Madeline Westen
played by Sharon Gless
  • Character bio
  • Actor bio

In Michael's eyes the only thing worse than a fully armed assassin happens to be his obsessive mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless). Widowed, with an empty nest, Madeline had made it a priority to keep Michael in her life after his return to Miami. She spent years plotting ways to keep in touch with her oldest son, and to make peace between him and his brother Nate.

Their relationship was getting stronger by the day until Nate was killed while on a mission for the CIA. Madeline may have forgiven Michael for bringing his brother along, but the memory is so painful, things between them will never be the same.

Now Madeline has a new purpose in life since adopting Nate’s three-year-old son, Charlie. Madeline wasn’t the greatest mother to Michael or Nate, so she’s determined to do it right this time around. She won’t let anyone or anything endanger her adopted son, not even Michael’s mission. 

Sharon Gless is Madeline Westen in the hit USA Network original series BURN NOTICE.

Multiple Emmy and Golden Globe-winner Sharon Gless was recognized for her role as BURN NOTICE's Madeline Westen with a 2010 Emmy award nomination.

In 2009, Gless traveled to London to produce and star in a one-night performance of "A Round-Heeled Woman." The play is based on the best-selling book by Jane Juska, about a woman's adventures with sex and romance later in life. She starred in "A Round-Heeled Woman" in San Francisco in 2010 and Miami in 2011, before bringing her pet project to the UK & then the West End, this past winter, where she received rave reviews. Gless starred in two independent features, "Once Fallen" with Ed Harris and Amy Madigan, and "Hannah Free," in which Gless held the title role. As Hannah, a character who spans 60 years, she played a free-spirited woman attempting to reunite with the love of her life one last time. The film was selected as the Closing Night film at the prestigious Frameline Gay/Lesbian Film Festival in San Francisco.

She was an Emmy nominee for Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her chilling performance as Colleen Rose, an ambiguous Hollywood agent with a multitude of dark secrets on FX's "Nip/Tuck."

For five seasons (2000-2005), Gless starred as the outrageous and beloved Debbie Novotny in the groundbreaking Showtime series "Queer as Folk." In 2006, she received rave reviews for her starring role as US Secretary of Defense Lynne Warner in the acclaimed BBC/BBC America miniseries "The State Within." Gless was first exposed to the entertainment industry at a young age, by her grandfather Neil S. McCarthy -- the most respected lawyer of Hollywood's Golden Age. McCarthy, whose clients included Cecil B. DeMille, Louis B. Mayer and Howard Hughes, notably drew up the first contract between a studio and a player -- an interesting fact since Gless was the last contract player in the history of Hollywood (Universal).

Her first series role was the 1973 "Faraday & Company." She guest-starred in several top TV shows before landing another series role in "Switch."

In 1982, she landed the career-changing role of New York Police Detective Christine Cagney on the smash hit drama "Cagney & Lacey." The role garnered her two Emmys wins and six nominations, along with a Golden Globe. After the show ended in 1988, she re-teamed with "Cagney & Lacey" executive producer, Barney Rosenzweig, for the drama series "The Trials of Rosie O'Neill." That role led to her second Golden Globe win and two additional Emmy nominations. Gless married Rosenzweig in 1991.

In 1994 and 1995, Gless reunited with her television partner Tyne Daly to recreate their title roles in a quartet of critically acclaimed "Cagney & Lacey" television movies. Gless and Daly fondly refer to these telefilms as their character's "Menopause Years." Also in 1995 she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The "Cagney & Lacey" movies, as well as the entire series, was released on DVD mid-2009.

Additional television roles include the series "House Calls" and "Turnabout," as well as the telefilms "Separated by Murder," "Hard Hat & Legs," "Honor Thy Mother," "Hobson's Choice," and "Letting Go." She also starred in the miniseries' "The Immigrants," "The Last Convertible," "Centennial," and Garson Kanin's "Moviola: The Scarlett O'Hara Wars," in which she played screen goddess Carole Lombard. She has also starred opposite Michael Douglas in the feature film "The Star Chamber."

Gless made her stage debut in Lillian Hellman's "Watch on the Rhine" at Stage West in Springfield, Massachusetts. Since then, she has starred twice on stage in London's famed West End, the first time in 1993 when she created the role of Annie Wilkes in the stage version of Stephen King's haunting "Misery" and in 1997 in Neil Simon's comedy "Chapter Two." She starred in Claudia Allen's "Cahoots" at Chicago's Victory Gardens Theatre and at Madison Square Garden with the national company of Eve Ensler's smash "The Vagina Monologues." Additionally, she has recorded several books-on-tape and starred in many radio plays. Her recording of "Night, Mother" for the BBC earned Gless the International Sony Award.

In 2007, she was the recipient of the Theatre School at DePaul University's prestigious Award for Excellence of the Arts.

Gless is an active participant in the ongoing struggle for a woman's right to choose. In 2005, she was honored by Norman Lear's People for the American Way for her unwavering support of human rights. She's also become a vocal advocate for gay and lesbian (LGBT) causes.

Gless spends her free time at home in one of her three favorite cities: Los Angeles, Miami and Toronto.