

The catty stuff that a lot of the press tried to say, they're so catty, you know, they don't get along. Stupid-- And we're much better friends today.

Susan Lambert Hatem  35:50

Yes. She said that you were competitive with her.

Sharon Gless  35:54

I am? For what?

Susan Lambert Hatem  35:55

For coming-- She's-- When I said you were coming on the show. She says she's so competitive.

Sharon Gless  36:01

Well, I'm equally happy to be invited.

Susan Lambert Hatem  36:04

Yes, we're very happy to have you. And and I love that. Again, Sharon and I have been friends for a long time. Melissa and I have been friends for a long time. And that ability to be able to sort of work with your friends and create with your friends is pretty special.

Sharon Johnson  36:21

But one of the things you know, I think I got subliminally more than with direct knowledge at the time and watching Cagney & Lacey, and is the idea that these were two professional women. They were two very different people. But it showed that you could be-- You didn't have to be a certain way to do this job. You had-- You didn't have to be a certain type of woman to be a police officer or to be a feminist. It just had to do with Are you competent? Can you get the job done? And it's something I to this day really appreciate about the show.

Sharon Johnson  36:56

I don't remember our ever discussing feminism on the show.

Sharon Gless  36:58

It was not part of our what we talked about. I guess we were showing, Hey, it can be done. It can happen. Come on.

Sharon Johnson  36:58


Sharon Gless  37:12

And we never talked about. I don't ever remember even talking about Well, the guys are getting better than we are. And we didn't pound that stick. We just did it.

Sharon Johnson  37:12


Sharon Johnson  37:26

There may have been some some areas where it sort of, for lack of a better word indirectly infiltrated into the storytelling. I'm thinking in particular about the episode where there was another cop who was physically abusing his wife. And the two of you were like, do we bring this up? Because it was more-- It was more about we're all cops and do we-- How do we deal with that? Because that's sensitive as opposed to I think anything else initially. But the goal for the two of you was always find the person who committed the crime and see to it that the justice system punishes them. That's what your goal was.

Sharon Gless  38:02

And we can do it. Didn't have to depend on these guys.

Sharon Johnson  38:05

Yes, exactly.

Sharon Gless  38:07

Yeah. And we can do it. It was doing the job. I'm sure Tyne brought that up. Because that's the only place we could as two women talk alone because we are minority.

Susan Lambert Hatem  38:18

Yeah. And I love-- It was so interesting how they brought you on the show. And if we can talk about, you came on-- You were the third Cagney. I don't know if you felt pressure, or what you felt.

Sharon Gless  38:29

Well, I was asked first. So that sort of gave me a little bit of an ego about it. And I of course, turned it down. And Barney is-- Barney said actors are not always the best judges of material. And so it went to Loretta Swit. And then it went to a series at the time Loretta did it and Loretta had to go back to M*A*S*H. So Barney approached me again, and I couldn't do it because I was going to do House Calls. So Loretta came in and did it.

Susan Lambert Hatem  39:06

Meg Foster came in and did it for the show. Yeah. Meg Foster.

Sharon Gless  39:11

She's-- Yes, Meg Foster, a wonderful, wonderful actor came in and did it and the network didn't care for the paring. That there wasn't enough contrast. So Meg sadly was replaced because Tyne loved Meg. So you can imagine here I come, the third Cagney. Barney invites me again. Do you know this story? Barney tell you the story about going to New York to find out if House Calls was--

Susan Lambert Hatem  39:41

He did tell that story. He told the story that he knew-- And I felt like it was such a producer moment.

Sharon Gless  39:47

It was!

Susan Lambert Hatem  39:48

I notice-- I have a piece of information that I get to pull out!

Sharon Gless  39:53

He flies to New York--

Susan Lambert Hatem  39:55


Sharon Gless  39:56

To find out if House Calls is on the schedule for the next year. He finds out it isn't, so he calls my manager. She says I'm sorry, Barney dear. I told you Sharon's in House Call. That means, he said, that means he said she's go her-- fired.

Susan Lambert Hatem  40:21

That is such a, that is such a producer moment, I learned that I have a piece of information and I'm gonna use it to get what I want.

Sharon Gless  40:28

Yeah. So anyway it did all work ou finally, Tyne came right to this house. And I invited her because we had billing we had to talk about. And that's another story but-- And we sat right in this house, and she brought champagne. And we agreed we really liked each other, like for another. We worked out the billing and the rest is history. I was very fortunate and very blessed to work with her.

Susan Lambert Hatem  40:57

And I do love that the episode that, you know-- The first episode of the second season, where it's it's the two of you. It's a big conflict. Like you start right off and I, in conflict a little bit as as Mary Beth and Christine. Because you're-- I think it's the one where, where there's been a shooting and whether which of you saw gun or if you're gonna back up another cop. And it was just so interesting, that it was such a great way-- But it felt like the deep end, felt like you guys jumped into the deep end of those characters and that show.

Sharon Gless  41:34

Right. That scene is used quite often to talk about the series, the scene of, where Mary Beth and I fight. Since I saw what I saw and you tell me you saw and yeah. I remember now. I wanted her to back me up.

Susan Lambert Hatem  41:51

Yeah. And it's such, again, it's so amazing. First, as just your like sort of your first episode. It wasn't like, oh, we'll just be solving a crime together. It was, it was very character driven, it was very much about the two of your relationship. And it was also allowing women to be mad at each other in a very real way. Allowing women to be mad and angry and express that anger. And then also find ground, like, you know, kind of rebuild the relationship within that show.

Sharon Gless  42:26


Susan Lambert Hatem  42:26

It doesn't seem like it should be groundbreaking, but I could not point you to another show of that time that truly did that. In comedies, there'd be a lot of you know, like Golden Girls, a lot of conflict and then resolution but--

Sharon Gless  42:42

Really brilliantly they did it, yeah.

Susan Lambert Hatem  42:44

But in terms of drama.

Sharon Gless  42:46

Did Barney ever talk to you about how Cagney sort of came to be born in character?

Susan Lambert Hatem  42:53


Sharon Gless  42:53

I challenged something.

Susan Lambert Hatem  42:55

Oh, well, you write a little bit in your book. When you realize well who Cagney was. But but tell the story.

Sharon Gless  43:03

We were in our boss's office with all the men, with all the male cops also, all our people in our precinct. And I can't remember what, why we were in there. But Mary Beth, as I said was always buttoned up. Rolled down her sleves, was very proper. And she said, Lieutenant, if you don't know the difference in rape and romance-- He was talking about. Gone With the Wind.

Susan Lambert Hatem  43:34

Yes. And I think you guys are working on a rape case or something in the--

Sharon Gless  43:39

Right. And he was saying 'But in Gone with the Wind, you know, he carries her up.' Well, he did rape her. He did rape her, but it was made me very sexy, you know? Now when she wakes up the next morning with a smile on her face-- Anyway, Mary Beth Lacey says, 'Lieutenant, if you don't know the difference between rape and romance, you've got a problem.; She walks out and it's very unlike Mary Beth. So as it's written, everything's quiet. Oh, as it's written, one of the guys, probably Isbecki says 'What is it with her? Time of the month or something?' And I stopped the scrnr. And the director what's wrong? I said I need a line. I need a line, guys. I mean, he doesn't get to say that. That's my partner. So we're never allowed to change a line, so they call Barney Rosensweig down. I said Barney always looked at his watch, always, said what seems to be the problem? It's always 'what seems to be the problem?' I said I need a line. I need a line here. Isbecki just said about Mary Beth 'What is it, her time of the month or something?' So I need to get a better line to get back at it. He said no. You're not getting any line at all. 'What are you talking about? He said, 'You're Cagney.' 'I know I'm Cagney.' He said, come on, and takes me aside. He said, 'This is a lesson for you, learning the character you are playing. Cagney couldn't give a-- about defending her partner. She's one of the boys. She plays poker with them at night. She wants to be one of the boys and she's gonna swallow it. She's gonna let them say that about her partner in the other room now.' And I remember I said, Oh, I get it. She's a cooze, isn't she? It's another word for-- is it? She's a cooze. Isn't she? And he smiled. at this. I understood. We said she got it. So she is. She loves her partner, but she wants to be one of the boys.

Susan Lambert Hatem  45:47

Because she wants to be Lieutenant.

Sharon Gless  45:50

Yeah. So she was willing to betray her own sex to the stay in the poker game.

Susan Lambert Hatem  45:56

I mean, I've kept my mouth. I kept my mouth shut in the 80s as a young person in a work environment.

Sharon Gless  46:02

Did you? I don't know if I did. I'm sure I did. I didn't, I didn't have-- I wasn't part of that-- I was very gratefully, may I say, I was never part of the Me Too. I never had that problem. Not that men did find me attractive. Or they didn't hit on me because I had Monique James right there in her office, and I've told. Or they didn't have anything I needed. There was nothing they had I wanted. And I think they knew that. So I never had that unfortunate time in my career where I got hit on and my, my career threatened if I didn't play. I write in my book, perhaps I just wasn't very attractive.

Melissa Roth  46:54

No, no, I think you were being protected by Monique.

Sharon Johnson  46:58


Sharon Gless  46:58

Me too.

Melissa Roth  47:00

No one dared.

Sharon Gless  47:01


Sharon Johnson  47:03

In your book, also, you would, if I'm remembering correctly, you mentioned that when you were cast as Cagney that that you and Tyne spent some time together, working on your dynamic between the two of you working on, you know--separate from, from when you were on stage, working some things out that way. I just wondered if you might expand on that a little bit.

Sharon Gless  47:26

We did. The day before we read together with the, with the cast, very, very first time I had ever stepped in to play this role, and there was a reacher in front of the cinematographet, in front of some of the key crew, in front, of course, all the cast and executives from Orion. I mean,  because this was the last chance to get it right. Tyne calls me up. She said, What do you say we run this script alone together before they ever see us do it? I said Great! Do you mind? She said no! So she comes over with a bottle of champagne again. And we run it together. Turned out five times we did it together. I'm so grateful to her. Because when you're the new person you hate to-- You don't want to bother anybody. So we went, we do sat at the table with all these people, you know. And we did it. And Barney stood up and said, and ladies and gentlemen, that's how it's done.

Susan Lambert Hatem  48:29


Sharon Gless  48:30

It makes me cry, because Tyne came up with just the the very the necessity, of course, of us doing it together and not arriving green. You know, she had the advantage of playing this character for quite a while, but she knew I had not.

Susan Lambert Hatem  48:45


Sharon Gless  48:46

And yeah. And what you might be referring to also, Sharon, is our working together every night after the shoot, We met in my trailer because I had the bar open. We met in my trainer and read the next day's work over and over again until we got each other's rhythm.

Sharon Johnson  49:08

That's fantastic.

Susan Lambert Hatem  49:09

And that pays off in the show. It's so there's there really is such a camaraderie that comes across in the show. It really does feel like you guys are working partners because you were.

Sharon Gless  49:21

We were and I will always say certainly I have my own skill. I certainly have brought something to that character that they didn't have before. But Tyne Daly is the reason. Tyne is such a generous actor. Such a-- Anything I wanted to do, she  didn't care. And she'd respond, you know. And we were kind of a hoot together.

Susan Lambert Hatem  49:47

Yeah, I can imagine. I think we are already planning to basically have you back on the show together because that's my goal.

Sharon Gless  49:55

I played cards with her at a birthday party poker game last night.

Sharon Johnson  50:01

Oh nice.

Susan Lambert Hatem  50:01

For your birthday? Happy birthday.

Sharon Gless  50:03

No, I'm saying My birthday was the last day of May but I like to play with my, some friends and my stepdaughters in Tyne's always included. So-- Our game last night.

Susan Lambert Hatem  50:13

Oh, that's great.

Sharon Gless  50:15

I lost.

Susan Lambert Hatem  50:16

All right.

Sharon Gless  50:17

And so did Tyne.

Susan Lambert Hatem  50:19

Okay. All right. So there you go. See? This is okay. I'm curious if Christine Cagney would have called herself a feminist.

Sharon Gless  50:28

In those very early days? Yes, I think she would have, but I don't think she would have understood the real meaning of a feminist. I think she was a feminist for herself. She wasn't gonna let anybody say because she's a girl she can't have it. But was she a feminist to fight for other women? No. I think at that time, Cageny would have fought for herself. I think she was a blowhard. I think she-- I tell in the book a story, but I'm going to tell it to you too. That I went to Tyne when I first took over this character and I totally was getting who she was, who I thought she was. And I said to Tyne I have something to ask of you. She said what is it? And I said we're always running in doors, you know, with guns drawn. I said, Can I run in before you? She said, Do you know why I want to say no to this question? Said of course I do. That's why I'm asking it. I said, Tyne, I think Mary Beth has a lot to lose. She has a husband, she has children. This one doesn't give a shit about anybody. She wants to be the hotshot. It's who she is. And sometimes to a fault and I don't think she's just cautious. She wants to win. And Tyne listened to me and she said, I get it. If that's what you need. So not every time but most of the time, our routine. She says okay. Well, guess who won all the Emmys? Tyne Daly did.

Susan Lambert Hatem  52:20

Well, you know that that show lives or dies on that relationship. And that's why it lived so long and so long in our hearts. I, you know, I have-- I'm not wearing today but I have a Cagney & Lacey shirt because I have shirts of all the shows. And I was in the grocery store the other day and wearing it and three different people came up to me and they're just like, I love that show. Oh, Cagney. & Lacey. Oh, it has so much resonance, that show. People do remember it. I want to take a break real quick. We'll come right back. And we'll we won't do all our questions, because I'm not sure we'll be able to get through them all. But well,

Sharon Gless  53:01

I don't want to embarrass myself like Barney did, do four hours. I mean, come on.

Melissa Roth  53:07

Barney was very sweet.

Susan Lambert Hatem  53:09

He was very sweet.

Sharon Gless  53:11

Are you kidding? He loves it!

Sharon Johnson  53:13

It was fascinating. It was fascinating and interesting and fun.

Susan Lambert Hatem  53:16

We'll come right back.

Susan Lambert Hatem  53:16

Hello, welcome back. Carole King did the theme song for the Trials of Rosie O'Neil.

Sharon Gless  53:17

Yeah, what a--

Susan Lambert Hatem  53:27

And then you had her on the show in the, in a great episode. So shooting an episode.

Sharon Gless  53:35

Her manager at the time did not want her to sing on TV. So we got wonderful--

Sharon Johnson  53:44

Melissa Manchester?

Susan Lambert Hatem  53:47

There you go.

Sharon Gless  53:48

Thank you.

Susan Lambert Hatem  53:49


Sharon Gless  53:50

But I got to go the day that there was Carole King and Melissa Manchester together.

Sharon Johnson  53:55


Sharon Gless  53:56

Singing. And she sings the song. Carole's watching of course, because it's her song. And Melissa's singing it beautifully. And I'm just watching. And then they took a picture of the three of us together which was cool to me. Yes, Carole wrote the song. Barney approached her and asked her if she would write the main, main theme to the Trials of Rosie O'Neil. And she said she'd love to. And then he asked her she'd sing it and she told me that her manager did not want her singing anything for a TV series. I think she felt very apologetic about it. So we got Melissa Manchester, but on the show Carol told Barney that she's always wanted to act. So Carol did come and perform as a character on our show. And it was a reunion of everybody my-- Was it college or high school?

Sharon Gless  53:56

High school. Right. And Carol was one of. you know, our besties, our bestest friends. And  Tyne arrives also as one of our high school alumni. And she's a Tony winner from Broadway. And Tyne had just won herself on Broadway. So she played it to the hilt and

Susan Lambert Hatem  54:51

High school.

Susan Lambert Hatem  55:16

She's very diva in that episode.

Sharon Gless  55:19

Exactly. Then makes everybody hate her. And, um-- But we have a wonderful scene together at the end where the characters settle with each other. But to sit there and sing with Carole King while she's playing on the piano, her song and she's singing it. We're-- You know, the graduates are singing it with her. You know, sometimes you just take things for granted when they're happening. I know it was a very key highlight in my life.

Susan Lambert Hatem  55:50

It was a beautiful of-- That episode was really great, and it was a beautiful scene. And, and I-- It took me forever to recognize Gretchen Corbett.

Sharon Gless  55:59

I know! Gretchen was a contract player with me!

Susan Lambert Hatem  56:02

Oh, was she? Okay. All right. So I have questions. A lot of these questions are from my husband. Because he's a huge Rockford Files fan and thus a huge Gretchen Corbett fan and he's a television writer/producer. And I literally took a picture of the reunion scene and sent it to him.

Sharon Gless  56:03

Oh, Carole's in there. That's so cool.

Susan Lambert Hatem  56:26

And I said, okay, you have to pick out who all these people are. And he recognized everybody but Gretchen Corbett. And when I said that was Gretchen Corbett, he was like, I don't believe that,

Susan Lambert Hatem  56:35

okay, you have to pick out who all these people and he recognized everybody but Gretchen Corbett and I went to Corbin he was like, I don't believe that.

Sharon Gless  56:40

Gretchen and I worked together. And she did like a recurring role on Rockford.

Susan Lambert Hatem  56:46


Susan Lambert Hatem  56:47

Yes, yes. And you were on Rockford. You did two episodes of Rockford Files.

Sharon Gless  56:47


Sharon Gless  56:52


Susan Lambert Hatem  56:53

And one was playing a stewardess.

Sharon Gless  56:54

That's right!

Susan Lambert Hatem  56:56

It was called The Fourth Man?

Sharon Gless  56:59

I don't remember, That was my first one was where I think I was playing the stewardess.

Susan Lambert Hatem  57:03

And I'm excited about it. Because it was written by Juanita Bartlett who is--

Sharon Gless  57:11

I knew Anita!

Susan Lambert Hatem  57:11

Can you please tell us about what Juanita Bartlett?

Sharon Gless  57:14

I don't know where she is now. She moved to Carmel,

Susan Lambert Hatem  57:17

She passed away and a number of years ago but--

Sharon Gless  57:21

She moved to Carmel. I know that, And sort of retired there.

Susan Lambert Hatem  57:28


Susan Lambert Hatem  57:29

But she-- Didn't she write with the that wonderful writer?

Susan Lambert Hatem  57:34

She wrote on the Rockford Files for many years and she was a producer and writer on Scarecrow & Mrs. King, one of the other shows that we cover from the 80s

Sharon Gless  57:43

Stephen Cannell.

Susan Lambert Hatem  57:44


Sharon Gless  57:45

That Stephen Cannell.

Susan Lambert Hatem  57:47

Stephen Cannell, David Chase.

Sharon Gless  57:49


Susan Lambert Hatem  57:50

Steven Bochco, Stephen Cannell

Sharon Gless  57:52

I worked for  all of them. In fact, Stephen Cannell used to call me his good luck charm. He put me in all his pilots.

Susan Lambert Hatem  57:59


Sharon Gless  57:59

Small parts. When-- I did a private for him where I was like one of the leads. And then he put me in that Baa Baa Black Sheep, whatever it was. Gave me one scene in his pilot and it sold. Not because of me. But he just thought, you're gonna be my good luck charm. I'm always gonna put you, do a little something in my pilots.

Melissa Roth  58:19

That was the Black Sheep Squadron

Sharon Johnson  58:21

Squadron. Yes.

Sharon Gless  58:23

You really know your stuff.

Melissa Roth  58:24

Oh, we grew up on television.

Sharon Johnson  58:26

Watched a lot of TV. A lot of TV.

Sharon Gless  58:30


Melissa Roth  58:31

I remember that actor. I don't remember his name, but he used to do--

Sharon Johnson  58:34

Robert Conrad

Melissa Roth  58:35

Robert Conrad used to do battery commercials. Knock it off my shoulder.

Sharon Gless  58:41

Yeah. Yeah. Oh, all those guys. But they were all around Juanita Bartlett.

Susan Lambert Hatem  58:48


Sharon Gless  58:49

We were all at Universal. Steven Bochco eventually left Universal and went on to greatness. But Stephen Cannell we sort of knew each other socially. We were both born in LA. He was a native Angeleno, just like I was. From Pasadena, and I was from Hancock Park. And he died way too young.

Susan Lambert Hatem  59:17

Yeah. Anyway, his daughter makes to television. I believe she's a director, some kind of television creator,

Sharon Gless  59:25


Susan Lambert Hatem  59:26


Sharon Gless  59:27

Right. I believe I worked with her. I think Barney hired her. Maybe it wasn't Barney. Maybe it was on, like--. It was one of my other series after that. And she came and directed us.

Susan Lambert Hatem  59:39

Oh, that's great.

Sharon Gless  59:40


Susan Lambert Hatem  59:41

I do love-- It does feel like you guys are always inviting the family back. I believe Meg Foster does a guest on Trials of Rosie O'Neil.

Sharon Gless  59:50

Barney had her often played my opposing attorney because he felt so bad that the network's really forcing him to do that. And he always loved her. Do you know? So? Yeah, she came in. It's a wonderful turns for us on The Trials of Rosie O'Neil.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:00:08

Okay, I have a couple questions just like about the opening sequence for Cagney. & Lacey, in particular the shot walking down the street sidewalk in New York, the two of you together  that's so sort of iconic from the for the show.

Sharon Gless  1:00:22

We'd just met.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:00:23

And so you guys went to New York to shoot that.

Sharon Gless  1:00:26

Right? Once a year, we would go to New York, to shoot exteriors. And they were just cut into episodes. I mean, we shoot them speaking, you know, doing dialogue. And I said, Wait a minute, what happened before this scene? Because, you know, an actor needs an antecedent event so you know why you're crossing the street. So the writers would give us our scenes and then tell us just what happened just before that scene. So we and we used to love going there. We always went there in I think August. Hot, so hot. We wore the like cotton, like cool, cool clothes. We were walking down the street. Well, then you come to later on in the year. And you do that scene that preceding it, and you have to get back in those clothes. Well, we've been eating the craft service all year. We couldn't get back into the clothes we'd established. Every year we had this bomb. So they finally started putting us, even in the heat of August in New York. They'd put us in coats, in hats and stuff. When it was time for us to duplicate that scene, walking, you know, we could take off that-- We could have bigger clothes.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:01:43

That's so funny. Do you remember we're doing that walking down that, that shot that's clearly a long lens? You're walking with real people, I assume?

Sharon Gless  1:01:53

Yes, I did something that was not in the script. We were not-- I wasn't told to do but it just seemed right. We did many walking down the streets. I decided, well, Cagney likes clothes. So even though we're kind of managed clothes, but she'd like to style, you know. And so I started to go look and see what's in the window. So I just stopped. And Tyne -- when it works you go. And without her ever planning this. And she goes back and gets me, pulls me by the arm. And then it's staying in as one of the parts of the main title.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:02:33

I know exactly what your shot. You're talking about that so great. And then I of course have a question about the flasher.

Sharon Gless  1:02:39

What was I saying?

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:02:40


Sharon Gless  1:02:42

I don't know. What I'd like is really just get some lip reader. I'm serious

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:02:53

And figure out what you-- Because you don't remember what you're saying?

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:02:56

Because I've never been able to answer the question, but the attitude I can tell was-- really? What we you hoping to do with that? Sort of that was my intention. And I I knew we weren't mic'd so it didn't matter.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:03:12

Right. But what I mean, again, that opening sequence very, very lovely. And that flasher shot in particular has stayed with me from childhood. Because of your look, right? Because of of your look.

Sharon Gless  1:03:27

Thank you. Well, my goodness. Thank you

Sharon Johnson  1:03:29

And thinking about it. It's actually a little surprising that CBS let you put that-- Let them put that in because it seems a little, for lack of a better word, risque for a network television show to put that kind of shot in. But good, kudos to them.

Sharon Gless  1:03:43

They were, they were a little more lenient with us. At one readthrough, Marty Cove had a--. Can I see anything--

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:03:52


Sharon Gless  1:03:53

You can cut it out.

Sharon Gless  1:03:55

So one readthrough and this is in the script. Marty Cove has a line like, Well, you know, she's a-- And I raised my hand and said, Excuse me. I didn' mean, you know-- Excuse me, Barney, can we say--  On television? He said no, but I'm gonna trade it in for another word I do want to use. That's why he put it in the script,.to use to negotiate...

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:03:55


Susan Lambert Hatem  1:04:28

Again. I mean, just a classic producer move. Like I'm gonna push it too far, and then I'll give you some ground.

Sharon Gless  1:04:36

Yeah, yeah. All right. I won't say it. Yes.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:04:43

I'm so I do also want to I have questions about Queer As Folk and how you got involved with that. And again, it feels like a show that may have brought you to another level of awareness and activism, according to your book.

Sharon Gless  1:04:55

Very much so. Queer As Folk. I was in Chicago doing a play. And my television career was slow. I'm slowing down. I'd gotten very, very, very heavy. I'd hit like 200 pounds, and my marriage was falling apart because of that. Everything was falling apart. So I was doing this play that had been written for me. So I thought, Well, I'm not so busy. I'll go and do a this play. Well, while I was there, I got an offer to do The Lion In Winter back East in the summer for a summer Playhouse thing. So I hired the top drama coach in Chicago to train me and the man who was my trainer was also an agent. And he called me one day and he said do you know about Queer As Folk, and I said no. He said, well it's a British series and it's not been shown here. and there's a black market copy. Showtime, he said, has bought the rights to do the American version and there's a black market copy going aroound. He said, yeah, and there's a part that's perfect for you. Let me have a car send it over. Stay right where you are.  I said, okay. So I stayed in my little apartment, and the driver comes over and gives me the script. So I'm not so busy. I sit down and I read it. Well, I read that role of Debbie Novotny, and I I knew I knew this was my next show. If they'd take me. I knew I was perfect for her. And I'd never been aggressive on my own behalf ever. So I pick up the phone right call Showtime Network, because Barney's ex-assistant is now the assistant to the president of Showtime. So I say Carol, Sharon. Hi. I just read Queer as Folk, which you guys are making. I said I want the part of the mother. She said, you don't want the part of the mother. There's another mother that is very young. And I said I do. Anyway, she figured out that I was talking about Debbie Novotny. I said I do want the part. She said, Sharon, you don't want to be in the show. It's  in Canada! I said perfect. Because Barney and I were going through the divorce, you know? And she said, there's no money. I said, I don't care. I wanted out. I wanted out out of the country. I wanted my own series again. I just wanted the things I loved, you know? So she said, Well, let me run it by Jerry. They're doing casting today. The casting meetings she's talking about. Anyway, Jerry Offsay gets on the phone. He said, Sharon, Jerry Offsay. I like the idea. I said, Oh, Jerry, I'm so glad. He said yeah, I think you'll bring a little class to the project. I said, Jerry, class is not what I had in mind. And I don't know if you know the role of Debbie Novotny, but she's not a classy woman. And so anyway, he flew me out to meet the two producers. He said, Sorry, just as far as I'm concerned, you have the job, but I don't want to run roughshod over my producers. Would you mind meeting them, we'll pay to fly you out. I said, not at all. So I flew out and I'd met them and it was the most fun meeting. We laughed the whole time. And they gave you the roll in the room. I didn't read for it! I mean, I was so happy because I knew, I knew I could bring something to it. And I knew I was right for her. I might-- Debbie Novotny, this kind of crude and crude looking with the red hair and a thing and the thing. The red wig I mean, it was all-- there are earrings and, and I played her with my mother's heart. And Mother is the most-- was the most refined woman. Absolutely. If you ever think of the word lady, my mother was that. My mother never raised her voice. Never said a swear word. Once she said d-a-m-n. She spelled a swear word. And I said but I know my mother's heart. In a totally played my mother's heart. I allowed myself-- I made up that look. Because I didn't want to be the blonde. You know, the 200-pound blonde with Cagney & Lacey gone. I mean Christine Cagney gone bad. So, so now's my chance to be somebody else and look different and act different. And so that's a long answer to, tell us about Queer As Folk.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:09:08

That's a great answer.

Sharon Gless  1:09:08

But I also learned so much and I'm one of these people who like my best friends are gay. But I until Queer As Folk, I didn't know the real struggles. The hardship, the heartache, all of the stuff you didn't hear about until that show. And I learned. I learned and then boys would walk down the street and come over and say, may I have a hug? And they'd start crying. It just was a wonderful-- I was able to have impact again, you know? A different kind of impact, but I was able to have an impact on some people.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:10:28

You truly did. Our marketing person who is not here today, is Sullivan. And he is a young gay black man who watched your show and watched that show and was like, she was the mom that we all wanted. She was the mom we didn't have.

Sharon Gless  1:10:47

Really? She is had such a mouth on her. And she'd slap her son across the face.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:10:53

But she loved and accepted him and everybody around him.

Sharon Gless  1:10:56

George? Oh, yeah, if anyone was gonna hurt him,  she was there.

Sharon Johnson  1:11:01

I love the show, too. I mean, this this straight black woman absolutely loved this show. Loved Debbied Loved how loving she was, not just her son, but all of his friends and, and the whole community. And you were so wonderful. And it was it was really great. Loved it.

Sharon Gless  1:11:18

I lucked out. I just lucked out. Thank you so much. Because it was--

Sharon Johnson  1:11:22

And sometimes it pays to raise your hand and say, I want

Sharon Gless  1:11:27

'I'd like that part.' Never done that in my life! And there it was. And it was it changed my life, brought me back.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:11:36

I mean, what a great-- Yeah., You've made-- This is the third time. Sharon Gless made me cry three times.

Sharon Gless  1:11:41

Oh, god! Sorry!

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:11:45

But for all the best reasons.

Sharon Johnson  1:11:48


Sharon Gless  1:11:49

Thank you so much. It was-- I've stayed closest to that cast. Than even Cagney & Lacey. Tyne and I are inseparable, but the rest of the cast, we worked so many hours, we didn't get a chance to know them or play with them. Here we didn't, we didn't get a chance to hang out.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:12:08

And then burn out. You play a completely different and yet adoring mom again.

Sharon Gless  1:12:14

And you know, I want to tell you something. I never wanted to play the mother. The mother-- snore. But these two particular mothers were fun. I refer to the mother in Burn Notice as the mother from hell. I loved her and she-- Jeffrey Donovan and I got along so well. And it was just-- And worked out in-- We finally stopped the divorce proceedings, Barney and I, way after Queer As Folk. And then this Burn Notice was in Miami, which is where I live. I didn't tell them I live there because I have a home in LA. Because I wanted to-- During the pilot, I wanted to hang out with the cast in the hotel, you know? I wanted to get per diem. It sold. Like months later, my manager called me and he said Burn Notice sold. I said, what's Burn Notice? It as a very odd title, you know, so I didn't-- It just didn't-- I didn't remember it. I did one days work. Two days work. That was it. And then I went home and then he calls me months later and said Burn Notice sold. Ooh. I have to tell him I live in Miami. Because you're gonna want to deliver the scripts and stuff. So I confessed.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:13:41

You confessed. And you didn't get--

Sharon Gless  1:13:44


Susan Lambert Hatem  1:13:45

You didn't get per diem for the entire series?

Sharon Gless  1:13:48

No. Before we did the pilot, you know, I just want to hang out with the actors in the hotel. None of us had housing. Oh, I do, so. Anyway, it was, it's been wonderful, and I've stayed friends with those actors.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:14:07

And so I'd like-- So you and Barney were at the brink of divorce for a while.

Sharon Gless  1:14:13

Yeah. Very serious. Yep. And then we just lived long enough to say Oh, well. No, it was very, very rough times.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:14:26

What is it Eugenie Ross Leming said? We had her on for Scarecrow & Mrs. King. And she said-- Oh. She's been, had a writing partner her entire career, Brad Buckner. And she's like, Oh, that, that, that's my best relationship. My marriage is hard.

Sharon Gless  1:14:42

Oh, it is. Oh, yeah. Hardest, hardest relations-- Well, obviously, too, it's much easier to, for me to play the character than to play myself. So you know, whatever I wind up playing in the series. Great. They can't hurt me. But he could end it, and I'm sure I did my share. So now we've been married 31 years. Who does--

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:15:08

Amazing who'd have thunk?

Sharon Gless  1:15:09

Who'd have thunk it?

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:15:10

And you didn't think you'd ever be married?

Sharon Gless  1:15:12

Never. Never wanted to be married. Never ever. I'd never seen a good marriage. Still very few. I don't know if it's a nat-- if it's a natural state. But I was single for so many years. I didn't get married until I was just about to turn 50. And I liked me.You know? I got along fine with me. But I got married at almost 50, and then I went into menopause. Well, poor thing. Poor Barney. He didn't know what hit him.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:15:46

None of us do.

Sharon Gless  1:15:47


Susan Lambert Hatem  1:15:50

You lay a lot of stuff bare in your book.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:15:52

And why is it titled that?

Sharon Gless  1:15:52

I see it -- I do. But I couldn't do it any other way, you know? I  wasn't ever trying to go for sensationalism. I just told the truth. I keep up with the title before I ever put a word on the page. Apparently There Were Complaints.

Sharon Gless  1:16:14

Well, I came up with that expression. I was in Hazleton, so a lot of the book's about my alcohol/drug abuse. I know; get in line. But it was the 80s. I mean, it's recently been written but I do write primarily about the 80s. I write about all the complaints about my life. But when I was in Hazleton, there was a lot of scandal. And Barney and I-- Barney was going through a divorce, The press was terrible to us, the precious, terrible jewels because we were very hot at that time. And this was our secret. And we'd fallen in love with each other And we knew it was wrong, and we couldn't help it. And we kept it a secret from Tyne for a year, which is inexcusable. Because Tyne and Barney and I were a triangle. Nobody could, you know, break us up. And this was something she didn't know about. Eventually, we told her but it was just a horrible horrible time. Anyway, I ended up in Hazelton, which is the Harvard of the rehabs. And it was all over the press. It was awful. And Cagney certainly was the first alcoholic in a series on television. And it turns out so was Sharon. so it was a lot of this life imitating art. Was she loaded when she did those amazing scenes and boo-hoo. I was not, by the way, I cannot drink and perform. I'm not that good. Timing is everything for me. So somebody approached me when I got out of Hazelton. It's a four-week program. I was there seven weeks. Hi. Seven weeks. They just--

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:18:07

Yeah, you're going back to one, back to one.

Sharon Gless  1:18:10

Honest to god. And I was very well known in those days. So they used to hide me. They'd hide me, like, every Sunday was parents day to come and see whoever they loved that was in Hazelton. They'd hide me in the infirmary because we were saying Sharon Gless does not live here. They were trying to protect me. So this girl says You were in Hazelton?. I said, Yeah. 'So what were you doing at Hazelton?' I said,  'apparently there were complaints.' You know, I always try to make light of any tragedy. And Barney, having standing next to him-- we weren't married-- but he burst out laughing. And he burst out laughing, I know I did something funny. And it's just always been my inspiration. No matter what terrible thing happens. Apparently there were complaints.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:19:12

It's such a great line.

Sharon Johnson  1:19:14

It really is.

Sharon Gless  1:19:16

Yeah. Yeah. It was painful at the time, but--

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:19:19

It's like, this is what we used to-- You know, when I was a kid, and we watched M*A*S*H, we'd like oh, it's like M*A*S*H. You laugh in order not to cry.

Sharon Gless  1:19:28

Yeah, that's right. I love that. I love that. That was a good show.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:19:33

That was a great show.

Sharon Gless  1:19:37

That you have included me in this trilogy, which I believe is about to be quartet if you get Karen in, right?

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:19:44

Yes, yes, we-- Alright, so we are now down to three questions. What's the 80s Ladies-driven television show that resonated with you at the time or afterwards? We usually ask us not to name their own show but you know a lot of people were busy in the 80s working on their show. So is there an 80s Ladies TV show other than Cagney? & Lacey that resonates with you?

Sharon Gless  1:20:07


Susan Lambert Hatem  1:20:08

Okay. No.

Sharon Gless  1:20:10

Was there another 80s ladies television show?

Melissa Roth  1:20:14

Absolutely not.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:20:15

Not like Cagney & Lacey,

Sharon Gless  1:20:16

I'm not I'm not-- I'm just, was there?

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:20:19

I-- There was-- You-- We're doing a whole podcast about 'em, so--

Sharon Gless  1:20:23

When you're shooting your own show, you don't get a chance to watch other people's work. I'll tell you who my favorite ladies TV show is now.

Sharon Johnson  1:20:36


Sharon Gless  1:20:37


Sharon Johnson  1:20:39


Susan Lambert Hatem  1:20:40

We love Hacks and we love Jean Smart because she was a famous ladies of the 80s and Designing Women.

Sharon Gless  1:20:45

Yes, she was, but I never got to see-- I became friends with-- God, the two, the two brunettes.

Melissa Roth  1:20:53

Delta Burke.

Sharon Gless  1:20:55

Delta. Yeah, Dixie Carter.

Sharon Gless  1:20:55

I only knew Dixie and Delta. But I never got to know the other two women on the show. But, so Hacks with Jean Smart, is a piece of genius. And she plays a woman of her age. So it's like, being in the 80s. I mean, to me, she's just a absolutely brilliant, down-to-earth broad. And the writers that show are brilliant. And it's about a woman who is fading and doesn't want to. And I think if everything I'm learning about this show is true, she's not about to fade. She's absolutely my idol. Again, I don't watch a lot of TV, but then I got to be introduced to Jean Smart playing this part.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:21:01

Dixie Carter.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:21:58

Phenominal. Style and substance.

Sharon Johnson  1:22:00

And that's actually the second question. What, you know, female driven show of today would be your current favorite? So--

Sharon Gless  1:22:09


Susan Lambert Hatem  1:22:11

Hacks. Okay. And I think you already answered this question, which is what's like the most television or scripted moment that you've had in real life?

Sharon Gless  1:22:21

There was a moment in my life that I would have believed if I'd seen it in a movie. And it's in my book. It's just about like flying from Phoenix to Los Angeles. I had finally admitted for the first time in my life at age 26 that I wanted to be an actress, and never told anybody. And I'd wanted it all my life. I worked behind the camera all my life. I was a production assistant, production secretary. I was challenged. Sharon, what do you want to do with your life? You have nothing to show for. And I said the words out loud that-- My step-gram was saying,  'Just say it. It doesn't matter if you can have it. Just say it! There must be something you want.' I said, I want to be an actress. She said so?  I said well, I'm 26 years old, a little old to be starting. And she said when I was your age, I was under contract at MGM. I said you were? She said I was. I wasn't very good, so only lasted a year. But anyway, the evening goes on and she said she would not tell my grandfather because my grandfather disapproved. My grandfather was a very big showbiz lawyer. She promised she wouldn't tell him. Next morning 'Your grandfather would like to see you.'

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:23:41


Sharon Gless  1:23:44

He said, 'That's ridiculous.' [unintelligible] 'That's ridiculous.' I said, 'Well, I knew you'd say that, grandpa, that's why I asked Mary not to tell you'. And he said, 'I mean, it's ridiculous you think I'd stand in your way.' I said, Oh. He says, 'You want to be an actress?' I said, 'yes, grandpa.' He said, 'So what are you going to do about it?' I said, 'I'm gonna take lessons.' He said, 'Great. How much are the lessons?' He knew I didn't have a penny. He said they were-- I can't remember what they were. It's in my book. Let's say it was 500, but it wasn't. I think it's like $50 for three months. He said, 'You got $50. Now what?' I said, grandpa-- That was so much money, you guys. You have no idea. I had nothing. Nothing. And he said 'So, you wanna go home now?' I said 'No, grandpa. I came to visit you for two weeks. You invited me' He said, 'I know I did. You want to go home now?' Grandpa was a thoroughbred racer. He trained thoroughbreds, he bred them and he raced them. And that day he saw a filly who was ready to rock. 'Now you have this money. You take this class or what are you going to do while you-- What do you do while you're waiting to be an actress?' I said,  'I'll get a job. I'm a secretary,' He said, 'Fine. Have Mary get you a ticket. Go home tonight.' I'd just gotten there the day before. This moment I want to tell you about, I'm flying from Arizona into Los Angeles. It's my home. And I'm looking out the window. And I knew I would not fail. I knew I wasn't a looker. I knew I wasn't young. And I looked out over Los Angeles as I was landing, and I said, 'This is where happens. I will not fail.' And I knew I was wouldn't. And a year later, I was under contract to the biggest television studio in the world. And I'd never acted in my life.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:25:44

And you lasted more than a year.

Sharon Gless  1:25:44


Sharon Johnson  1:25:44

That's awesome.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:25:46

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:26:00

That is a beautiful story.

Sharon Johnson  1:26:02

Yeah, awesome.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:26:03

And a beautiful moment.

Sharon Johnson  1:26:04

We just can't thank you enough for agreeing to do this and being a guest on our podcast. It, it's, it's amazing. It's amazing. What an amazing conversation.

Sharon Gless  1:26:13

And thank you, ladies, this was an honor. This is me being sincere. This is-- It was an honor to be on your show. Thank you very much.

Sharon Johnson  1:26:22

You're so welcome. All right. Bye.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:26:24

Our audiography for today is two websites and a book. The Sharon Gless official website is at SharonGless.com. And the Facebook page is facebook.com/OfficialSharonGless. The book, of course, is Apparently There Were Complaints by Sharon Gless. You can find these links on our own website at 80TVLadies.com, as well as where to go watch the shows that Sharon was in.

Sharon Gless  1:26:24


Sharon Johnson  1:26:56

Season two is right around the microphone. Tell us what 1980s female-driven television shows you think we should be talking about for our next season.

Susan Lambert Hatem  1:27:07

And be sure to join in for our next episode. We will be interviewing the first woman to win an Emmy for directing Ms. Karen Arthur. She won in 1985 for, you guessed it, Cagney & Lacey,

Sharon Johnson  1:27:22

As always, we hope 80s TV Ladies brings you joy and laughter and lots of fabulous new and old shows to watch, all of which will lead us forward toward being amazing ladies of the 21st Century.