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Sharon Gless
Sharon Gless 1998a.jpg
Gless in 1998
Sharon Marguerite Gless

(1943-05-31) May 31, 1943 (age 79)
Years active1970–present
(m. 1991)

Sharon Marguerite Gless (born May 31, 1943) is an American actress and author, who is known for her television roles as Maggie Philbin on Switch (1975–78), Sgt. Christine Cagney in the police procedural drama series Cagney & Lacey (1982–88), the title role in The Trials of Rosie O'Neill (1990–92), Debbie Novotny in the Showtime cable television series Queer as Folk (2000–2005), and Madeline Westen on Burn Notice (2007–2013). A 10-time Emmy Award nominee[1] and seven-time Golden Globe Award nominee, she won a Golden Globe in 1986[2] and Emmys in 1986 and 1987 for Cagney & Lacey,[1] and a second Golden Globe in 1991 for The Trials of Rosie O'Neill.[2] Gless received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1995.[3]

Early life and career

A fifth-generation Californian, Gless was born in Los Angeles, the daughter of Marjorie (McCarthy) and sportswear manufacturing executive Dennis J. Gless. She was raised Catholic.[4] She has two brothers, Michael McCarthy Gless and Arick Dennis Gless. Her parents divorced when she was in her teens.[4] Her maternal grandfather was Neil McCarthy,[5] a prominent Los Angeles attorney for Howard Hughes, who also had a large clientele of major film-studio executives and actors. Wanting to become an actress, she sought her grandfather's advice and he told her, "Stay out of it, it's a filthy business!"[5] A few years later, though, when she spoke to him again about acting, he encouraged her, and gave her money for acting classes.[6][7]

She worked as a secretary for advertising agencies Grey Advertising and Young & Rubicam, and then for the independent movie production companies Sassafras Films and General Film Corporation.[citation needed]

While she worked as a production assistant, Gless studied drama with acting coach Estelle Harman.[8] In 1972, she signed a 7-year contract with Universal Studios, and remained under contract until Universal ended all contracts in 1981.[9] Near the end of her contract, she was identified in the media as the last of the contract players,[10] a salaried, old Hollywood apprentice system, which Universal was the last to employ.

Actress Elizabeth Baur was Gless' first cousin.[11]


Film and television

At the beginning of her career, Gless appeared in numerous television series and TV movies, such as Revenge of the Stepford Wives, Faraday & Company with Dan Dailey and James Naughton in 1973 and 1974, Adam 12 season six, episode 24, Emergency! as a sculptor in 1975, and The Rockford Files. She played small parts in Marcus Welby, M.D. (1969–1976), until being offered the role of Kathleen Faverty, which she played from 1974 to 1976. This was in addition to a variety of guest-starring roles on television, including the part of the classy young secretary, Maggie Philbin, alongside Eddie Albert and Robert Wagner on the CBS private detective/con artist series Switch (1975–1978). Despite being a newcomer on the show, she got along very well with both Albert and Wagner, both on- and off-screen. When the show was cancelled after the third season, she thanked both Albert and Wagner for giving a jump start to her career and remained close friends with them.

While under contract with Universal, she co-starred in a number of properties, including the 1979 Steven Bochco television sitcom, Turnabout (based on the Thorne Smith 1931 novel about a husband and wife who temporarily switch bodies), which failed to be a ratings blockbuster, and briefly in the sitcom House Calls (in which she replaced Lynn Redgrave, who had left due to a contract dispute).

Beginning with the series' seventh episode/first full season, Gless replaced actress Meg Foster in the role of NYPD police detective Christine Cagney on Cagney & Lacey. (The role had been originated, in the pilot installment, by Loretta Swit. Swit, like Foster, was chosen as Cagney because, though the character of Cagney had been created with Gless herself in mind, she was unavailable for the pilot or the first seven installments of the first season.) In 1991, she married the series' executive producer, Barney Rosenzweig, who speaks in his book Cagney & Lacey...and Me about wanting Sharon Gless from the beginning and Gless being unavailable due to her contract with Universal.

Rosenzweig created the 1990–1992 CBS drama series The Trials of Rosie O'Neill for Gless, and uncredited, played the only partially seen psychiatrist to whom the attorney Fiona "Rosie" O'Neill confided at the beginning of each episode. Gless, who had garnered six Emmy nominations – including two wins and a Golden Globe win for her role as Cagney – earned two additional Emmy nominations and a second Golden Globe win for this subsequent series.

In 1993 and 1995, Gless and her television partner, Tyne Daly, recreated their title roles in a quartet of critically acclaimed and popular Cagney & Lacey television movies. Gless and Tyne Daly jokingly called these "The Menopause Years".

In 1998, Gless narrated the documentary Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature.

Between 2000 and 2005, Gless appeared as Hal Sparks' mother, Debbie Novotny, in her biggest and most critically acclaimed role since Cagney & Lacey in the acclaimed Showtime cable television series Queer as Folk.

In 2000, she appeared on an episode of Touched by an Angel entitled "The Perfect Game".

On May 26, 2005, Gless was one of the mourners at Eddie Albert's funeral, along with ex-Switch co-stars Robert Wagner and Charlie Callas.

In 2006, Gless starred in the BBC television series The State Within. The following year, she co-starred in the USA Network cable television series Burn Notice, playing Michael Westen's (Jeffrey Donovan) mother, Madeline Westen.[12] In addition, Gless was a guest star on several episodes of the FX Network cable television series Nip/Tuck as an unstable agent named Colleen Rose, a role that netted her an Emmy Award nomination.

In 2009, Gless starred in her first leading role as a lesbian character in the independent film Hannah Free (Ripe Fruit Films), described as a film about a lifelong love affair between an independent spirit and the woman she calls home. The film is based on a screenplay by the Jeff Award-winning playwright Claudia Allen and directed by Wendy Jo Carlton.

In 2017, Gless was announced as appearing in one episode of the BBC's Casualty, the world's longest-running medical drama, as surgeon Zsa Zsa Harper-Jenkinson. She appears in the 13th episode of the serial's 32nd series. Gless called Zsa Zsa a "wonderful character".[13] Gless was invited to appear in the show by one of the producers, and expressed interest in reprising the role. Gless' appearance marked the first time the show has flown an American to the UK to film a role.[14] She reprised the role[15] on the October 13, 2018 episode.

Gless served on the advisory board of the Los Angeles Student Film Institute.[16][17]


Gless's most recent stage appearance was as Jane Juska in A Round-Heeled Woman, Jane Prowse's stage adaptation of Jane Juska's book A Round-Heeled Woman: my Late-life Adventures in Sex and Romance. The first production ran in San Francisco in early 2010. Sharon starred in a new production in Miami, December 2010 - February 2011, directed by Jane Prowse. A production took place in London, transferring in November 2011 from Riverside Studios to the Aldwych Theatre, where the run closed on January 14, 2012.

Gless made her stage debut in Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine at Stage West in Springfield, Massachusetts. Gless has extensive stage experience, including two appearances in London's West End, first in 1993 with Bill Paterson, when she created the role of Annie Wilkes in the stage version of Stephen King's Misery at the Criterion Theatre, and then in 1996, where she appeared opposite Tom Conti in Neil Simon's Chapter Two, at the Gielgud Theatre.

She starred at Chicago playhouse The Victory Gardens Theater in Claudia Allen's Cahoots, as well as several stints, including an evening at Madison Square Garden with the National Company of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues. Gless appeared on The Alan Titchmarsh Show on October 17, 2011.[18]


  • 2021: Apparently There Were Complaints: A Memoir, Simon & Schuster (Autobiography)
  • 2021 (Audible): Apparently There Were Complaints: A Memoir (Audiobook, read by the Author)

Personal life

In 1991, Gless married Barney Rosenzweig, the producer of Cagney & Lacey.[4]



Year Title Role Notes
1973 Bonnie's Kids Sharon
1974 Airport 1975 Sharon
1983 The Star Chamber Emily Hardin
1997 Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life Narrator
2000 Bring Him Home Mary Daley
2009 Hannah Free Hannah
2010 Once Fallen Sue


Year Title Role Notes
1972 Ironside Jennifer Episode: "House of Terror"
1972 The Longest Night Switchboard Operator Television film
1972–1976 Marcus Welby, M.D. Kathleen Faverty 21 episodes
1972 The Sixth Sense Kay Episode: "Coffin, Coffin in the Sky"
1972 McCloud Sgt. Maggie Clinger Episode: "The New Mexican Connection"
1972 All My Darling Daughters Jennifer Television film
1972 Emergency! Undercover Police officer Episode: "Fuzz Lady"
1973 My Darling Daughters' Anniversary Jennifer Television film
1973–1974 Faraday & Company Holly Barrett 4 episodes
1974 Adam-12 Lynn Carmichael Episode: "Clinic on 18th St."
1974 The Bob Newhart Show Rosalie Shaeffer Episode: "The Modernization of Emily"
1974 The Rockford Files Susan Jameson Episode: "This Case Is Closed"
1975–1978 Switch Maggie Philbin 71 episodes
1975 Lucas Tanner Miss Reynolds Episode: "Those Who Cannot, Teach"
1975 Emergency! Sculptor Episode: "Election"
1976 The Rockford Files Lori Jenivan Episode: "The Fourth Man"
1976 Kojak Nancy Parks Episode: "Law Dance"
1976 Richie Brockelman: The Missing 24 Hours Darcy Davenport Television film
1978 Crash Lesley Fuller Television film
1978 The Immigrants Jean Seldon Lavetta miniseries
1979 Centennial Sidney Endermann 5 episodes
1979 Turnabout Penny Alston/Sam Alston 7 episodes
1979 The Last Convertible Kay Haddon Television film
1980 Hardhat and Legs Patricia Botsford Television film
1980 The Kids Who Knew Too Much Karen Goldner Television film
1980 The Scarlett O'Hara War Carole Lombard Television film
1980 Revenge of the Stepford Wives Kaye Foster Television film
1981 The Miracle of Kathy Miller Barbara Miller Television film
1982 House Calls Jane Jeffries 15 episodes
1982–1988 Cagney & Lacey Det. Sgt. Christine Cagney 119 episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (1986–87)
Viewers for Quality Television Award for Best Actress in a Quality Drama Series (1985–88)
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama (1985, 1987–89)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (1983–85, 1988)
1983 Tales of the Unexpected Caroline Coates Episode: "Youth from Vienna"
1983 Hobson's Choice Maggie Hobson Television film
1984 The Sky's No Limit Joanna Douglas Television film
1985 Letting Go Kate Television film
1989 The Outside Woman Joyce Mattox Television film
1990–1992 The Trials of Rosie O'Neill Rosie O'Neill 26 episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (1991–92)
1992 Honor Thy Mother Bonnie Von Stein Television film
1994 Separated by Murder Various Television film
1994 Cagney & Lacey: The Return Christine Cagney-Burton Television film
1995 Cagney & Lacey: Together Again Christine Cagney-Burton Television film
1995 Cagney & Lacey: The View Through the Glass Ceiling Christine Cagney Television film
1996 Cagney & Lacey: True Convictions Christine Cagney Television film
1997 Promised Land Alex Tolan 2 episodes
1998 The Girl Next Door Dr. Gayle Bennett Television film
2000–2005 Queer as Folk Debbie Novotny 79 episodes
2000 Touched by an Angel Ziggy Episode: "The Perfect Game"
2003 Judging Amy Dr. Sally Godwin Episode: "Maxine Interrupted"
2006 The State Within Lynne Warner 6 episodes
2007–2013 Burn Notice Madeline Westen 111 episodes
Gracie Allen Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
2008–2009 Nip/Tuck Colleen Rose 4 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
2016 Rizzoli & Isles Inmate Episode: "2M7258-100"
2016 The Exorcist Chris MacNeil 4 episodes
2017 The Gifted Ellen Strucker 2 episodes
2017, 2018, 2020 Casualty Zsa Zsa Harper-Jenkinson 4 episodes[13]
2019 Constance Raylynn Television film

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Title Result
1983 Emmy Award Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Cagney & Lacey Nominated
1984 Emmy Award Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Nominated
1985 Emmy Award Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Nominated
Golden Globe Award Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama Nominated
Viewers for Quality Television Awards Best Actress in a Quality Drama Series Won
1986 Emmy Award Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Won
Golden Globe Award Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama Won
Viewers for Quality Television Awards Best Actress in a Quality Drama Series Won
1987 Emmy Award Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Won
Viewers for Quality Television Awards Best Actress in a Quality Drama Series Won
Golden Globe Award Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama Nominated
1988 Emmy Award Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Nominated
Viewers for Quality Television Awards Best Actress in a Quality Drama Series Won
Golden Globe Award Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama Nominated
1989 Golden Globe Award Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Television Series Drama Nominated
1991 Emmy Award Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series The Trials of Rosie O'Neill Nominated
Golden Globe Award Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama Won
1992 Emmy Award Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Nominated
Golden Globe Award Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama Nominated
1995 Hollywood Walk of Fame Star on the Walk of Fame at 7065 Hollywood Blvd Won
2004 TV Land Awards Favorite Crimestopper Duo Cagney & Lacey Nominated
2006 TV Land Awards Coolest Crime Fighting Team Nominated
2007 TV Land Awards Favorite Lady Gumshoe Nominated
2008 Emmy Award Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Nip/Tuck Nominated
2009 Madrid International Film Festival Best Actress Hannah Free Won
Film Out San Diego Audience Award Best Actress in a Feature Film Won
2010 Gracie Award Outstanding Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Drama Series Burn Notice Won
Satellite Award Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
Emmy Award Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Nominated


  1. ^ a b "("Gless" search results)". EMMYS. Television. Archived from the original on August 15, 2017. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "("Gless" search results)". Golden Globe Awards. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on August 15, 2017. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
  3. ^ "Sharon Gless". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Archived from the original on August 15, 2017. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c The Guardian: "Sharon Gless: My family values - The actor, best known for her role as Cagney in Cagney & Lacey, talks about her family" Nikki Spencer October 7, 2011
  5. ^ a b Spencer, Nikki (October 7, 2011). "Sharon Gless: My family values". Archived from the original on August 15, 2017. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
  6. ^ "Newsday, July 7, 2004". Archived from the original on February 10, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  7. ^ Sharon Gless Biography (1943-)
  8. ^ Witbeck, Charles (July 12, 1976). "Sharon Gless Hoping for Larger Role". News-Journal. Ohio, Mansfield. King Features Syndicate, Inc. p. 12. Retrieved August 14, 2017 – via open access
  9. ^ "Bio". Sharon Gless. Retrieved June 26, 2021.
  10. ^ Buck, Jerry (January 31, 1982). "Sharon Gless of 'House Calls'". Sunday Times-Sentinel. Gallipolis, Ohio. AP. pp. 16, § Take-One. Retrieved November 5, 2011.
  11. ^ Scott, Vernon (January 28, 1976). "Days Long for Actress". News-Journal. p. 16. Retrieved September 7, 2015 – via
  12. ^ Deggans, Eric (July 17, 2010). "Sharon Gless is smokin' in 'Burn Notice'". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
  13. ^ a b "BBC One's Casualty kicks off new series with special two-part episode" (Press release). BBC Media Centre. July 30, 2017. Retrieved November 14, 2017.
  14. ^ Reilly, Elaine (November 14, 2017). "Sharon Gless: 'Apparently it's the first time Casualty have flown an American over to play a role!'". What' s on TV. Retrieved December 8, 2018.
  15. ^ @BBCCasualty (October 13, 2018). "Zsa Zsa to the rescue! 💪 #Casualty is on @BBCOne RIGHT NOW!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  16. ^ National Student Film Institute/L.A: The Sixteenth Annual Los Angeles Student Film Festival. The Directors Guild Theatre. June 10, 1994. pp. 10–11.
  17. ^ Los Angeles Student Film Institute: 13th Annual Student Film Festival. The Directors Guild Theatre. June 7, 1991. p. 3.
  18. ^ "The Alan Titchmarsh Show at UK TV Listings Guide". Archived from the original on March 30, 2012.

External links

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