Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
May 19, 2007.
It was a series that broke all the rules.
A cop drama in which the two leads were both women – looking at the personal
and professional lives of two women making their way in a man’s world and
not only keeping up, but excelling.
Hard to believe it has been 25 years since
Cagney and Lacey debuted on television. Finally, in time for that
monumental anniversary, 22 of the first season episodes of the series
starring Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless are being released on DVD. (Earlier
incarnations of the series with Loretta Swit and Meg Foster in the role that
Gless made famous are conspicuously absent from the box set.)
Tyne Daly is the member of a famous TV
family – daughter of John Daly and sister of Tim Daly. Daly has been in TV
and films going back to the late 60s. Before she got the role of Mary Beth
Lacey she was probably best known as Dirty Harry’s partner in Clint
Eastwood’s 1977 film The Enforcer. After years of acclaim in C&L,
she has moved on to other series like Christy (with Kellie
Martin) and Judging Amy (with Amy Brenneman).
Sharon Gless, who had a
role in the Robert Wagner/Eddie Albert con-man series Switch, came into the
equation shortly after the first season began – replacing Meg Foster in the
role of Christine Cagney after the first six episodes. She ended up
marrying series producer Barney Rosenzweig in 1991. Since the show left the
air, she starred on the London stage version of Stephen King’s Misery
and spent five years on the Showtime dramatic series Queer as Folk.
As the first season of Cagney and Lacey
was about to be released on DVD, Daly and Gless gave us a call to talk about
their careers and the show.
weird is it to think that it has been 25 years since
Cagney & Lacey debuted?
It’s pretty darned weird. (both laugh)
I don’t remember growing old. The child I
had in the fourth season is 21 years of age. Graduates from college in a
week. I’m pretty thrilled with that. But there’s nothing quite like a baby
who’s now a grown-up to tell you how long it’s been.
How nice is it that the show is finally
getting released on DVD – so that people can see your work after all this
I wish they had more than the first season. But it is starting with the
first season. Because I always felt that we got better as each year went
the others will come. They usually do it that way…
It also is coinciding with Barney [Rosenzweig]’s
book coming out. He has a book coming out called Cagney & Lacey... and Me.
Sharon, before getting the
show, I know you did a series that was one of my favorites as a kid,
Switch… That was certainly a
lighter show. Was it an adjustment going to a more dramatic series?
Well, yes. That was Robert Wagner and Eddie Albert. Yeah, that was the
very beginning of my career. That was the big time to me at that time. By
the time I got to Cagney and Lacey, it was a totally different kind
of obligation. I wasn’t the supporting player anymore. I was carrying the
show with Tyne. Also, I had never worked with a female colleague before. I
always played opposite men. So I was a lucky one. The first woman I
started off with and it was Tyne Daly. It doesn’t get better than that.
Tyne, you had done a lot of TV, too.
You got recurring parts – though different roles mostly I believe – in
classic shows like Quincy, The
Mod Squad and Medical Center. What was it like to finally get
your own series?
Well, I spent more than fifteen years [as]
a victim. Pretty enough to be the decoration, and the choices then for
women were to be the decoration or the victim. So I played a lot of
victims. By the time I got a chance to be the hero it was a great relief,
because I was really tired of making those faces and shedding all those
tears. The opportunity was fantastic.
When the show first started, first there
was the TV movie with Loretta Swit, then Meg Foster played Cagney in the
first six episodes, I believe. Why was the decision made on the box set not
to use those?
They’ll pull that out as a lure sometime.
“The Lost Episodes,” or whatever… I think that when the series hit its
stride, it was because they found the Cagney that they always wanted –
Sharon. Before that, Sharon had been tied up in other work and was
unavailable. She supplied the tone, the sensibility, the vibe on Cagney in
a way that worked.
both done a lot of work over the years, but to this day you are probably
best known for these two characters. Why do you think that they resonated
for so many people?
I think people like to see themselves. Between the two of us and the six
years of the emotional upheavals we went through – not only our job, but as
has been quoted many times, it was really a series about two women, who
happened to be cops. That was my impression. The reality of their
feelings, the stories they tell each other behind closed doors had never
been done before. That had nothing to do with the job. I think a lot of
women and some men, too, responded to that.
It was unusual in that the women were at the center of the story.
Right. It’s interesting, even to this
day, there are plenty of crime dramas out there with women in leading roles,
I can’t think of any others where there are two women working together.
They are always partnered up with men. It seems like that would be sort of
a natural. Why do you think the idea is still such a hard sell on
The closest they ever came to that Judging Amy, which had Tyne and
Amy Brenneman. I don’t know. There was so much controversy around our
show. I think the networks are still run by men.
I think that nobody wants that trouble again. (chuckles) Producers
are still loath to give over an expensive hour of television to women,
because they don’t think they have the staying power. Even though we proved
that and tried again with Christy and tried again with Judging Amy,
which had a good, long run. I think it’s difficult for the bosses to
imagine – just like a lot of bosses – it’s difficult to imagine that women
have the kind of talent and the kind of interest [to sustain a show]. I
always wanted the show to appeal to men, too, because I had my Harvey
[Lacey’s husband in the series, played by John Karlen]. Within the
character of Mary Beth, she had a married life and children. What was
genius was that she had a partner in her work who also had a private life
that was very intricate and patchy. (Both laugh.)
Gless: I love the word
intricate. That’s a good word. She had lots of boyfriends that she went
through before she found somebody that she was really in love with. When
she was really in love with somebody, she couldn’t hang on because of other
choices that she had to make about her life. So, the problematic situations
that we were put in were specifically female problems. I believe, because I
spent really all my career in television – that television steals from
itself. This is the only show that I’ve ever seen that the format was never
Ernie Kovacs, and you’re probably too
young to remember him, but Ernie Kovacs said that imitation was the
sincerest form of television. (They both laugh again.)
What’s it like watching the old shows.
Had it been a while? How do you feel that it has held up over the years?
Well, I sat down the day before yesterday
and did some homework on this. I went to my local store and I bought –
since I was not offered free (laughs) – I bought the DVDs and had
some time to take a look. Some of them I remembered very clearly. I
remembered parts of other ones and there were ones that I didn’t remember at
all. I looked at all 22 of them. There were 22 or 24.
No, all together, but I meant [for the
first season box set.]
Oh, there were 22.
There were some reunion TV movies in the
1990s. Would you be interested in going back and doing that again?
Well, at the time, our producer was
interested in doing one a year.
Two a year.
We made four altogether. The first one was a wonderful success. The second
one was a good success. Then the last two were sort of buried.
They were buried. The exec who took over CBS
didn’t like the show. Buried them.
difficult for any actor to get long-term series work, and even more
difficult in more than one show. Yet Tyne, you did this series and
Christy and Judging Amy.
And Sharon, you had Queer as Folk. How was working on those shows
different than the old days, and do you think Cagney and Lacey helped
you to get those parts?
Sharon Gless: Well, Cagney and Lacey was certainly the reason that I got
Queer as Folk. I think every show that I’ve done since Cagney and
Lacey, I’ve acquired because of Cagney and Lacey. But I did
nothing in Cagney and Lacey to prepare me for Queer as Folk.
(They both laugh.) That’s about as big a leap as you can make.
Definitely. How about with
Well, all I had to do to nail down that job on Judging Amy was cut my
price and play 60.
Now, not only have you worked regularly
in TV for over two decades, but your brother has as well. Is there
something about the Daly genes that set you up for television success?
Well my brother Timmy thinks of the Daly family, which includes my dad’s
career on television and his and mine – maybe have the longest track record
in series television. (Laughs) I have done – let’s see, six and six
and two is – fourteen years of series television out of the forty years I’ve
been an actor. I don’t know whether this is… I guess we like to work. I
grew up in the business, so the idea was get the work and keep on working.
I’ve always wanted to be a long distance runner. Certainly it shifts. The
focus shifted in mine from victim to hero to character actor. But that’s
fine with me. I think that those long range careers – like Angela Lansbury
– it’s rare for women, but it is possible for women to keep on working in
this business for a long time – if you are willing to serve the work rather
than ask the work to serve you.
Nowadays, so much of scripted TV is
disappearing in favor of reality. Granted dramas like yours are still much
stronger than comedies, but why do you think this change has happened?
Sharon Gless: It’s all about money. Reality shows – the reason there are so many
reality shows is because there are no actors in them and it doesn’t cost
them any money. No union crews. They need no writers.
The smartest line about reality shows – “The producer’s dream. No actors,
no writers and the people all have to eat rat.” (Sharon laughs) I
believe that’s the reason that reality shows as opposed to serious ones [are
it surprise you that there are so many staunch fans of
Cagney and Lacey all these years
later? Particularly, I’ve heard that the show had a huge gay and lesbian
Sharon Gless: Cagney and Lacey, I believe, always had a strong lesbian
When Sharon won the Emmy, she came to me and said, “Tyne what am I going to
do? I got 320 letters and they’re all from women.” (They laugh.)
Sharon Gless: I appreciate it. They really kept me going. The two big hits I did
in my life were Cagney and Lacey and Queer as Folk. I’ve got
some gratitude. But, I’m not surprised, not surprised at all. I think that
– a lot of people thought, or we were accused of – not that it’s a bad thing
– being lesbians. People couldn’t imagine two straight women… I mean two
Supporting each other. Not in competition. But also there is the
portion of our audience that loved the marriage of the Laceys.
health of that relationship and the fact that they were fair fighters with
each other and that they were crazy about each other.
Sharon Gless: The truth is Tyne got all the letters from the men, and I got them
from the women.
But I got letters from men saying, “Please give me Sharon Gless’ address.”
(They both laugh.) It’s hard to know. The joke question was always
who’s who? Which one is which? Which one is Cagney and which one is
Lacey? Going on with my work, people would stop me and say, “How is
Sharon? How’s your partner?” They say, “Please tell Sharon I love that
show she’s on.” So I always get people asking after Sharon when they talk
to me about my work.
Sharon Gless: And the same with me.
Which is really pretty satisfying.
We used to call each other up and tell these stories – that sounded like
they would begin with our personal inflated ego. They wanted to speak with
Sharon. I was so thrilled. Turned out the only reason they wanted to talk
to me is they wanted to ask how Tyne was.
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Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
May 19, 2007.