In the 1980s, Cagney & Lacey proved that two women could carry an action-oriented police show. But even as its stars, Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly, changed Hollywood’s notions of women’s work, they didn’t become close pals until recently.
“While we were working together, we didn’t have the time to be pals. Over the past three years, we’ve discovered one another as personal friends,” Sharon tells Closer. “I talk to her every day of my life now.”
The Emmy-winning actress recalls her seven seasons playing Christine Cagney on the groundbreaking show and shares stories from her personal life in her new memoir, Apparently There Were Complaints.
“The title just led me,” Sharon confides. “I wanted to write about all the complaints about me and, God knows, there were many!”
It started early. Sharon’s prominent California family expected her to grow up, become a socialite and marry well — but she had different ideas. “I wanted to be an actress,” she explains. “I couldn’t be a society dame, raise these perfect children and be the perfect wife. I couldn’t do the things that were expected of me and still be a fine actress.”
Still, Sharon waited until age 26 to commit to an actor’s life. “That’s a late start in Hollywood, [but] I used to bury my dream,” she says. Being a late bloomer served Sharon well. She married her longtime love, Cagney & Lacey producer Barney Rosenzweig, in 1991 when she was 47.
Today, the couple’s romance, which began in secret on the set, has progressed through 30 years of marriage. “The fact that he was my married boss was a major issue, but it never affected me in the workplace,” Sharon says, adding that their life together has been “colorful” and filled with laughter. “My secret for a happy marriage is separate bathrooms and making each other laugh,” she says. “There are some things that only laughter can cure.”
In the decades since Cagney & Lacey left primetime in 1988, Sharon has starred in other series, including The Trials of Rosie O’Neill and Queer as Folk. The latter turned her into a vocal activist for the gay community.
“I thought it was going to be fun playing this outrageous mother,” she says, but instead it became a learning experience. “I had no idea of the heartache. It’s not an easy life at first, and years ago, it was a lot harder than it is now,” she says. “I’ve been an advocate ever since. They’re my boys out there.”
Sharon learned a different sort of lesson in 2015 when a health crisis forced her to quit drinking. She says her “love affair with martinis” nearly killed her — ironic because her Cagney & Lacey character was an alcoholic.
“With alcohol, you just stop. There is no, I’ll just have a little. Alcohol is all or nothing,” Sharon says, adding that writing her life story without drinking helped her to see herself clearly. “Despite everything, there wasn’t anything I was afraid to tell. I survived it,” she says. “I could look at myself in the mirror without the diffusion of alcohol and realize I was a bit of all right. I like how I turned out.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).