Sharon Gless, age 67, is the quintessential showbiz survivor. After her iconic Emmy-winning role as Det Sgt Christine Cagney on the CBS cop drama Cagney & Lacey in the 1980s, she became a series regular decades later playing Moms on Showtime’s Queer As Folk and then on the USA Network hit Burn Notice. Along the way, she’s accrued 10 Emmy nominations (winning two for Cagney in 1986 and 1987). For her most recent nod, she competes with Rose Byrne (Damages), Christine Baranski and Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), and Christina Hendricks and Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men). Gless spoke with Ray Richmond for Deadline Hollywood about series work.
Deadline Hollywood: Does your 10th Emmy nod get to be old hat?
Sharon Gless: Not a chance. At my age, I take nothing for granted, and to still be acknowledged like this by my peers is a wonderful thing. I was so nervous about it that I turned off my phone the morning the nominations were announced and went on with my day. I thought, I know the sound of a phone not ringing and I don’t want to hear it. And then I got a call from my publicist telling me the fabulous news.
DH: And it’s your first nomination for a regular series role in 18 years.
SG: How great is that? Trust me, I’m very aware of how fortunate I am considering my age just to still be working. Most of my colleagues, Emmy-winning actresses, aren’t working anymore because all of the motion picture actresses my age are getting the parts these wonderful TV actresses used to get. But the good news is, the producers are writing better parts for women.
DH: It’s amazing to realize it was revolutionary at the time of Cagney & Lacey to have 2 women carrying an hour-long drama. Was the Emmy ever an issue between Tyne Daly and yourself?
SG: Never. Not a single bit. Tyne won the first three. I won the next two. Then Tyne won one more after that. When I finally won one, the first words out of my mouth were, “I want to thank Tyne Daly, who I’m sure is the most relieved woman in this room.” And she was.
DH: It seems as if you’ve never really stopped working since then.
SG: Well, there was a five-year drought in there in the 1990s. When I turned 50, I went into menopause, gave up smoking, I was a newlywed, and I weighed 200 pounds, all at once. Oops! That was a bad time. I physically changed and the work stopped. I wound up doing a lot of theater, because the theater stage is forgiving.
DH: But you managed to come back to TV.
SG: I’m stubborn that way. And there’s been a lot of luck involved, too. I’m having way too good a time now to dwell on any of that. I’m still employable. I’m on the highest-rated cable show in the nation, thank God — and I’m not even a religious person. The chemistry we have between all of the actors on this series is just wonderful, and that isn’t something you can ever take credit or plan for. So I know how lucky I am. And I just want to ride this out for as long as I can.