Back on the Beat: Catching Up with Cagney and Lacey

Ladies' Home Journal, May 1995

When Cagney & Lacey made its debut in 1982, the show hit with the force of a revelation. For the first time, TV offered female characters (in this case, New York City police detectives) who were as full and complex as women themselves. Talking incessantly and shepherding each other through everything from bad dates to breast cancer, maternal, down-to-earth Mary Beth Lacey (Tyne Daly) and blustery, outspoken Christine Cagney (Sharon Gless) did everything their male counterparts did, but they did it like women.

And we loved them for it. By the time the show went off the air, in 1988, it had won fourteen Emmys and a passionately loyal following. Gless and Daly had become stars. They also had become fast friends. Since them, both have gone through enormous personal changes. Daly's twenty-five-year marriage to director Georg Stanford Brown ended; Gless came to terms with a drinking problem-and became a first-time bride at the age of forty-seven. (Her husband: Cagney & Lacey producer Barney Rosenzweig.)

Now Christine and Mary Beth are appearing in their second reunion movie, which airs this month on CBS. Daly and Gless, who are now forty-nine and fifty-one, have changed over the years, but what hasn't changed is the bond between them, which was more than evident when Ladies' Home Journal met them for lunch.

Q: You're such close friends now, but when Cagney & Lacey started, you didn't even know each other, did you?

Sharon: We'd met once at a party, and she said something to me that night that was so wonderful, I swore I'd never forget it.

Tyne: But when I asked her, "What did I say?" she said, "I don't know. I forgot."

Sharon: I was very intimidated when I first started because I had a reputation for being a light comedian. So I told Tyne about my insecurity. Not long afterward, I did a scene where I really chewed up the scenery, kicking and screaming and all that stuff. They like that. They think it's drama.

When I was done, she came over to me and said, "Don't let anyone ever tell you that you're only a light comedian." I went, "whew," and from there, it was easy sailing.

Q: Was it instant friendship?

Tyne: We were just friendly colleagues at first. But sweat is really good cement. We were working fourteen-hour days. The classic line about women was always that they couldn't work together because they'd be in competition the whole time. You're talking to two extraordinarily competitive women here. But we told each other everything.

Q: The friendship between Christine and Mary Beth is so real and vivid...Do you think that's what made Cagney & Lacey so popular?

Sharon: I do think it's the chemistry between those two characters. And there's a realness to them that people can relate to.

Tyne: I think there's a certain amount of relief for women to see someone who's big like them, or a guy who looks like (Daly's TV husband) Harvey instead of Tom Selleck. Someone watching can put aside her jealousies-oh, God, if only my breasts were that big!-and really get inside these women.

Sharon: Here's a statistic for you: Sixty percent of the women in the U.S. wear a size over 14.

Q: While the series was running, were you pressured to lose weight?

Tyne: Sure. And to be prettier.

Sharon: In the beginning of every season, we'd arrive in shape, real professional about looking good. By the end of the nine months, it was like a horror film. We just wore a lot of coats.

Q: Anything you didn't like about the show?

Tyne: The hours were very hard on my family. I had a baby during the third season. The first year afterward was okay because I could bring her to work, but the second year she was a toddler and could destroy my trailer in about forty-eight seconds. So I experienced the big tear between life and work. Take a look at year five and you'll see an angry lady. I had to hand my kid over to someone else and come in and (act with) these pretend children, and I was just furious.

Q: What do you like to watch on TV?

Tyne: Oh, Sharon! I watch some kid stuff with my daughter. Besides that, not much.

Q: How often do you see each other or stay in touch?

Tyne: It depends on where we are and what's happening in our lives.

Sharon: When I was in Florida, I got very sick with spinal meningitis. Tyne called me every day. She's one of my few close friends in show business. We always seem to cheer each other on.

Q: In recent years have you needed a lot of cheering?

Tyne: We both went through some big changes. Life changes. I think that we're both getting better with handling personal power, with having something to say in how our lives go.

Sharon: After I got married-which was totally unexpected-I found I was giving up a lot of my power. I got so involved in thinking about two people and worrying about compromise that inside I felt like I'd become Doris Day.

Tyne: She never thought she was going to get married, and I never thought I was going to get divorced. It sounds like some convenient opposite side of the coin, but I've spent the last couple of years beginning to enjoy things like not having to figure out what everybody wants to eat. Learning to decide what I want to do.

Q: And what is that?

Tyne: I want to do more stage work. That's where the fun is for actors. I also have a series pending right now.

Sharon: I'd like to do another series. That's where I come from.

Q: Can we figure on more reunions? Will we see Cagney & Lacey: The Senior Years?

Tyne:Well, we certainly won't lack for stories.

Q: It might be fun to see some real aging on TV! In a sense, you're already making a start. You didn't seem to worry about getting thin for the parts this time. Are you making the statement "Cagney and Lacey are older, and older women look like this"?

Tyne: Sometimes I feel like I am. Because this is a town in which an older woman can really feel invisible. So it's kind of like saying-(The two actresses roar with laughter, spreading their arms wide, their words tumbling out at the same time.)

Tyne and Sharon: TAKE A LOOK AT THIS!

Q: When you look back at your careers, where does Cagney & Lacey fit in?

Sharon: It was a high point for me. And a turning point. It made me famous. It made me wealthy. And it opened up new doors. I went on to do another series, to do a play in London...

Tyne: The fame that I'd acquired helped me to get to Broadway. What I did there was up to me, but they knew my name would sell tickets.

Q: And you found each other.

Tyne: There's a theory that sisters have the greatest bond of all. I've got a couple of sisters, and I consider Sharon another one. I hope I'll always be one of hers.

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