Sharon Gless

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Name Sharon Gless
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Few actresses have the distinction of being recognized and revered worldwide for multiple iconic roles in groundbreaking television shows. Sharon Gless is one of them.

Generations of TV viewers know and love the remarkable characters brought to life by this standout multi Emmy and Golden Globe winning actress: Christine Cagney (Cagney & Lacey), Debbie Novotny (Queer As Folk) and Madeline Westen (Burn Notice), among many others. With over four decades of indelible television, film, and stage roles to her credit, Gless continues to enchant her longtime followers and captivate new fans with every appearance.

In 1972, the head of Talent at Universal Studios perceived a take-notice quality in Sharon Gless and signed her as a contract player, a coveted breakthrough opportunity for any young actress. Gless remained under contract for the next decade, until the studio ended all talent contracts in 1982, earmarking her as the last contract player in the history of Hollywood.

During her contract years with Universal, Gless appeared in top-rated television series including: The Rockford Files, The Bob Newhart Show, Kojack, Adam-12, and Faraday and Company. After reoccurring guest-star spots on Marcus Welby, M.D., Gless was offered the role of Kathleen Faverty, a medical professional and James Brolin’s first love interest. Robert Young appreciated the young rising star’s talent and she was cast in two television movies to play his daughter. When the Marcus Welby, M.D. storyline changed, Gless’ career advanced when she was chosen to play Maggie Philbin, the only female main character on Switch, an action series starring Robert Wagner and Eddie Albert, for all three seasons from 1975 to 1978.

L.A. Law creator, Steven Bocho, had earlier developed a situation comedy, Turnabout, (1979), in which a married couple, through magic, switch bodies. Loving the cross-gender acting challenge, Gless played Penny, who has embodied her husband, Sam. Noting her naturally husky and sultry voice and precise comic timing, Gless was next cast to play Carole Lombard in a successful TV movie directed by John Erman, The Scarlett O’Hara War (1980). It was during a screening of The Scarlett O’Hara War that television producer Barney Rosensweig discovered Gless and entreated her to star in his upcoming TV project, Cagney and Lacey. By the start of production, Gless had already been cast in the popular series, House Calls, as Jane Jeffries, making her unavailable for Cagney & Lacey’s 2-hour pilot movie and first episodes.

Gless stepped in to the role of New York Police Detective Christine Cagney in 1982 and Cagney and Lacey made television history as the first hour-long drama to feature two females in the leading roles, who brought public awareness to serious cultural issues for women: date rape, breast cancer, addiction, sexism in the workplace, career choices, abortion, and moral dilemma. Over 30 million American viewers watched the show every week and Gless garnered two Emmy awards for Best Lead Actress in a Drama and six total nominations, along with a Golden Globe award and six nominations during the show’s highly-rated run. After the show ended, Gless won an additional Golden Globe for her starring role in the drama series, The Trials of Rosie O’Neill, and two more Emmy nominations.

In popular demand, Gless, also costarred in a feature film with Michael Douglas, The Star Chamber, as well as telefilms: Honor Thy Mother, Hobson’s Choice, Hard Hat & Legs, Separated by Murder, and the heartbreaker, Letting Go, with John Ritter.

From 1994 to 1996, Gless reunited with TV partner Tyne Daly for a quartet of critically acclaimed Cagney & Lacey television movies.

In 2000, Gless took a daring chance with a role that opened to viewers the underground lives of gay and lesbians in America, playing the outrageous and bold, yet tender, character Debbie Novotny in Queer as Folk. Her portrayal of a devoted mother to a gay son and confidant to his gay friends in this unexpected Showtime smash series, touched countless hearts and changed the definition of family for millions of viewers. In five seasons, Gless accomplished with her brilliant interpretation of Debbie what had previously taken decades in acceptance of gay and lesbian family members.

Now known for her ability to portray characters with multi-layered, startling and complex emotions, U.S.A. network cast her in their radical series, Burn Notice, (2007- 2013) as a chain-smoking persuasive woman, Madeline Westen, who helps her son establish a new life, by using an unpredictable mixture of heart and heat. Gless earned her 10th Emmy nomination for work in this series. Her 11th Emmy nomination was for Guest Actress in a Drama series, portraying Colleen Rose, an ambitious Hollywood agent harboring chilling secrets on FX’s Nip / Tuck in 2008.

Recently, Gless also appeared in two independent features, Once Fallen, with Ed Harris and Amy Madigan, and Hannah Free, in the title role of Hannah.

In 2016, Gless became an intriguing surprise character, much talked about on social media, in four episodes of The Exorcist on Fox TV, sharing the screen with Geena Davis.

Throughout her TV and film career, Gless has also acted on stage to rave reviews in various productions, debuting with Oscar-winner Kim Hunter in Watch on the Rhine at Stage West in Massachusetts. She then starred in London’s famed West End as Annie Wilkes in the adaptation of Misery alongside Bill Paterson, for an extended run. Her comedy chops were applauded in Neil Simon’s Chapter Two with Tom Conti, and she returned to the West End to star in Jane Prowse’s A Round-Heeled Woman in 2011-12 to standing ovations. Gless has also led the cast of Claudia Allen’s Cahoots at Victory Gardens in Chicago and appeared in Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues at Madison Square Garden.

Gless has a star on the renowned Hollywood Walk of Fame, an award for Excellence in the Arts from DePaul University in Chicago, and has recorded radio plays, including ‘Night, Mother, which earned her the International Sony Award.

Always the happiest when acting in a series or on screen, Gless also finds great fulfillment in lending her indomitable voice to issues involving human rights and LGBTQ causes and was honored by Norman Lear’s People for the American Way for her unwavering dedication to helping others. 2017 finds Gless joining stars like Chita Rivera, Kelli O’Hara, and Ben Vereen in “Concert for America: Stand up, Sing Out,” on Broadway and in Chicago, benefiting Planned Parenthood, NAACP, and the Sierra Club, and others.


  • Birthname: Sharon Marguerite Gless
  • Born: May 31, 1943
  • Born Place: Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Height: 5' 5" (1.65 m)
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