Interview with Sharon Gless & Tyne Daly from Burn Notice

I got the once in a lifetime opportunity the other day, to interview the fabulous Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless, better known as Cagney & Lacey. Gless plays Michael’s mother on Burn Notice, and Tyne Daly is set to have a guest appearance in the midseason premiere on Thursday, January 21st at 10 pm.

Let me just say that these women are as wonderful as they are talented. The conversation was scattered sometimes because they just had a great time talking to each other, giggling and teasing. I felt honoured just to be on the line with these women especially when they were just chatting and enjoying themselves. Hopefully you enjoy reading the interview as much as I did doing it. Jump with me for the interview!

It’s great to hear the two of you together. I am so excited and I know everyone else is excited. How did you all feel about the prospect of re-teaming?

Sharon 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 Matt Nix said I’m not paying Tyne Daly to not hear that voice of hers so.

Had you tried to work together in the past few years?

Tyne Daly: So it’s Tyne talking now. And Sharon came when we were in trouble because of – my colleague had died, Richard Crenna, and we didn’t quite – 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 this Burn Notice, you know, turn about is fair play. And besides that… [I love to play] with her, we play very easy together, we have a good time.

You seem to have a natural chemistry don’t you think?

Tyne Daly: I guess so.

Sharon Gless: Yeah – this is Sharon. We’ve been doing it a long time. You know, so, yeah, we developed something on Cagney & Lacey. And I find it very easy and wonderful working with Tyne when she was with us. People got so – 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 assure you that Burn Notice wasn’t like Nip/Tuck, I’m assuming you saw Sharon on Nip/Tuck? Did she say don’t worry it’s nothing like that?

Tyne 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.

You’re kidding?

Tyne Daly: No – I wouldn’t kid you about a thing like that. But I heard – I heard about Nip/Tuck. And one day when I’m very calm I’ll sit down and screen it and – but I didn’t have that to scare me off. She can’t scare me, man.

So what did she tell you about coming on Burn Notice?

Tyne Daly: She said there was a part. She said it wasn’t big enough. She said come anyway and I said yeah.

What did you think about the Burn Notice work environment? Was it similar to the old days?

Tyne Daly: [I saw] that Sharon was safe and sound, that they love her there. They admire her there. And 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 – let’s see, 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.

Sharon Gless: I’ll tell you what happened – this is Sharon. 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.

Tyne Daly: And we felt like, you know, it’s kind of like bicycle riding – this is Tyne – you know, with Sharon we just fall into a rhythm and it was nice and easy. It was really fun. We had only what three or four scenes but the – it felt like a very great tennis match.

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.

Tyne Daly: What did I learn from Sharon? That laughing – that laughing is important in a situation. When you’re working really hard laughing is important to do as much as humanly possible. We laughed – I think we laughed everyday. And there were some tense days too but we laughed anyway. That’s what I learned from Sharon.

And what about you Sharon?

Sharon Gless: Thank you Tyne. Thank you. I think the more tense – the more tense the situation became the more we started laughing.

Tyne Daly: There’s hysterical laughing too, there’s nervous laughing, that’s right.

Sharon Gless: 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 so.

Sharon, Can you give us some insight about what’s going to happen in this particular episode too from your perspective – from your character’s?

Sharon Gless: From Sharon’s? Well apparently – apparently I’m not allowed to tell…what I do, what I do to Tyne. But it’s very, very unusual the situations that they put me in with Tyne. They had to have me go undercover because they were busy. And – their characters were busy. So we sent (mom) in and the person that I went to deal with was Tyne Daly.

You’re both very talented, and have done had many wonderful roles, so what’s it like to always have your names bring us back to Cagney & Lacey? Does it bother you now, 25 years later to still be associated with those characters?

Tyne 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.

Sharon 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.

Tyne Daly: It could be true but you ain’t hurting either babe.

I don’t think there’s really been another show since Cagney & Lacey with two such strong female characters together. Why do you think that is?

Sharon Gless: Well this is Sharon. I was very aware – Tyne used to say, you know, 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 movies – 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.

Tyne 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.

Sharon Gless: Yeah, me too

The new show is just picked up for scripts at the moment, it’s called Jax and Amber and it’s on CBS. If they asked you to come as Cagney & Lacey just as a cameo would that be something you’d consider ?

Tyne Daly: Lacey’s retired, man, I don’t know about Cag but she’s retired.

Sharon Gless: Right. 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, Chris Cagney is, I mean, I’m a little long in the tooth now to be playing that character.

I don’t know about that but…I wanted to know, Tyne, are you interested in doing like a regular TV show and if Tina was offered up as a regular gig would you take it?

Well at the moment I don’t have time. I’m doing the Cabaret, I actually open tonight in San Francisco and then New York and LA and wherever else it is… 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 theatre where you’re in the same room as your audience. So, you know, musical theatre, legitimate theatre, 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.

Outside of working together once in a while since Cagney & Lacey are you in touch? Do you guys see each other, you know, socially?

Sharon Gless: Whenever we can. This is Sharon. We live in different cities but we’re very, very close. Tyne, oh never mind, that’s right. Yeah, we…

Tyne 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.

Sharon Gless: I know.

Tyne 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.

Is there anything that you appreciate about each other now that you couldn’t appreciate during Cagney and Lacey?

Tyne Daly: …we’ve been pretty good at appreciating each other.

Sharon Gless: Yeah. I still appreciate Tyne’s talent and I appreciate her friendship.

Tyne Daly: I am encouraged that Sharon keeps finding new things to do and new ways to be, you know, of service as an actor and so I can too. If I get blue and I get bummed I think well, you know, Gless has gone to London and done a play and she’s developing a new plan thing. And so I…

Sharon Gless: If Gless can do it..

Tyne Daly: Really but, you know, I wanted to be a long distance runner, you know, when I started out. And Sharon is being one and I’m being one in a profession where usually, you know, you do your sprint and then it’s over…

Sharon Gless: Yeah.

Tyne Daly: …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.

Sharon Gless: Thank you my friend and I you.

Do you see a lot of differences in the roles available for women now as opposed to the Cagney & Lacey days?

Sharon Gless: 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 while we were on the air no other woman ever won the Emmy. 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’s so many good women’s roles today. There were not at that time.

Tyne Daly: I think though on another level, you know, you make your own opportunities, you make your own opportunities, you find them. There are places to go and serve as an actor and be, you know, 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. So if you accept limitations then, yeah, you’ll be limited. If you don’t accept limitations then the horizon is pretty vast.

All careers have ups and downs, 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?

Tyne Daly: Well we call each other.

Sharon Gless: We go out and have a hot fudge sundae together.

Tyne Daly: Hot fudge sundaes help, yeah.

Sharon Gless: I don’t know what I’d do. I mean I’ve been very fortunate. So – this is Sharon – as Tyne 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.

Tyne 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, you know, fulfill my obligations as a worker so that turned out okay.After that you change as it comes. Sharon said okay I’m going to do this – what do you call it – Queer as Folk and I’m going to move to Canada, you know, 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 which is pretty [great]

Sharon Gless: Yeah, we’ve been very, very blessed

We know you’re both doing a lot of theatre these days, Sharon, you’re doing the Round Heeled Woman in San Francisco and Tyne, you have your play right now in addition to all the past Broadway stuff you’ve done. We’re just wondering if you could describe the process a little bit especially about starting a new show, Sharon, with the Round Heeled Woman.

Sharon Gless: Oh the process. This has gone on – I bought this – 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, so…

Do you guys give each other advice about your respective shows?

Sharon Gless: Well I fit Tyne in the script and she applauded my courage.

Tyne 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 my – me try this Cabaret thing at Feinstein’s in New York and was not only a supporter and a booster but also, you know, somebody who told me the straight story about what she liked and what she didn’t.

Sharon Gless: She was fabulous and I loved her shoes.

Would you guys ever consider doing theatre together ?

Sharon Gless: We actually were approached by a company in London to do a project that just turned – time wise it didn’t work out for either of us but.

Tyne Daly: There’ll be a time. I think there’ll be a time to say if the gods subscribe. You know, years ago, I mean, 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 – 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…

Sharon Gless: Yeah.

Tyne Daly: …when we get well into our 70s. Sure…

Sharon Gless: But in the interim I’d love her to come back to Burn Notice. They loved her.

Tyne Daly: I had a good time.

You have both done a lot of things in your life and I wonder what is the most adventurous thing you have done?

Sharon Gless: Adventurous I would call frightening – the most frightening thing I’ve ever done in my life? This play I’m about to start is the frightening thing I’ve ever done.

Tyne 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.

I hesitate to ask how’d that work out for you ?

Tyne Daly: 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 that ended in divorce but I’m not going to throw out the whole marriage – that part of it for the value of the marriage itself was fantastic.

Sharon, You keep saying about how terrified you are of this play. What exactly are you worried about?

Sharon 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 woman who took – a 66-year old woman took an ad out in the New York Review of Books who wanted to strike the intellectual – asking for sex. And I’m playing it. And it’s very – 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 so…

That would be a little intimidating definitely. Sharon, what else is coming up for Madeline?

Sharon Gless: I don’t know, I haven’t seen the new scripts.
I do know – I do know since they – our show is – the second half of Year 3 is premiering January 21 I think. And I don’t remember – the very, very ending one was – they used Madeline a lot. It was a very emotional piece. But the first one they put me undercover was here with Tyne.

So do you and Michael come to a better understanding you think of where you’re both at?

Sharon 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, you know, I think – that isn’t the nature of this show.
Definitely 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, you know. So it’s – there’s a slight little distance between them that is – that’s almost becoming, I like it. Because it gives you someplace to go, you know?

I was wondering if you could maybe share with us your favorite memories from your time on Cagney & Lacey. I’m sure working together again on this show made you reminisce a little bit. So anything you guys laughed about on the set or anything like that?

Tyne Daly: Oh darling it’s so long ago I can’t remember a thing. I deny everything. I remember nothing.

Sharon 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.

Tyne Daly: This is Tyne talking now. We used to, you know, there was 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 you know something 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, you know, I had kids and a husband at home and – but we would stay and run through the next day’s scenes, you know, as we’re – how do you call that – 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 found – 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.

Sharon Gless: No but I loved it so much that I became dependant on it. And any show I’ve done since then that’s what I have to do.

Tyne Daly: Yeah.

Sharon Gless: Because I can’t – I don’t think I’ve ever had a costar who’s interested in doing it with me but then I have to hire somebody to be my Tyne Daly because like…there was such value in that process…

Tyne Daly: Yeah, the work ethic was really pretty impeccable considering that we were in the, you know, 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, were there any giggles during the Burn Notice filming or anything like that or did they not work you guys so tirelessly?

Sharon Gless: We didn’t really have a chance on the set to laugh a lot. Our scenes were sort of emotional.

Tyne Daly: Yeah. Well…

Sharon Gless: But we certainly laughed in the makeup trailer and laughed, you know, we went out to dinner and laughed and…

Tyne Daly: I’d say for Sharon, you know, I think for Sharon – this is Tyne talking. 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, you know, that character get exploded out of just, you know, his momBut 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?

Sharon Gless: I still had like six more to do but that didn’t stop me from going out and playing with Tyne.

Back in the days of Cagney and Lacey, when did you two realize you weren’t just coworkers but best friends?

Sharon 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.

Tyne Daly: This is Tyne talking. 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, you know, I wanted to get on with it. I loved the project and I loved the idea of these two women as colleagues.
And so, you know, 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?

Sharon Gless: Memorial Day.

Tyne Daly: Yes, Memorial Day. And Memorial Day – I should, you know, 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, you know, 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, you know, the thing that convinced her to finally say yes.

Sharon Gless: Well that – there were a lot of reasons actually. But – and we polished off that bottle of champagne together.

Tyne Daly: We did. And celebrated her birthday and sort of decided – I think at that point we decided to be partners and colleagues. And that was unshakeable for the next six years whether, you know, the story was mainly about one or the other, the prize went to one or the other, you know, whatever the vicissitudes – the billing – 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. You know…

Sharon Gless: Yeah.

Tyne Daly: 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.

That was the end of the interview, a little confusing, especially because it was a conference call and they talked to each other a lot but also because it was like we were all just viewers on their lives. Simply remarkable women. Don’t miss the return of Burn Notice on January 21st at 10 on The USA network.

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