It was a casting choice that was to prove unpopular with executives: “Not feminine enough,” an unnamed CBS suit told listings magazine TV Guide. Foster was ousted after just three broadcast episodes.
“I felt that we were beginning to hit our rhythm,” says Daly. “I liked Meg and I thought we worked well together, but there were demurs from the top. It was painful to go through that casting process again as it had been hard enough to find Meg.”
As it turns out, producer Barney Rosenzweig had had a certain actress by the name of Sharon Gless in mind from the beginning and was determined to make her his Christine Cagney.
“He’d offered it to me two times before,” reveals Gless. “But actors aren’t always the best judges of material and I’d turned it down. When it came around for the third time, Barney found out that the sitcom I was in – House Calls – had been axed.
“He rang up my agent, Monique James, and said, ‘I’m calling for the third time to ask you to let Sharon Gless play Cagney’. And she said, ‘I told you, Barney, dear, Sharon’s in a series.’ And he said, ‘You wanna bet she’s in a series? She just got cancelled!”
After some cajolement from Daly (“She bought me balloons and champagne to woo me into playing the part. Hey – I’m easy”), Gless came on board, although she did have reservations about the tactics employed by Rosenzweig:
“I told Monique that I didn’t like the guy with the beard. I thought he was arrogant. Ten years later, I married him.”
Back in 1982, however, marriage to Rosenzweig was the last thing on Gless’s mind. After signing to portray the vivacious Christine Cagney, the actress had to undergo firearms training at the police academy, an experience that she found terrifying.
“I hate guns. To begin with I was shooting blanks and then they loaded it up with real bullets. They wanted me to feel the kick that you get from having live ammunition in the chamber, but I started crying. And I’m supposed to be the one playing the ballbuster. On the series, Tyne would carry her gun in her purse, but I refused. So in order to give the impression of weight, my purse always had two tomato juice cans in it.”
For Tyne Daly, who had two daughters at the time and a third born in 1985, the pressures of starring in a prime-time drama were of a different nature: “I was stopping at the midnight market on the way home and picking up the laundry on the way to work. I was trying to be a mom and spend time with my children and make dates with my husband. But hour-long drama is a life-eater, it really is. So it takes a lot of energy, but we were young and healthy and we were inspired to make this rare opportunity count.”
Those efforts were rewarded with Daly scooping Emmys in three consecutive years for outstanding lead actress in a drama series. An enviable record to be sure, but was co-star Gless privately concerned about being overlooked?
“Every year, Barney Rosenzweig would come into my trailer and say, ‘I worry about you, you’re never going to win. Blondes only ever win in comedy.’ And I said, ‘I don’t care. I’m going to do it.’ And then in the fourth and fifth year, I won. In the final season of the show, it went back to Tyne. But in all the years we were on the air, no one else won the Emmy in that lead actress category.”
Even though they were vying for the same awards, it seems there was little rivalry between Gless and Daly, despite the fact that the former had been originally introduced to bolster what was perceived to be a failing enterprise.
“Tyne welcomed me with open arms,” says Gless. “It’s through her generosity that the whole thing worked. She treated me with the greatest respect.”