Sharon Gless

SHE PLAYS Blacklisted CIA agent Michael Westen's chain-smoking hypochondriac mother, Madeline on USA Network's Burn Notice (Thursdays, 10/9c). "She's a little wacko and not the ideal, but I think she's growing," Gless says of the role, which this year won the series its first — and the actress her 10th — acting Emmy nomination.

WHERE YOU'VE SEEN HER The 67-year-old Gless has enjoyed a long and successful TV career, beginning in the 1970s on Marcus Welby, M.D. and Switch, and more recently on Queer as Folk and Nip/Tuck. But it was her daring portrayal as one half of the tough-yet-vulnerable female cop duo on the groundbreaking CBS drama Cagney & Lacey (1982-88) that earned her two Emmy wins. "It changed the history of television for women," she says. "My character [Cagney] was the first time you ever saw the hero of a show fall from grace like she did being a drunk."

WHY WE LOVE HER The brilliant, badass superspy doesn't fall far from the tree!
"Michael gets all of his moxy and smarts from her," Gless says of Madeline, who isn't above manipulating her own flesh and blood, but it's usually with the best intentions. Like in tonight's episode when she lays on the guilt to get Mikey to help his screw-up brother Nate (Seth Peterson) out of another jam.

MIAMI VICE Gless is proud to report she hasn't had a cigarette in six weeks, although she'll go back to smoking when Burn Notice begins filming Season 5 next year. "I'll do it for the character," she says. "You can't take cigarettes away from Madeline. You think she's a pain in the ass now — can you imagine Madeline trying to quit smoking?"

Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!