Sharon Gless (Finally) Goes Gay

She’s best known for playing the role of an outspoken, eccentric, overbearing PFLAG mom on Queer as Folk, a tough cop named Cagney on Cagney & Lacey, and most recently the mouthy mother on Burn Notice. But Sharon Gless has returned to gay and lesbian audiences playing a new kind of role: an actual lesbian.




Speaking of Hannah Free, who is Hannah? Hannah is a woman who’s known early on
[as a little girl] that she’s gay. She falls in
love with her friend Rachel when they both are very young.
Hannah has excellent gaydar and knows Rachel is gay too.
It’s not easy for Hannah because she’s
in a little town where that kind of love isn’t
accepted. As time progresses, Rachel realizes she
doesn’t want someone like Hannah in her life
because it’s a life she doesn’t want to accept
or live. Their relationship changes. Rachel gets
married while Hannah travels all over the world.
Hannah is a very sexual person, but she always returns
back home because she knows Rachel is the love of her
life, but you see all of these moments in different times of
her life. She’s strong and knows who she is and
doesn’t apologize for it.

See, that’s interesting because you say Hannah is
strong and unapologetic for who she is. Looking back at
your résumé, it seems like you have
played a variety of parts that fit that mold:
opinionated, outspoken, strong, and yet even vulnerable.
As an actor, have you always sought out these
parts consciously?
I didn’t consciously choose them, but I
knew I was better at them. Not to say they are easy to
play, but I am better with them. What’s interesting
is that in real life, I’m pretty shy. But I do have
that quality in me, that mouth. It’s just more
fun playing outrageous people like that. Hannah fits
the roles I love playing -- she and Rachel are so

What is the relationship between Hannah and Rachel? [The audience] comes to the story, present time,
in a nursing home where Hannah and Rachel are both
staying. Rachel had a stroke and has been in a coma
for quite some time. Hannah is there because she fell off a
roof and couldn’t take care of herself.
That’s totally Hannah, by the way, someone
working on a roof in her 60s. But Hannah is not allowed to
see Rachel because her family knows about the history
of their relationship and refuses to allow Hannah to
visit. Obviously, because the two were never married
or couldn’t be married, Hannah has no authority to
fight the family’s decision, and it’s
extremely painful for Hannah.

Which is relevant to what’s going on right now in
civil rights history with Proposition 8 [the measure
rescinding same-sex marriage rights in
California]. You’re playing a character that
can’t be with the one she knows she loves
with all her heart because others don’t
accept it, while living your real life in a historical
moment where people are now legally having that
opportunity taken away. What are your thoughts on
Proposition 8?
It won’t last. It’s like gays just
aren’t allowed to do anything. And the thing
is, the proposition isn’t just about being gay,
it’s about being a human being. Marriage
isn’t just about love, it’s also about the
legal benefits. Why can’t same-sex couples at least
have that? I believe it will be turned around.
It’s against the Constitution and just won’t
stand. It might take bit by bit, but [Hannah
] is just about that -- people just trying to get
only what they deserve.

Tags: film