Television has had plenty of cop shows, but none was like “Cagney & Lacey,” which was groundbreaking for having two female police officers as its lead characters. “Cagney & Lacey” (which starred Sharon Gless as Christine Cagney and Tyne Daly as Mary Beth Lacey) was on the air from 1982 and 1998, and garnered several Emmy Awards, including four for Daly and two for Gless. Now the longtime friends and former co-stars are reunited in the “Burn Notice” episode titled “Dark Road,” which premieres January 21 at 10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time on the USA Network.
“Burn Notice” cast member Gless co-stars as Madeline Westen, the mother of undercover agent Michael Westen (played by Jeffrey Donovan). Daly guest stars in the “Dark Road” episode as a woman named Tina who has a run-in with Madeline. During a recent telephone conference call with journalists, Gless and Daly talked about their on-screen reunion, their favorite “Cagney & Lacey” memories, and the most adventurous thing they’ve ever done.
How did you all feel about the prospect of re-teaming?
Gless: Well I loved it. I’ve been trying to talk Tyne into coming and doing our show. Tyne said she’ll do it if she could play a mute. But [“Burn Notice” executive producer] Matt Nix said, “I’m not paying Tyne Daly to not hear that voice of hers.”
Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless in “Burn Notice”
Had you all tried to work together in the past few years?
Gless: Go ahead, Tyne. I did Tyne’s show “Judging Amy.”
Daly: She did, she came. And Sharon came when we were in trouble because my colleague had died, Richard Crenna, and we were thrown into a very unpleasant situation. Sharon came and pinch hit and was lovely on our show. And so I figured to do “Burn Notice,” you know, turn about is fair play. And besides that … we play very easy together. We have a good time.
Do you have a very natural chemistry?
Daly: I guess so.
Gless: We’ve been doing it a long time. We developed something on “Cagney & Lacey.” And I find it very easy and wonderful working with Tyne when she was with us. When we were in the makeup trailer, we’re sitting just chatting and laughing before we begin, and that isn’t sort of the tone of our makeup trailer. So everybody was going, “Boy, I wish that we did that more.”
Tyne, did Sharon warn you about “Burn Notice” before you came on?
Daly: Well, actually, I have to confess that I did not see Sharon on “Nip/Tuck,” although I heard tales. Because I’ve needed to have a rest from the 21st century, I no longer have a television set.
Daly: I wouldn’t kid you about a thing like that. But I heard about “Nip/Tuck.” And one day when I’m very calm I’ll sit down and screen it, but I didn’t have that to scare me off. She can’t scare me, man.
Tyne Daly in “Burn Notice”
So what did she tell you about coming on “Burn Notice”?
Daly: She said there was a part. She said it wasn’t big enough. She said come anyway and I said, “Yeah.”
Tyne, what kind of a vibe did you get from “Burn Notice” when you went to work on the show?
Daly: That Sharon was safe and sound, that they love her there. They admire her there. I threatened everybody if they weren’t treating her right that I would lean on them, you know. But it seems to be a good working place. I don’t know that we’ll ever replicate the kind of work we did in our primes, you know. We had the advantage of an opportunity to do something that hadn’t been done on TV before. But I figure, you know, the two of us are continuing to do what we do. And if we do it with some kind of class, I’m grateful for that.
Gless: I’ll tell you what happened. When Tyne walked in — we always walked in together — over that set the likes of which I’ve never seen. I said to the crew, I said, “I didn’t get this kind of respect when I walked in.” But the two of us together, I was fascinated because I know my crew. They were just so, so respectful wanting to watch us work together.
Daly: And we felt like it’s kind of like bicycle riding. With Sharon, we just fall into a rhythm and it was nice and easy. It was really fun. We had only three or four scenes but it felt like a very great tennis match.
Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless in “Cagney & Lacey”
Going back in time do you guys remember when you first started working together. Tyne, what did you learn from Sharon? And Sharon, what did you learn from Tyne? We’ll start with Tyne.
Daly:What did I learn from Sharon? That laughing is important in a situation. When you’re working really hard, laughing is important to do as much as humanly possible. I think we laughed everyday. And there were some tense days, too, but we laughed anyway. That’s what I learned from Sharon.
Gless: Thank you, Tyne. Thank you. I think the more tense the situation became, the more we started laughing.
Daly: There’s hysterical laughing too, there’s nervous laughing, that’s right.
Gless: Right. What did I learn from Tyne? When I first started the show I learned generosity towards another actor. I’d never seen anything like that. Tyne was so generous in welcoming me to the show. I was her third Cagney. She liked the last one she worked with. And made me feel like I was welcome and it was my home now. And she was just wonderful. And I try to do that when we have guests who are nervous, you know, I always remember how generous she was to me.
Tyne Daly in “Burn Notice”
Tyne, can you describe your Tina character on “Burn Notice”?
Daly: To me she was just kind of a little, you know, a low-rate bureaucrat. She’s protective of her position. And then she meets a woman who sort of offered her friendship and she’s so knocked off her game that she gets conned.
Gless: She was absolutely wonderful – this is Sharon – she was absolutely wonderful.
Sharon, can you give us some insight about what’s going to happen in this particular episode from your character’s perspective?
Gless: Well apparently, I’m not allowed to tell … But it’s very, very unusual the situations that they put me in with Tyne. They had me go undercover. They had to have me go undercover because they were busy. And their characters were busy … and the person that I went to deal with was Tyne Daly.
Tyne, what was it that inspired you to ban the television from your house?
Daly: Banned sounds very violent. It’s not about ban it’s just about resting. The world is very noisy and, you know, I need to rest from it. There’s far too much technical demand going on. So there’ll come a time when I’ll probably … I know I’m talking to TV publications, I shouldn’t ever say that. I’m now going to not say that, I’ll try and be smart. I’m busy and I can’t memorize stuff when I’m looking at other stuff, you know what I’m saying?
Gless: I sent Tyne a product of mine and she went to her neighbor’s apartment to watch it.
Daly: Yeah I did, you know, I’ve watched my brother’s show at my neighbor’s house. I watch Sharon Gless at my neighbor’s house. I rely on the kindness of strangers to allow me to see stuff that I’m really interested in.
Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly in “Cagney & Lacey”
Does it bother you now to still be associated with your “Cagney & Lacey” characters?
Daly: There was a time that I promised Sharon that we would not be photographed together and they would not speak in terms of “Cagney & Lacey,” and I was wrong. But I don’t resent it because it means that we have both been able to keep working and keeping plying our trade and do other stuff. And, no, I don’t feel bad about it. Not me.
Gless: Me either. I really do thank “Cagney & Lacey” for providing all the work that we’ve been able to have since then. Barney Rosenzweig, our producer, still maintains that we’re worth more together than we are as a single.
Daly: It could be true, but you ain’t hurting either, babe.
There really been another TV show since Cagney & Lacey with two such strong female characters together. Why do you think it’s been so long?
Gless: I was very aware – Tyne used to say we really did want to pass the gauntlet and to let hopefully another show like that because TV totally plagiarizes, I mean, it steals from itself all the time. And they never did copy the format. But I heard recently this – I can’t remember anybody’s name but the man who produces all the “CSI” shows that he is now going to do a “Cagney & Lacey” — not call it that, but two female cops together. I don’t know how you get away with that and not call it “Cagney & Lacey,” but hey. They say that’s what he’s going to attempt.
Daly: Maybe we did it so well in the first place that they’ve hesitated to try and copy it, I don’t know. I don’t run the zoo and I’m really glad I don’t.
Gless: Yeah, me too.
Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly in “Cagney and Lacey”
The new show is called “Jax and Amber.” If that that show asked both of you to come as Cagney & Lacey, just as a cameo, would that be something you’d consider?
Daly: Lacey’s retired, man, I don’t know about Cag, but she’s retired.
Gless: I don’t know. I’d have to see the part. But I don’t think I’d come on as Chris Cagney. I mean, I’m a little long in the tooth now to be playing that character. Does it take place in New York like ours did?
There aren’t a lot of details out yet but it’s definitely getting compared to “Cagney & Lacey” in pretty much every mention.
Daly: Everything gets compared to everything in Hollywood. Yeah, you go into Hollywood and they say you’re the new this or the new that, that’s a long standing game. If I were the producers of this new show, I wouldn’t be concerned about it for a moment.
Tyne, are you interested in doing like a regular TV gig and if Tina was offered up as a regular gig would you take it?
Daly: Well at the moment I don’t have time. I’m doing the cabaret in San Francisco and then New York and L.A. and wherever else. Yeah, so I’m doing my cabaret and after that I’m obliged to play in Washington. When I finished “Judging Amy,” I was ready to take some time to be in a kind of theater where you’re in the same room as your audience. So, you know, musical theater, legitimate theater, cabaret all have to do with being with your audience at the same time and not being on film. When I tire of this, we’ll see if anybody wants to ever take my picture again. That’s in 10 years time.
Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless at the Museum of Television & Radio in Beverly Hills, California, in 2007
Outside of working together once in a while since “Cagney & Lacey,” are you in touch? Do you guys see each other, you know, socially?
Gless: Whenever we can. We live in different cities but we’re very, very close.
Daly: Yeah, right now we’re both in San Francisco. Sharon is opening a play. I’m opening at the Raz Room and our schedules are exactly the same so we’re going to be able to maybe have a, you know, a glass of wine and a hamburger together. But we’re not going to be able to see each other’s shows which is too bad.
Gless: I know.
Daly: Staying busy is great. The drawback is you don’t have a lot of leisure time. But I am always grateful to “Cagney & Lacey” because I got my friend Sharon out of it. You know, she’s a real friend and a friend for life. And that doesn’t always happen in our business. It’s really pretty rare.
What did each of you want in the “Burn Notice” script in order to work together again?
Daly: The best jokes.
Gless: I’m not allowed to tell exactly what happens between us. But I don’t know if they could pull us back together again after what happened. But that’s after what happens on film … I think she should be playing the woman who actually is behind this whole “Burn Notice” thing.
Daly: That’d be fun.
Daly: You know, Sharon, how interested I am in power.
Gless: I know.
Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly in “Cagney & Lacey”
In what ways do both of you see how women on TV today are benefiting from the ground you paved on “Cagney & Lacey”?
Gless: There are some wonderful shows on starring really, really wonderful women. It’s mostly motion-picture stars who would never touch television who now are flying to it who are playing strong women, the leads … I hope we had some impact, I mean, there’s some wonderful women on the air now in strong roles.
Daly: Well, you know, television serves very briefly in its own time as far as I’m concerned. So we hit a very lucky time when we could reflect because I don’t think television leads. I think it reflects. We could reflect some of the influences that were happening in the society. Women come up to me and say how grateful they were that they spent time with their moms watching TV or that they were encouraged to be professionals because of the images that they saw us do. Whether or not that thing would be of use in the 21st century, I don’t know. We’re onto third-wave feminism and a whole bunch of stuff that I don’t understand completely. But I do think we did good service in our time. And I can stay proud of that.
Gless: While we were on the air, [we] got lots of mail from young girls saying we’re going to join the force. And I always wanted to say, “Are you crazy? you could get killed.” But now it’s been 20 years later and I’ve met so many of them who are now have put in their 20, and they’re retiring.
What do you each appreciate about each other now that you couldn’t during the height of “Cagney & Lacey”?
Daly: We’ve been pretty good at appreciating each other.
Gless: Yeah. I still appreciate Tyne’s talent and I appreciate her friendship.
Daly: I am encouraged that Sharon keeps finding new things to do and new ways to be of service as an actor and so I can too. If I get blue and I get bummed I think well, Gless has gone to London and done a play and she’s developing a new plan thing.
Gless: If Gless can do it …
Daly: Really but, you know, I wanted to be a long-distance runner, when I started out. And Sharon is being one and I’m being one in a profession where usually you do your sprint and then it’s over, especially for women in some way. Women don’t tend to last in this business. They think their shelf life is much shorter than the guy’s. So I’m encouraged by Miss Gless.
Gless: Thank you, my friend. And I you.
Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless in “Cagney & Lacey”
What are the differences you’ve seen in your opportunities since “Cagney & Lacey”? Differences as in the culture changing, roles available for women?
Gless: I’m not equipped to discuss the culture but there are better parts now for women than there were when we were television. I think that’s why we got the acclaim we did … And it’s because we had the material. But I think “Cagney & Lacey” certainly had impact. And it’s probably one of the reasons why there are so many good women’s roles today. There were not at that time.
Daly: I think though on another level, you make your own opportunities, you find them. There are places to go and serve as an actor and be entertaining or amusing or interesting if you’re willing to find them. If you think there’s only one place to do it like it has to be Broadway or it has to be Hollywood then you limit yourself. I’m enjoying at this point well after my prime, you know, being able to go and be an actor or a singer or whatever I’m doing in different places. I think actors limit themselves to a specific location and that’s the only allowable success. Does that make any sense? So if you accept limitations then, yeah, you’ll be limited. If you don’t accept limitations then the horizon is pretty vast.
What do each of you do to get through the tough times in your careers? What was like cheered you up and made things better?
Daly: Well, we call each other.
Gless: We go out and have a hot fudge sundae together.
Daly: Hot fudge sundaes help, yeah.
Gless: I don’t know what I’d do. I mean I’ve been very fortunate … to continue working. Since “Cagney & Lacey,” I think both of us have really been on the air, or as Tyne on stage, ever since then.
Daly: Yeah, you know, it depends on what you’re willing to accept. When I started “Judging Amy,” which was another television series that went for six years which most television shows do not, all I had to do was cut my price and play 10 years older than I was. But I wanted to be acting. And I wanted to be acting on television. I wanted that regular job again. I spent several years of not having a regular job and it was time to fulfill my obligations as a worker so that turned out OK.
After that, you change as it comes. Sharon said, “OK, I’m going to do ‘Queer as Folk,’ and I’m going to move to Canada. She had to live and work in Canada. She had to be willing to do that.” So there haven’t been a lot of patches of inactivity really for either one of us …
Gless: Yeah, we’ve been very, very blessed because that isn’t the situation, yeah, with most of our colleagues. So, yeah, I think we’re both very blessed.
Sharon Gless in “Burn Notice”
You’re both doing a lot of theater these days. Sharon, could you describe the process a little bit especially about starting a new show with “The Round-Heeled Woman”?
Gless: Oh, the process. I bought the option on this book about nine years ago. It’s gone through many lives and now it’s actually happening here in San Francisco. But it’s been a long time coming, long, long, long. And I’m nervous. But I don’t know really how to describe the process it just took time and patience and finding the right people to do it. I can’t do it alone, you know.
Do you guys give each other advice about your respective shows?
Gless: Well, I fit Tyne in the script and she applauded my courage.
Daly: I think we’ve been pretty good supporters of each other, you know since “Cagney & Lacey.” I’m interested in Sharon’s work and what she’s doing and trying to follow it and she in mine. Right now we’re both in San Francisco, and yet our schedules are so much the same that I’m not going to get to see her play and she’s not to get to come over and see the cabaret which is too bad.
But I think we don’t hesitate to, you know, tell each other our opinions. And you can’t get straight opinions out of a lot of people in this business. So I think in some ways I rely on Sharon to give me the straight story. You know, she came to New York to see me try this cabaret thing at Feinstein’s in New York and was not only a supporter and a booster but also somebody who told me the straight story about what she liked and what she didn’t.
Gless: She was fabulous. And I loved her shoes.
Daly: Are you the best fashionista lady? I never spent so much money on shoes in my whole life I’m now working this cabaret all over the country to work off the shoes.
Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless in “Burn Notice”
Would you guys ever consider doing theater together?
Gless: Absolutely, I would.
Gless: We actually were approached by a company in London to do a project that, time-wise, it didn’t work out for either of us but.
Daly: There’ll be a time. I think there’ll be a time to say if the gods subscribe. You know, years ago we were approached to do some production somewhere of “Arsenic and Old Lace.” And we both kind of got, you know, a little huffy and said we’re too [young], but in another 10 years, Shar, “Arsenic and Old Lace” might be right up our street. It’s nice to know it’s over there in case we need it when we get well into our 70s.
Gless: But in the interim I’d love her to come back to “Burn Notice.” They loved her.
Daly: I had a good time. I had a good time.
What is the most adventurous thing you have done?
Gless: Adventurous I would call frightening. This play I’m about to start is the frightening thing I’ve ever done.
Daly: The most adventurous thing. Well, I’m not sure that I interpret it as frightening. I think the most adventurous thing you can do is actually follow your impulses, your deep impulses. The most adventurous thing I did in my life was get married. Well, 27 years and three kids and two and a half grandchildren — I got another grandchild coming — is not too bad. So far, so far so good. Like half of American marriages end in divorce, but I’m not going to throw out that part of it for the value of the marriage itself was fantastic.
Sharon Gless, Bruce Campbell, Jeffrey Donovan and Gabrielle Anwar in “Burn Notice”
Sharon, you keep saying about how terrified you are of this play. What exactly are you worried about?
Gless: Well, it’s an original piece. I’ve owned it for nine years. It’s finally being made in San Francisco. And it’s a true story of a 66-year old woman [who] took an ad out in the New York Review of Books who wanted to … [ask] for sex. And I’m playing it. And it’s scary. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done. And the woman I’m actually playing is going to be there opening night.
Tyne, how was working with Jeffrey Donovan in “Burn Notice”?
Daly: Well, we didn’t have very much of an opportunity. He was very gracious and behaved the way the star of a television show should behave in terms of greeting guest stars. I think you can always feel on a set whether it’s a happy set or not, whether the people are engaged in the work they’re doing. So you know, he was lovely. And big bang, I was gone, so we didn’t have much to do together. But I think he knew the value of how fun it was for me to be playing with my erstwhile colleague and he was nice about it. He was deferential I could say.
Gless: They were all very excited that she was on the show.
Sharon, what else is coming up for Madeline?
Gless: I don’t know. I haven’t seen the new scripts.
Sharon Gless, Gerald Owens and Jeffrey Donovan in “Burn Notice”
So do Madeline and Michael come to a better understanding?
Gless: Based on this episode with Tyne it wasn’t. Yes, I mean, there’s a lovely scene at the end where our understandings kind of — if you’ve seen our relationship — are unspoken. I mean if we came across like “Father Knows Best,” that isn’t the nature of this show. She loves him. I mean, she’s crazy about him. And I believe he loves her, too. It’s just there’s a lot of blood under the bridge. So there’s a slight little distance between them … I like it. Because it gives you someplace to go, you know?
Daly: Sharon, you make me want to see the show.
Can you share your favorite memories from your time on “Cagney & Lacey”?
Daly: Oh, darling, it’s so long ago I can’t remember a thing. I deny everything. I remember nothing.
Gless: I do remember my favorite time and Tyne referred to it earlier. We did laugh a lot. And my favorite time we occasionally — when we were so tired, I mean, 17 hour days — we’d get to a part of a scene and one of us would get the giggles. And we couldn’t stop. They’d cut, start again and when we’d get to that exact same place. I mean, we’d be so, so tired that we’d just start giggling.
Daly: There were diminishing returns. There’d get to a place where you’re so tired and there is really no point in going on then. Only the smartest of directors or producers would say, “Let’s call it for the day; this is over.” But I’ll tell you what I appreciated a great deal about Miss Gless, when we started working together I needed to do the next day’s work before I went home. And I had kids and a husband at home, but we would stay and run through the next day’s scenes … whatever was on the call sheet for the next day.
And we would go through it and we would pound it to death until we felt we understood it so that we could come in in the morning and know what we were up to. And she was willing to do that kind of rehearsing and investigating that I felt was absolutely necessary. And I don’t think, Shar, tell me if I’m wrong, but you weren’t sort of brought up in that tradition.
Gless: No, but I loved it so much that I became dependent on it. And any show I’ve done since then that’s what I have to do. I don’t think I’ve ever had a co-star who’s interested in doing it with me but then I have to hire somebody to be my Tyne Daly because there was such value in that process.
Daly: Yeah, the work ethic was really pretty impeccable, considering that we were in the terrible shoals of television land where everybody puts it down and says it’s less than. We had a work ethic that was pretty fine.
Sharon Gless in “Burn Notice”
Sharon, were there any giggles during the “Burn Notice” filming or anything like that or did they not work you guys so tirelessly?
Gless: We didn’t really have a chance on the set to laugh a lot. Our scenes were sort of emotional. But we certainly laughed in the makeup trailer and laughed. We went out to dinner and laughed.
Daly: I’d say for Sharon, it was a really responsible part. It’s a kind of opportunity on “Burn Notice” that she hasn’t had before. It’s quite exciting to see that character get exploded out of just his mom. But I was there on a three-day vacation. I came down and did my little bit and did my supporting of my friend whom I love dearly and would go anywhere to give a boost to. And then the rest of the time I could just kind of fool around. And by the end of it it was the end of the season, right Shar?
Daly: Yeah, so we went out and had dinner and laughed a lot in the relief part when it’s over and you go, “OK, good, congratulations, it’s the end of your season. Let’s have a dinner and eat too much and drink too much and laugh too much.” It was swell.
Gless: Actually, it wasn’t the end of the season because this show opens the second half of Year 3. Does that make sense?
Daly: All right.
Gless: So I still had like six more [episodes] to do, but that didn’t stop me from going out and playing with Tyne.
Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly in “Cagney & Lacey”
When was off the set of “Cagney & Lacey” that you realized you weren’t just co-workers?
Gless: That happened for me before we ever started working together. Tyne Daly came to my house with champagne and balloons before we ever stepped in front of a camera and I fell in love.
Daly: I was charged to get Sharon to do the show. We had had Loretta Swit, we had had Meg Foster and they were recasting again. I was deeply pissed off. I wanted to get on with it. I loved the project and I loved the idea of these two women as colleagues. And so the agents and the managers and the thing and the producers had all been in it. But Sharon luckily had a birthday on the 31st of May which is one of those national holidays — what the hell is it?
Gless: Memorial Day.
Daly: Yes, Memorial Day. I should be grateful to all of us who fought. But so everybody was out of town. And I called her up and I said, “I know it’s your birthday. Let me come over, let’s talk this over.” And we sat on the floor of her little house in California and I said, “Come out and play. The thing can’t go forever, for God sake it’ll never go over. It’s about, you know, two women are the stars. But it’s a good gig and please come out and play with me.” And I think that was the thing that convinced her to finally say yes.
Gless: There were a lot of reasons actually. But we polished off that bottle of champagne together.
Daly: We did. And celebrated her birthday and I think at that point we decided to be partners and colleagues. And that was unshakeable for the next six years whether the story was mainly about one or the other, the prize went to one or the other, whatever the vicissitudes. We had a huge fight about billing. We had a huge fight about all sorts of things. But we sort of let them fight while we stayed tight. And that was a lesson of colleague-ness that turned into friendship for me. It wasn’t so at the beginning but it turned into this lady who’s a friend of mine.
For more info: “Burn Notice” website
Photo credits: Photo #1: Getty Images. Photos #4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 16: CBS. Photo #8: WireImage. All other photos: USA Network.