Ask Tyne Daly about her incredible career, and she replies, "I thought it was a credible career."
Well, yes, in the sense that she has worked long and hard as a professional actor with a host of very impressive credits, from her New York debut in The Butter and Egg Man through films, guest shots on numerous series, a bravura turn in Gypsy on Broadway, and, of course, the long-running show Cagney and Lacey. Even more impressive is the flock of awards that she has collected, including five Emmys, a Tony, a Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards.
Uncareful use of the English language aside, the volume and the intensity of Daly's work borders on amazing, possibly even hard to believe. Daly, herself, on the other hand, is easy-going, very comfortable in her own skin, and very, very passionate about her work.
"After 38 years of acting-professionally-I think it's less about finding things to do or sending stuff or making sure the audience knows," she said. "It's about inviting them to look at you, inviting them to listen to you, and inviting them to open their hands because you have a present to give them."
The daughter of an actor, Daly began acting when she was 17. She joked about flunking out of college so that she could go to trade school and learn how to act.
"I went to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy," she said, which her dad paid for. "But he protested that it was ridiculous for anybody to go to school for acting because you learn to act by acting."
But Daly was fascinated by the craft and technique of the art, and insisted on going to school to learn it. She made her professional debut at the Bucks County Playhouse before moving on to New York. But at the end of the '60s, Hollywood beckoned, and she made guest appearances on The Mod Squad and Ironside. She hit the big screen in 1969 with an appearance in the film John and Mary.
In 1976, she got a taste of the role she would be best known for in The Enforcer, with Clint Eastwood. Five years later, she got that role: Detective Mary Beth Lacey, the nice mom, cop, and partner to the edgy, alcoholic Cagney in the series Cagney and Lacey. Her work netted her four Emmys as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. She picked up her fifth, for Best-Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, for her work on the series Christy, about a young teacher trying to make a difference in the lives of some Appalachian school children.
And that was just the TV stuff. In 1990, she took on the mama of all mother roles-Mama Rose in a revival of Gypsy. Her no-nonsense, physical take on the role snagged her the Tony, plus a Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle awards. That was also after bringing down the house in a production out here in Los Angeles of Come Back Little Sheba. And then there was Call Me Madam just a few years ago.
This fall, she's returning to television in the new fall series Judging Amy, playing a retired social worker whose daughter, played by Amy Brenneman, had gotten a job as a judge in juvenile court after fleeing home thanks to a bad divorce.
Asked if the days of good roles for women "of a certain age" are gone, Daly said, "I don't know that they ever existed. It feels absolutely age-appropriate to me to be playing this role. There's an element of relief to not be carrying the show, or producing the show, or having those kinds of headaches."
Daly tries to approach each new role completely fresh. "I believe that the discipline of the actor is that you start again. You start brand new," she said. "I have to approach Judging Amy as if there were no Christy, and no Cagney and Lacy, and no 11, 12 years of freelancing before that. That takes mental discipline. What you learn is each job. You learn how to do Cagney and Lacey. Then you learn how to do Gypsy. Then you learn how to do The Seagull. Then you learn how to do Call Me Madam. You learn each one. If you're willing.
"But if you come in and say, "OK, kids, I do this, now I do this. This is how I do it. I've been doing it for 30 years,' then you are a performer and a personality and a celebrity, perhaps. But you ain't an actor."
And we can well believe that Daly is, indeed, an actor.