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Sharon Gless Interview: Orgasms, Cagney and 'Burn Notice'

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Image attributed to Sharon Gless

Sharon Gless

Multi-award winning actress of stage, film, and television, Sharon Marguerite Gless was born in Los Angeles, California, on May 31, 1943. Her maternal grandfather was a corporate and film industry attorney and her uncle, Jack Baur, was a major movie-casting director.

Regardless of her show business connections, Gless paid her dues on the small screen in her early career with guest spots on numerous television shows in the 1970s, until being offered co-starring roles in Marcus Welby, MD., and Switch (which was her first long-running TV series).

“Melissa, I’m not being defensive, but that orgasm got applause every night! It did … every single night!”

Prominence and fame arrived for the talented performer in the fall of 1982 when she replaced Meg Foster in the role of Christine Cagney on the police drama, Cagney & Lacey. Throughout it’s six-year run on the small screen, Gless and and co-star Tyne Daly won every single Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series, a winning streak unmatched in any major category by a show.

In 1991, Gless married the show’s executive producer, Barney Rosenzweig who created the 1990-1992 CBS drama series The Trials of Rosie O’Neill for her. The producer played the (only partially seen) psychiatrist to whom attorney O’Neill confided in at the beginning of each episode. Gless earned two more Emmy nominations for this role.

Cagney & Lacey was followed by four television movies, which reunited the title characters: The Return (1994), Together Again (1995), The View Through the Glass Ceiling (1995), and True Convictions (1996).

Between 2000 and 2005, Gless appeared as Hal Spark’s supportive, but somewhat overbearing mother, Debbie Novotny, in the acclaimed Showtime cable television series Queer as Folk. In addition, the busy actress appeared as a guest star on several episodes of the FX Network cable series Nip/Tuck, as unstable agent Colleen Rose, a role that garnered her another Emmy Award nomination.

Gless starred in her first leading role as a lesbian character in the 2009 independent film Hannah Free, described as the lifelong love affair between an independent spirit and the woman she calls home.

The accomplished thespian has extensive stage experience including two appearances in London’s West End; first in 1993, when she created the role of Annie Wilkes in the stage version of Stephen King’s Misery, and then in 1996 when she appeared in Neil Simon’s Chapter 2.

Gless’s most recent stage appearance was in A Round-Heeled Woman, based on Jane Juska’s book, A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance, the first production of which took place in January and February 2010 in San Francisco.

A tireless activist of human rights for the LGBT community, Gless was recently honored with the Bridge to Unity Award and at the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival with the 2010 Career Achievement Award. On May 25, she received the Gracie Award for Individual Achievement, awarded by American Women in Radio and Television, as Outstanding Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Drama series (for Burn Notice).

Currently Gless can be seen as Madeline Westen, playing Michael Westen’s (Jeffrey Donovan) mother in the USA Network cable television series Burn Notice. The hit show begins its fourth season on Thursday, June 3, at a new, earlier time: 9:00/8:00C, and was recently picked up for Seasons five and six.

The first two seasons of Burn Notice are on DVD; season three will be released on June 1, 2010. Hannah Free will also be released on DVD June 1.

The industry giant is a funny, down-to-earth, personable woman, full of zeal and love for life, with an incredibly infectious laugh that no doubt, creates happiness wherever she goes.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Sharon, how’s the weather in Miami?

Sharon Gless: Oh, gorgeous, it is beautiful here.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you taping Burn Notice right now?

Sharon Gless: Yes, we’re taping episode 5 of 18.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The new season begins on Thursday, June 3.

Sharon Gless: I think (laughs) … I don’t watch, I never watch myself. I never watch anything I’m in.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): We’ll come back to that! First, let’s go back to the early days of your career. Why did you want to become an actor?

Sharon Gless: Well, I remember when I was six years old and I told grandmother that I wanted to become an actress. My uncle was a casting director in Hollywood. I said, “Would you tell Uncle Jack that I want to be an actress?”

I remember sitting in the station wagon (those were the days of station wagons) and grandmother told me she’d ask Uncle Jack. Well, two weeks went by so I asked again, “Did you ever talk to Uncle Jack?” She answered, “Darling, we did discuss it and we thought you should continue school and we can talk about it later.” I think I was relieved at the answer (laughs).

There was a boy in my class named Billy Chapin and he was a child star. I saw him in this movie, The Kid From Left Field, up on the big screen. You know, I never saw him again to tell him this (I don’t know what ever happened to him), but he was the reason. He was the older brother of Lauren Chapin from Father Knows Best.

I sat there in the movie theater watching Billy and I thought, “Well, if Billy can do that, I can do that.” Anyway, I never did that. But, many years went by and I didn’t admit it out loud until I was twenty-six years old. That was a very late time to be starting out in this business, too.

By the time I was twenty-seven, I went to acting school and one year later I was under contract to Universal Studios. Also, I had kind of this Irish mug so I was passing for younger (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I have admired all of your work for years.

Sharon Gless: Well, thank you very much. I’ve had a good time.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): On screen you look like you enjoy acting.

Sharon Gless: I do. I come from gratitude every day that they still let me do it. I’m sixty seven years old. Most women my age are not working.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): So you’d rather be acting than doing …

Sharon Gless: Anything else, yeah. There’s nothing else I’d rather do.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You’ve worked with Bob Newhart, Robert Young, Eddie Albert, Robert Wagner, and James Garner. What did you learn from them that helped you hone your craft early in your career?

Sharon Gless: I watched them constantly. Each one of them taught me something different. I learned humor. They made it look so easy, all of those men we’re talking about. Also from those men I learned kindness. The sets I worked on with them were so fun and they were so wonderful to their guests.

When Cagney & Lacey came along I just made sure that our guests were always comfortable. First of all, you get a better performance and you also have a better time. I know what it’s like to be nervous when you’re a guest on a show.

I could regale you with hundreds of stories. But, the best lesson I learned was from Monique James, who was the head of talent at Universal. When you’re a contract player you don’t make much, but you get paid every week and you work. You have to audition but you get to see the scenes you’re auditioning for the night before and they build a little reel of your work.

Monique became my manager at the end of the contract system in 1982. She became my personal manager for twenty years and I was her only client. Anyway, she would build these little reels of my films … the reels would get bigger and bigger. You would be invited into this massive screening room (in the days where they had big screens instead of what they have now) and you had to sit there alone with Monique.

There would be a projectionist in the back who you don’t see and she’d just talk into this little box (like you see in the old movies) and she’d ask the projectionist if he would run Ms. Gless’ movies. So, I’d sit there and she’d make me watch myself. She’d say, “See that look on your face … don’t do that anymore.” So, I learned by her forcing me to watch.

One time she asked the projectionist to run a scene over. She said, “I want you to watch this because it looks like you’re waiting to say your lines.” I said, “I was waiting to say my lines.” She said, “I know Sharon, but you’re not listening to the actor … you’re nervous and you’re waiting for the actor to finish his lines. If I teach you nothing else, it will be to learn and listen.”

Monique said, “I want you to learn your dialogue so well that you can juggle, you can move furniture, you can do anything while he or she is speaking to you … really listen because when you listen your face changes, and I promise they’ll cut to you even though you’re not talking.” I tried not being nervous and really started listening to what they were saying and it totally changed my performance. It just made it much more interesting and much more fun.

It wasn’t just about me reading my lines. It was about me being a part of what was going on and responding to anything that was happening around me.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Reacting to the other person, too.

Sharon Gless: Exactly, because if he reads the same lines we rehearsed, he may say it differently this time. If he says it differently, I may respond differently.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Since Monique made you watch yourself all of the time, is that why you never liked to watch yourself on television after that time?

Sharon Gless: No, when I was younger I could look at myself. As I’ve gotten older, I just don’t look at it. I just don’t know who that is. Here’s what happens: If I watch anything, I’ll say, “Oh my God, I’ve really gotten fat,” or “Oh my God, I look awful in that outfit,” or “Oh my God, that’s horrible acting … when are they going to find out I don’t know what I’m doing!” That’s where it goes for me.

The truth of it is, it’s in the can. There’s nothing I can do about it. During Cagney & Lacey, I never watched the show. Tyne, of course, was very diligent and watched every episode. My manager, Monique, said, “You have some responsibilities in this show as you do play the title role. You’ve got to watch it.” I told her it made me uncomfortable. But, I’d let six of them add up and I’d go into my den and pour a stiff drink or two and then I’d watch it and say, “Shit, it looks good to me!”

As I’ve gotten older, I just don’t like to watch. It doesn’t serve me to watch myself because I get very negative. Well, there are moments when I do make myself laugh, but I just don’t like to do it.

On Queer as Folk we used to go around the country doing premieres for people in big cities. We’d all be flown in and they’d introduce each one of us individually and I was always the last to be introduced because I was old. Then, I’d sit down and the lights would go down and I’d get up and walk out (laughs).

I don’t watch Burn Notice. Matt Nix who created it said, “Sharon, what if I took an episode and just cut all of yours out to make a special version just for you. Would you watch that?” I said, “Sure.”

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You describe Madeline as being the “mother from hell.” Are you drawing from any personal experiences to play her?

Sharon Gless: No, just drawing from my own sense of humor. I mean, obviously Matt and his writers write it all. I can’t take credit for that. But, sometimes she makes me laugh. I think she’s funny even though she’s trying not to be funny.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, she’s a multi-faceted character.

Sharon Gless: Yes she is (laughs). My husband says, “How happy are you? They pay you to smoke.”

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Speaking of your husband, I’ve interviewed him three times.

Sharon Gless: Yes, and Carole R. Smith says she knows you!

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Yes, I do know Carole. Barney is so delightful and a great interview. Is he recuperating from his recent health problems?

Sharon Gless: He’s doing much better, thank you for asking.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): He had great things to say about you on his blog at the official Cagney & Lacey website … something about you taking care of him at the hospital, filling out all of the paperwork, while doing a hundred other things at one time. It was a compliment.

Sharon Gless: Oh, that’s nice, very sweet of him.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I know you enjoyed Tyne when she guest-starred on Burn Notice.

Sharon Gless: I did. We had the best time. When we walked onto the set together, there was a hush all over the set. No one spoke. I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t get this kind of reaction when I walk in here all by myself!” They started laughing. I said, “Sure, bring in Tyne Daly and everybody’s in awe!” It was fun.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you feel the same kind of chemistry between the two of you that was so obvious on Cagney & Lacey?

Sharon Gless: Absolutely. When we were in the makeup chairs together, we were just going back and forth, laughing, and telling stories, running lines together. People don’t do that in the makeup chairs – everybody is usually just concentrating on their stuff and it’s quiet.

People were in awe (they told me later). The makeup and hair people said, “Oh, my God, the energy between you two in here is just amazing!” I said, “That’s what we’re always like.” They said the same thing when I guested on her show, Judging Amy. They said, “Gosh, the two of you are so talkative,” and I told them we are always like that!

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Just like the times that only good friends can share.

Sharon Gless: Yeah. You know, her mom had an expression. I’m paraphrasing it, but the gist of it was, “Sweat makes a great cement.” Tyne Daly and I sweated together for six years against all odds. We were thrown off the air by the end three times. Some of our affiliate stations refused to air some shows because they were so controversial in those days.

We were in every single scene. That’s how Barney devised it – that everything be seen through our eyes. So, we put in seventeen hour days and we’re women, but we did it.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I was a member of Viewers for Quality Television at that time when the grassroots campaign began a write-in campaign to save the show. Do you remember Dorothy Swanson?

Sharon Gless: Yes, I remember. Barney taught Dorothy how to try and save shows.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you realize when you were doing Cagney & Lacey what a huge impact it would have not only on television but on women at that time?

Sharon Gless: No, Melissa, I don’t think at the time we knew that. I mean, if somebody had said, “How do you women feel about being role models for the 80s?” I would have (and I’m sure Tyne would have been right there with me) gone screaming! First of all, you can’t play a role model. We had a job to do and we believed in it, but when you do television nobody is standing there applauding. It’s not like it’s in front of a live audience.

As the show went on and we started getting awards from women’s groups and police departments and things like that, it sort of let us know that we perhaps made some sort of an impact. Barney would tell us, “The most powerful medium in the world is television. You must be responsible for what you put on there.” So we always fought for quality, not because we had impact, just because we thought we were telling good stories.

No other woman won the Emmy while we were on the air. Tyne won the first three, I won the next two, and we thought I’d get the third but it went back to her. Of course, if I had to lose it I’d rather it go back to her. I don’t mean we weren’t accomplished, but more importantly we had the material. Nobody had that kind of material in those days.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Especially for women.

Sharon Gless: Yeah … and created by men. That’s my favorite part (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I believe it was the first television cop show that actually had the police lose some cases.

Sharon Gless: Yes, it was very real and the emotions were real. There never had been a show where the “heroes” of the piece were fragile and not because they were women … because they were human beings. They talked about their real feelings at work and at home.

Christine’s drinking became a problem and no one had ever done that before. After us came NYPD Blue where they had men who talked about their feelings. But, that kind of emotional reality all started with Cagney & Lacey.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): In my opinion, you’re one of the few actresses out there who is just as talented in a comedy as you are in a drama. Which do you prefer?

Sharon Gless: Well, thank you very much. I prefer doing comedy within a dramatic content. I don’t like doing sitcoms at all.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): When you said that, it reminded me of Letting Go, the 1985 TV movie that starred you and John Ritter.

Sharon Gless: Yeah, I loved that. It was a romantic comedy.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It was a drama with some comedy mixed in.

Sharon Gless: Exactly … kind of like real life (laughs). I did House Calls which was a sitcom but it was one camera. It was more real than doing sitcoms with three cameras and a live audience. I don’t think I ever had that ability to do that. I did one right after Queer as Folk. I played a mom and it was the worst experience of my life. I hated it and thank God it never saw the light of day.

I like film and one camera because to me, it’s just more real. I don’t have that gift that a lot of sitcom actors have. I’m more comfortable on camera than I am on stage.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you enjoy theatre more than television?

Sharon Gless: No, my favorite thing is to be in a hit TV series. That’s my idea of a good time (laughs). I emphasize the word hit. I do enjoy doing theatre, though, and the more I do it the more comfortable I become.

I was trained on film as opposed to most actresses who start out on stage and then they come to Hollywood. I was born and raised in Hollywood and I started out at Universal, so they trained me on film. My background is almost the opposite of what most actors experience.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Speaking of theatre, in A Round-Heeled Woman, was it difficult to portray an older woman discovering her sexual self in front of a live audience?

Sharon Gless: No, I really embraced that character. I owned the project for so many years … I had it for eight years. I own the option on the book and it took me three years to find anybody to touch it. Nobody wanted to know about an older woman and her experiencing some sexual freedoms for the first time.

We took it to Showtime and they turned it down. Barney took it around to studios. We couldn’t sell it, couldn’t get anyone interested. When we were in Venice, Italy, Barney wanted to take a side trip to London and he told me to bring two copies of the book.

Barney said, “The British are so much freer regarding older women and sexuality.” The truth is, they’ve got Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Joan Plow, Julie Walters … they have these amazing older actresses who are so sexy and funny and they use them in movies today where they are highly sexualized. America just can’t seem to handle it.

We talked to these two British writers we know … one had written Misery that I had done at West End and another was Jane Prowse, a playwright that we respected very much. Simon read the book, said he loved it but that he was very busy. Jane wrote me six months after we gave her the book saying, “Sharon, not only must the story be told, but I have to write it.”

Jane took it around London looking for a producer and almost had it sold to a television station, but it fell through. She finally took it to Brian Eastman who produced Misery for me. Brian thought it should be told, too. We sent it to New York and everybody said, “Ew, older women getting laid … nope.” Also, I think a lot of theatres in New York see me as “TV Cop Live on Stage,” because I’m primarily a film actress, which is bullshit, but that’s sort of how it goes.

I assumed Brian would want to take the play to West End, but Brian thought it was “too American” and didn’t want to take it there until it played in America first. So, I picked San Francisco as I have a big gay following there because of Cagney & Lacey and Queer as Folk.

San Francisco is a small theatre town. It is provincial and very in-bred. They have three theatres. But, I thought we could get away with it. I thought I could go there and have enough respect from the public to work on it. It takes a lot of work for an original play. Well, the critics slammed me!

There are two critics there, one at the Chronicle and the other at the Examiner, a free throwaway paper (but, I still wanted to know what they thought). The male critic complained about my crackly voice. They were hardly being objective, you know what I’m saying? Most of the reviews on the Internet were good.

The woman in San Jose, however, slammed everything I did from the minute the curtain came up! She hated every moment of it and criticized my orgasm! Now, who in their right mind would criticize anybody’s orgasm … anywhere?

Melissa, I’m not being defensive, but that orgasm got applause every night! It did … every single night! Then the critic said, “I heard her orgasm was so great … well, I didn’t think it was so great!”

I wanted to write her and say, “Lady, look, I don’t know what yours are like or if you’ve ever had one, but I did mine standing up!” I did do it standing up and it got applause every night! But, a nice thing happened. The audience thumbed their noses at the critics. We were sold out four out of six nights. I mean, there was standing room only and people were going on Craigslist begging for tickets at triple the cost!

The woman in San Jose said I should stick to television. But, they all adored their local talent, and they should because they were fantastic. I was the only one they went after. My director said, “Sharon, it is San Francisco. When you got off that plane, you had a huge target on your back that said “TV star” and they’re not going to let you sully their stage.”

My director told me they had a prima ballerina from Russia who came to dance with their ballet group and they slammed her! They loved their local troupe, but hated the outsiders. But, I had a great time in San Francisco. They have a beautiful bridge and great restaurants and I don’t regret a minute of it.

The play is now being re-written and I think I’m going in June to do readings in New York. If we can get financing, my British producer would like to go to Off Broadway with it. It’s not a big enough story to be on Broadway, but it’s a real Off Broadway show. So, hopefully, I’ll be fortunate enough to be able to do it there. It needs to be told and I’ll just keep trying.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you call Stephen Macht (David Keeler from Cagney & Lacey) yourself to do the play with you?

Sharon Gless: Yes, actually, I think Barney did. I told him that Stephen has a hard time saying no to me, but he would tell you the truth, so Barney called him. He was there so fast for me. He played three of my lovers.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): He is such a talented actor.

Sharon Gless: Yeah, and he was so sexy. He choreographed all of our sex scenes and they were hot … and I never had to take off one stitch of clothing to do it (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What would you say has been the most fun you’ve had in your career?

Sharon Gless: Well, Switch was a huge learning thing for me and I loved R.J. and Eddie. That was a big time for me. I watched them and they taught me. Then Turnabout didn’t last very long, but it was my first starring role and that was exciting because I was carrying half a show with John Schuck.

Some of the mini series I did were really fun. I’ve had good fortune in having to do so much television in the days of novels and TV movies … things they don’t make anymore.

Cagney & Lacey, needless to say, changed my life, changed my consciousness, changed my bankroll, and changed my celebrity. But, I have to tell you that I had a ball on Queer as Folk. Those producers brought me back around. I’d gone into menopause, gave up smoking, weighed two hundred pounds, went through a five-year drought, but they wanted me!

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You also wanted that role, right?

Sharon Gless: Yes, I went after it. That one changed my life and my career back again.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Congratulations on being honored with the Bridge to Unity Award and being honored at the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival with the 2010 Career Achievement Award.

Sharon Gless: Thank you. I also won the Gracie Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Burn Notice. That was exciting because our show is not recognized by the Academy. It’s the highest rated cable show in the nation, Melissa, and the Academy never recognized it.

I was told it was because we’re known as a “crossover” show or something where it’s an hour long show in the dramatic category but some of it is very witty and tongue-in-cheek … and you have to bleed for the Academy in the dramatic category. We’re a drama but there’s a lot of wonderful humor in it also … sort of like real life. But, did you know that we were just picked up for two more years?

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Yes, congratulations! That is probably a rare occurrence.

Sharon Gless: Isn’t that amazing? I’ve done a lot of big series and never heard of that happening. We’re just starting our fourth year and we’ve been told we’re coming back for five and six. I’m not aware of that ever being done.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What would you like your character, Madeline, to do next?

Sharon Gless: You know, I don’t know. I have a favorite show, which is the closing one of last season where the FBI came to her home. One of the reasons they landed Michael in Miami (the last place he wanted to be because his mother lived there) is that they can use her and hurt her. They keep thinking she’ll lead them to him. But, obviously, she can’t be of any help to Michael because of his work.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Now, wait, she is a good interrogator!

Sharon Gless: Oh, I interrogated the guy in the garage! Yes, you’re right! I did love that one.

Melissa parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It seems that we’ve watched Madeline evolve from the hypochondriac neurotic to getting herself together and successfully interrogating the bad guy.

Sharon Gless: Yeah, that was her choice, you know. She felt like if no one else was doing anything, she’d have to take over. But, I don’t think it’s the kind of character where we have to have a scene with mom every week. That isn’t Michael’s life. They need to keep it real.

I think there are a couple of episodes this year that I’m not in. We have a new character on the show who lives with me. He plays the role of Jesse and he lives in my garage now. So, that keeps me in the picture because I have to deal with him and my son.

Matt also told me they’ve got some stuff coming up that is unusual for Maddie. That’s the way it should be because if you play that card every week it gets to be kind of a yawn, you know?

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, the scenes are great between you and Jeffrey Donovan. You play off of each other so well.

Sharon Gless: I’m lucky to be working with Jeffrey and Bruce Campbell. Gabrielle Anwar is just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. I think Bruce is very sexy and he has a great sense of humor. They all do.

Jeffrey, of course, works the hardest because he’s in every scene. Well, now I think they’re giving him a little break and he’s not in all of them. But, it’s his show and he’s doing an amazing job.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Sharon, do you have any upcoming projects?

Sharon Gless: Well, hopefully the day we finish I’ll go to New York to do A Round-Heeled Woman.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I heard a rumor that you were writing your biography.

Sharon Gless: No, my life is not that interesting!

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I think it would make a great read. Of course, Barney has some of your story in his book (Cagney & Lacey … and Me).

Sharon Gless: True. Well, I have to tell you that I never read the book. I said, “I’m married to you and I’d like to keep it that way!” He asked if he could read me just one chapter. So, he read the chapter in England in the hotel room at the end. I said, “Thanks for the good review!”

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’ll bet Barney likes the fact that you film Burn Notice in Miami so he can see more of you.

Sharon Gless: I guess so. When he first heard we were going to shoot here he said, “I don’t think our marriage is going to survive the series.” I never live at home when I work. I shoot in LA, Toronto, or Chicago, wherever the work takes me.

I did a movie, Hannah Free, and they just showed it here at the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival Saturday night. My friends came and watched it and that was exciting. We shot that in Chicago.

In fact, President Obama saw our movie! One of our producer’s daughters works for him. She gave it to him and he watched it.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): In April, Obama directed the Department of Health and Human Services to prohibit discrimination in hospital visitation.

Sharon Gless: Yes, that’s what our movie is about. That is a move in the right direction. He has to do more than that, but it’s a beginning.

I go on Rosie O’Donnell’s cruise every year. Two years ago a lesbian couple were coming to board the ship. They’d been together for twenty-five or thirty years. The woman had a heart attack when she was about to board. She and her partner were rushed to the hospital, but they wouldn’t let her partner in the room and she died. The only one she had in her life was her partner and they wouldn’t let her in. They let her die alone. So, it’s my cause. I fight for the gay community.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): When did that cause become so near and dear to you?

Sharon Gless: I think during Queer as Folk. I was very aware, obviously, of the lesbian community that was supportive of me during Cagney & Lacey, but I didn’t become actively involved until I was doing Queer as Folk … had my consciousness raised once again. I’ll always fight for their cause. It’s lousy what is going on.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Sharon, I’ve so enjoyed this conversation.

Sharon Gless: Well, I hope I wasn’t just rattling on.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Oh no, not at all. I probably have about eight hundred more questions for you, but I doubt you’d want to talk to me all night (laughs).

Sharon Gless: Do you have a last question you’d like to ask me?

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, I’d probably ask you what your favorite foods are because I don’t remember ever reading anything about what you like to eat.

Sharon Gless: It depends on when you ask me. My favorite starch is rice … curried rice. I love hot donuts, used to be ice cream, but that’s not my favorite anymore. I love hot buttered popcorn. Obviously, carbs reign … preferably salty rather than sweet. I love casseroles. I hate eggplant and licorice. So, when you invite me to your house, no eggplant or licorice!

I’m really happy when I’m at a fat farm, actually taking care of myself and eating healthy. I know it sounds weird because my favorite foods are banned in those places. But, I love to lock myself up and watch the weight come off and feel good about myself.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you go to a gym regularly?

Sharon Gless: I do now. I have a coach that I work out with two or three times a week, two hours a day. But, I really like going and moving in someplace and have my little room, eating what they give me, having coaches train me, and just watching the change. It makes me feel good.

I’m a news junkie … love CNN and MSNBC. I have a thing for Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman. My guilty pleasure that Barney makes me watch in a closed room is Nancy Grace. I love Nancy Grace! Barney says, “Turn that crap off!” I’m only allowed to record it in the private room.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you watch any other series television?

Sharon Gless: No, very seldom. My favorite series of all time (and I’m still wearing a black arm band on my arm since it has been gone) is Boston Legal.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Great show! I’d love to interview William Shatner.

Sharon Gless: Yes, his career is very inspiring to me because he was a big star in a series and then he disappeared. It’s like he keeps recreating himself. James Spader is very hot, I think. David Kelley wrote all of those gorgeous monologues in the courtroom.

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I couldn’t imagine how James Spader memorized all of those many pages of dialogue.

Sharon Gless: I know. He makes it look so easy. Maybe he has a photographic memory. Do you remember Margaret O’Brien, the child actress? She was in Meet Me in St. Louis. Anyway, I had the pleasure of working with her as an older woman. She said she had a photographic memory. She’d just look at the little page when she was little and leave her little dressing room and go do it!

Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): That would certainly be a great asset for an actor (laughs)! Sharon, I really will let you go this time. But, I want you to know that you’ve given me many hours of wonderful entertainment.

Sharon Gless: Oh, thank you, Melissa. You’ve made this very easy for me. I’ve had a good time!

© 2010 Smashing Interviews Magazine. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written consent of the publisher.

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