As I prepared for our exclusive Instinct interview with Emmy-winning actress and author Sharon Gless, I tried to talk myself out of completely fanboying and telling her how much my mom and I loved Cagney & Lacey when I was growing up. We were set to discuss Sharon’s new memoir, Apparently there were complaints. Still, I knew I’d never be able to resist telling her what an indelible memory of my youth she created in her portrayal of Christine Cagney. I decided I would only share that with her if we hit it off in the interview —luckily, we did!
Sharon’s memoir (now out in paperback) is an honest self-reflection that will be revelatory to cross-generational audiences who have watched her in myriad of roles since the 1970s—beginning with the hit show Switch, co-starring Robert Wagner. From there, Sharon’s Hollywood journey continued onto other big TV shows and films, including Marcus Welby, M.D., Revenge of the Stepford Wives, House Calls, The Trials of Rosie O’Neill, Cagney & Lacey, Burn Notice, and of course, Queer as Folk.
Sharon holds back nothing in Apparently, There Were Complaints, as she revisits her decades-long career in Hollywood, difficult personal moments and triumphs. But it’s far from just another Tinseltown story of success. The book closely examines the most formative time in her life, including a happy childhood and her sometimes quite turbulent adolescence, both influenced greatly by a loving but intimidating grandmother named Grimmy.
When Sharon joined me on Zoom for our interview, I had no idea what to expect. Of course, I knew her tough-as-nails persona through the characters she played on TV, but what would she be like in real life? I melted immediately when she warmly greeted me, “Hi Corey” in that beautifully husky, signature voice. Suddenly, I was 15 years old again, face-to-face with ‘Christine Cagney’ and she was ready to chat.
Sharon was kind, transparent, and engaging as we discussed highlights from her memoir, delving deep into her career, complex family history, professional highs and lows, unbelievable close calls with death, and her ultimate admission of and treatment for alcohol abuse. Queer as Folk fans will take particular interest in Sharon’s heartfelt connection to her role as proud P-Flag mom Debbie Novotny. The actress explained that playing Debbie was profound and life-changing, but not just for her:
“Corey, you know, my best friends are gays, so I thought, I know all about the gay community — I didn’t know anything. I just knew we had a lot of fun drinking, you know, and telling stories on each other. But I never knew the real struggles. I never knew what was going on. But that show opened doors and I had a boy write me once saying, ‘Thank you so much for the character you’re playing.’
And, I didn’t mean to be playing a goody two shoes because I didn’t think Debbie was and I still don’t think she is. She’s a little tough. She’s so outrageous and she had a mouth on her. But, this young man said, my best friend is dead. He killed himself because he didn’t see Queer as folk. It hadn’t been on the air yet. He said, I’m alive because Queer as Folk got on the air. And I could see that there are people just like me.”
“That’s the beauty of that show,” Sharon continued, and it further solidified her as a true advocate and ally of the LGBTQIA community.
Apparently, There Were Complaints is entertaining, brutally honest, and relatable to the masses as Sharon writes everything precisely as she has lived it—never with restraint. And I must give her a special thank you for wishing my mom a very special happy birthday during our interview.
Sharon Gless is a class act, and readers of her memoir will be entertained while gaining valuable life lessons in vulnerability, self-awareness, fearlessness, self-love, and, most importantly, accountability.
Watch our full interview with Sharon Gless: