After Cagney, a Real Life

Ms magazine, January/February 1991

In The Trials of Rosie ONeill, each episode opens with a trip to the therapist. Newly divorced and still hurting, Rosie squirms and confesses; the shrink is unseen, but heard. And the viewer is- -more than usual for television-voyeur.

For Sharon Gless, that's her favorite moment. "I think it's the show's trade-mark. You see her practicing law, and she's good at it. And you see her interacting, sort of, with her family. The therapy sessions are where you get to hear who she is."

It's private life made public. And for Gless, who's been forced to publicize her new show with many sessions on the media interviewer's couch, the scenes reveal her own vulnerability as well. "I'm not playing myself. I'm not really like Rosie. But I understand her feelings very well. I just finished a therapy monologue saying, 'Having a man isn't going to fix any-thing. I need me." Those kinds of sentences are my own experience.

"While I was playing Christine Cagney I sort of lost myself", Gless says. What followed after the series ended was not pleasant: treatment for alcoholism, and a well-publicized break-in from a crazed, obsessed woman. Of her time away from television, Gless says, "This sounds so corny, but I learned how vulnerable I am, and how strong I am."

And as art imitates life, Cagney has been replaced with "a totally different character. Cagney was not in touch with her feelings," Gless says. "She was vulnerable underneath, but guarded. Rosie is older and more clear as to who she is."

Apparently, Rosie's also mature enough not to want everyone to like-or watch- her. Producer Barney Rosenzweig told CBS this show wouldn't appeal to everyone, which suits Gless just fine. "I don't know how to compromise and make this show for everybody-then you become like Dallas. Rosie is about one real woman. This is just one woman's story.

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