Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless – She’s Lacey and She’s Cagney
by Jay S. Jacobs
Originally posted on 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 regular supporting 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.
How weird is it to think that it has been 25 years since Cagney & Lacey debuted?
Sharon Gless: It’s pretty darned weird. (both laugh)
Tyne Daly: 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 time?
Sharon Gless: 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 along.
Well, hopefully, the others will come. They usually do it that way…
Sharon Gless: 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?
Sharon Gless: 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?
Tyne Daly: 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.