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Me and My Emmy
August 13, 2013

Me and My Emmy: Sharon Gless

Sharon Gless reflects on her career and the groundbreaking role that got her twice to the Primetime Emmy podium.

  • Sharon Gless and her Emmys

    Sharon Gless and her Emmys

    Corey Nickols
  • Sharon Gless and her Emmys

    Sharon Gless and her Emmys

    Corey Nickols

The following is an extended version of her "Me and My Emmy" interview, the popular back-page feature of emmy magazine that appears in Issue #6, 2013:

Primetime Emmy Tally: Two

How She Got the Gold: As lead actress in a drama series, for her role as detective Christine Cagney in CBS's Cagney & Lacey, in 1986 and 1987.

Now for the Noms: Four more lead-actress nominations for Cagney & Lacey, 1983-85 and again in 1998; another lead-actress nom in 1992 for the CBS drama series The Trials of Rosie O'Neill; a guest-actress nom in 2008 for the FX drama series Nip/Tuck; and a supporting-actress nom in 2010 for the USA drama series Burn Notice.

Emmy Memory: "I had lost to Tyne Daly, my partner on Cagney & Lacey, three years in a row. By that time, I had gotten the part of "charming in the face of defeat" down pat. Whenever they would announce Tyne's name, everyone would look at me. On our fourth year of being nominated, when I heard my name, my heart leapt. I could hear people screaming out of happiness for me. When I got to the microphone, Michael J. Fox presented me with the award — I think he was almost as happy as I was. My first words were, 'I'd like to thank Tyne Daly, who I am sure is the most relieved woman in this room tonight!' It got a laugh. Especially from Tyne."

Friends Indeed: I think I can speak for Tyne when I say I think we felt really swell about it. Being nominated is huge. I don't know how many people would believe me, but we rooted for one another. During the six years we were on the air, no other actress ever won the Emmy. Tyne won the first three years, I won the next two. I think we were both hoping I could win the sixth year also, so that we would tie. It was not meant to be, and the Emmy went back to Tyne. But, if I was going to lose, I'd rather lose to Tyne Daly.

Material Girls: One actress came up to us after our sixth year and told us she was so happy we had been canceled, because now there would be a chance for other women to win. We had the material. That was it. No one else was writing for women in those days.

Staying Power: "The Emmys have the same emotional power for me now as they did forty-one years ago, when I started in this amazing business. What a thrill to be chosen by your mates. I think we all pretend it doesn't matter, but... really?"

Roles to Remember: I have been lucky enough to have done ten series over my forty-one years in this wonderful business. Yes, I have a favorite: Christine Cagney from Cagney & Lacey. She changed my life. But I also love two other women I've had the honor of playing, as they also changed my life for the better: Debbie Novotny from Queer As Folk and now Madeline Weston from Burn Notice.

Real Lives: Television has grown tremendously over the years. I still think there was never a finer drama written for two female leads than Cagney & Lacey. It was real; one of the leads was very flawed — and very wonderful, if you don't mind my saying — the first alcoholic portrayed as a lead in a series. The two women changed many viewers' lives, so we are told. Not until recently did anyone even try and imitate them.

Words of Honor: I still think Christine Cagney was the most fascinating woman written for television. I can say that without boasting because I did not write her. I merely got to play her. We are nothing without the words — and the best executive producer in television, Barney Rosenzweig [Gless and Rosenzweig have been married since 1991]. Cagney & Lacey was very controversial in its day. By the time it ended, we had been thrown off the air three times.

On Notice: I am very blessed to have been a part of [USA Network's Burn Notice] and I am very sad it is ending. Seven years of my life, working with such wonderful actors…. Burn Notice was the invention of Matt Nix. I call him my Boy Genius. I believe it was/is the first CIA/spy series — at least that I remember. Other shows are copying it now, but it's not the same.

Mad for Madeline: Playing a spy's mother — especially a spy played by Jeffrey Donovan — has been funny [and] sad. [She's] a wonderfully written character. I don't remember James Bond having a mother. I have loved Madeline. [She's] so manipulative. So repentant. She made so many mistakes. And she loved her boys. But, as I say, I didn't write her. I just had the great honor of playing her. After her, I don't know what I want to do.

Happy Hiatus: I have nothing lined up yet. I have an idea of how I want to feel. And I know it will happen. I just don't know what it looks like yet. [For now, I'm enjoying] laughing with my husband, my friends, and my family.

Couples Club: "My two Emmys are in my home in Miami — right next to my husband's two Emmys. I have had people ask me if I dare destroy the balance of two each. I say, 'Absolutely!'"

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