These days, Sharon Gless is smokin’ – oftentimes literally and especially when she steps into the role of sacked spy Michael Westen’s perpetually puffing mother on USA Network’s crackling ‘Burn Notice‘ (Thursdays at 9/8c).
“My husband [Barney Rosenzweig], who created ‘Cagney & Lacey,’ always said, ‘The best writing we ever did was with an eraser; let the women just act it.’ And with a cigarette, you can say so much without speaking.”
Thankfully, Gless also is awarded delicious dialogue as Madeline Westen tries to make hay of her son’s (played by Jeffrey Donovan) dangerous line of work, which was only recently revealed to her. Now that she is privy to (some of) Michael’s top secrets, Mom is sometimes enlisted to dabble in the spy game as well.
“It’s fun, I like it,” Gless says of the new note she gets to play on the popular action-drama. “They do it sparingly – otherwise it’s not realistic – and it’s usually for a good reason, like they can’t find somebody else.”
But for a while there, since the series’ start, Madeline was oblivious to Michael’s adventures. To galvanize those early performances, Gless says, “I didn’t always read the full script, because I didn’t want to know [what was really going on]. I didn’t want it to creep, in any way, into what I had to do.”
By elevating the character of Madeline from that of the in-the-dark matriarch, ‘Burn Notice’ hopefully has positioned Gless to collect her third Emmy Award on August 29, when she vies for Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series. (Her pair of previous wins, in the Lead Actress category, came from playing Det. Sgt. Christine Cagney.)
Regardless of how the Emmy ceremony nets out for Gless, she promises fireworks of a different kind on ‘Burn Notice,’ as Jesse (Coby Bell) – a spy who was accidentally burned by Michael – inches closer to realizing on whom he should exact his revenge.
“We’re shooting all that now and boy, it’s going to come to a head!” Gless teases. “But I don’t want to tell you anymore than that.”