Sharon Gless of Cagney & Lacey regrets gaining weight at 49 for a role


Sharon Gless released her memoir, Apparently There Were Complaints, on Tuesday. That’s a great title. I had no intention of getting it, but that title might’ve changed my mind. The reviews say the book is really funny, so I’m in. It’s not all funny, though. Sharon is honest about some of the darker sides of fame and her life. She talks about her family and her alcoholism. She also talks about her weight, something she struggled with her whole life. She admits she wouldn’t have gotten pivotal roles in her career, such as Det. Sgt. Christine Cagney of Cagney & Lacey if she had been heavy. But when she played Annie Wilkes in Misery on the West End, Sharon was faced with another kind of weight issue. The producers wanted her character to be 40 pounds heavier and offered to make her a fat suit. Sharon was 49 and going through menopause, so she offered to gain the weight naturally and put on the full 40 pounds herself. She considers that decision as “one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done in my life.”

Sharon Gless has one big regret in life. Well, 40 of them.

In her memoir, “Apparently There Were Complaints,” the actress, 78, reveals that doesn’t look back fondly on the experience of plumping up for the role of Annie Wilkes in the 1992 West End production of “Misery.”

“When I got it [the role], they said, ‘We’ll make you a fat suit,’” she told Page Six in a recent interview. “Well, I had just gone into menopause. I said, ‘You don’t have to do that, I’ll take care of that!’ One of the dumbest things I’ve ever done in my life.”

Gless explained that she gained about 40 pounds and when her husband, producer Barney Rosenzweig, flew in from Los Angeles for the opening night he was shocked.

“He hadn’t seen me for a month, he didn’t know who I was. That upset him very much,” she said.

The “Queer as Folk” star added that she had no problem putting on the pounds because of menopause, calling the experience, “the toughest thing I’ve ever been through and I’m sure it’s the toughest thing my husband’s been through.

“There’s no joking about it if you’re going through it, you don’t know who you are.”

[From Page Six]

I will probably have more context for this story once I read it in total. I’m interested to know what Sharon’s motivation for putting the weight on herself was. Gaining 40 pounds for a role is never a good idea, I don’t care what Mark Wahlberg says. But I understand the attraction of having an excuse to say forget it and indulge in everything for a month of my life. I’m only a couple of years older than Sharon was when she did this. I have begun menopause and I have struggled with weight my whole life. There is no way in hell I would voluntarily put on five pounds, let alone 40. I just reached a weight goal that I’ve been trying to reach for four years. It’s so f*cking hard at this age. Granted I don’t work out like an actress, but I do exercise and watch what I eat. I even diet when I am actively trying to drop pounds. But those pounds never drop! I’d like to think it’s because they like me so much that they can’t bear to live away from me. But I’m sure the actual reasons rhyme with “mold” and “fetabolism.”

Looking at Sharon’s IMDb, there is a two-year gap between 1992, when she did the play and her next project. It is just about the only gap on her entire page. I have no idea how long the play ran. Maybe it was a long run, or maybe Sharon took time off to deal with the 40 pounds. Fortunately, she didn’t stay away long and has been working consistently ever since. I hope she’s not still struggling with body image and that the industry lets her body of work speak for her.


Photo credit: Avalon Red and via Instagram

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24 Responses to “Sharon Gless of Cagney & Lacey regrets gaining weight at 49 for a role”

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  1. Shawna says:

    I loved her in Burn Notice. Thanks for tipping us off about the memoir!

    • Roo says:

      I enjoyed the entire cast in Burn Notice, but she was definitely the best part. You can tell she had fun with it, too.

    • nb says:

      Me too! My husband loves that show so much he’s watched it in entirety twice. We still jokingly say to each other “Someone needs your help, Michael” from her line in the opening credits.

    • RoyalAssassin says:

      They announced today that Jeffrey Donovan, from Burn Notice, is the lead in the return of the original Law & Order, premiering Feb. 24th…yay….

  2. Amy T says:

    She did a great interview on “Morning Edition” yesterday. Worth the seven minute listen.

  3. Jezz says:

    I don’t get the focus on the weight gain. Did she lose it (and if so how)? She looks the same weight here as she did in the 1970s!

    • manda says:

      I’m guessing that it was hard for her to lose it after it was over, and it was also upsetting that her husband was so thrown. Those are my thoughts

    • Gruey says:

      I would imagine it fucked up her face quite a bit. Facial fat for women is a big issue as you age. One of the reasons you don’t want to gain and lose a lot of weight is because you will lose facial fat even if those 40 lbs all went to your ass and gut (more likely in menopause).

      Losing pregnancy weight at 39 was rough enough and I don’t think I’ll ever let go of those last 10 lbs. I would not want to have to do a 40 lb weight loss at 50. Hellll no.

  4. manda says:

    I forgot about her in queer as folk! That was a good show

    I can imagine not wanting to wear a fat suit, but omg, the thought of purposely putting on 40 pounds. I don’t see how it could be done healthfully at menopause or perimenopause, I would worry about diabetes and other things like that (I am at a higher risk for getting type 2 bc of a family history, and even though I try to be good most of the time, I have had a few high A1C results….)

    I am 45, and have found that if I want to lose some weight, I just need to really cut my sugars and carbs, which is also good for the diabetes, but not so great for living because sugar and carbs are in every-effing-thing

  5. Kviby says:

    TIL capt holts daughters names had an origin . I always thought Cagney was a very unique and odd name

  6. Surly Gale says:

    I have those DVD’s they are holding….LOVED the show when it was on!

  7. Concern Fae says:

    De Niro in the 70s was gorgeous. After gaining all that weight for Raging Bull and then losing it, he always looked a bit middle aged. Not the same.

    That said, I do think that we need to do away with fat suits. Heavier actors exist. If the part calls for a fat person, cast one in the role. Fat suits are like darkened skin, pretending that only thin, white people can be good actors.

  8. JBH says:

    Actors should NEVER make drastic changes to their weight just for a role. The health risks aren’t worth it.

  9. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    I just started her memoir (audiobook) on Tuesday and it’s off to a great start. I’m not too familiar with her work but I love celeb memoirs and bios.

  10. Bettyrose says:

    I gained weight for the pandemic. I’m regretting it. Shoulda gone with the fat suit.

  11. JRenee says:

    So is she really saying that in the one month that she didn’t see her husband, she gained 40 pounds? Wait what?

    • AppleCart says:

      As someone who in the throws of menopause I can assure you how easy the fat belly piles on with even a whiff of carbs nearby.

  12. MerlinsMom1018 says:

    I relate to this so so much
    When I was 26 I had to have a hysterectomy because of cervical cancer (caught VERY early, my GYN at the time was amazing) and it threw me into early menopause. I lost my damned mind and had no idea what I was doing half the time, (which having 3 littles at home (youngest was 7 months old) could have been disastrous.)
    I don’t even want to talk about the weight gain 🙄
    Menopause ain’t no joke. I believe those of us who have gone thru it and come out on the other side deserve a medal.
    I am genuinely sympathetic to those going into or in the full blown throes of it now.
    (p.s.) Yes they did put me on hormones to level me out but that’s another horror story

  13. Lucille says:

    Gaining 40 pounds as a man with a good metabolism and lots of muscle mass is not that big of a deal. It’s easy to lose it for someone like a young Mark Wahlberg. It’s also not uncommon to use some extra testosterone to get back into shape. But for a woman, nontheless a menopausal one it’s the worst idea. Fat is hormonally active, especially in women which makes losing it even harder. Gaining that much weight in such a short amount of time also means that the body will increase the amount of fat cells, which usually stays the same with low fluctuations. I’m in my 30s and gained a lot of weight from medications. Since my metabolism is cooked it’s almost impossible to lose it. Imagine this during or after menopause.

  14. tealily says:

    I’m really glad to hear someone say this. I hate when actors gain/lose for a role and we all celebrate it. It’s really not a healthy thing to do on a whim.

  15. jferber says:

    I love Sharon Gless! Such memories from Cagney and Lacey, a great cop show that doesn’t get all the credit it deserves.