Episode Guide - Characters

THE FOURTEENTH PRECINCT  is in lower Manhattan, where Little Italy butts up against Chinatown. The rest of the ethnic stew is peppered with old time Jews clinging to their former territory, Puerto Ricans, Greeks and all combinations of the above. It contains the diamond district, borders Wall Street, and is probably the most diverse area to police in the country. It is fictional so its boundaries are occasionally stretched to accommodate stories.

Cagney & Lacey is a police show, but the crimes are a background to the people who commit them and the people who solve them. Sexism is not a weekly issue. Humanism is.

First and foremost, Chris Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey are good cops, professionals; not standard bearers. Their response to the continuing unconscious chauvinism in the precinct is one of the running themes. It is a show about two women who happen to be cops, rather than two cops who happen to be women.

Mary Beth and Christine have totally different responses, as two very different characters. This often puts them in conflict with each other.

Mary Beth, a married woman, is more used to accommodation and more sensitive to the struggle in men these days as they redefine their roles.

Chris has a shorter fuse, a little too much macho identification, and no tolerance for being patronized, hit on, or being told she doesn’t look like a cop. She is not, however, above using her attractiveness as a tool if it will make her job easier.

If it weren’t for Cagney, Lacey might still be working the desk. She makes Lacey work hard, take risks. But Lacey is also a very good cop because of her intuition and understanding of people. She is not as driven as Cagney. Cagney spends more time as a cop, therefore, she’s good at it. Lacey is a methodical cop, unlike Cagney who is a hot dog. Both of them, at different times, have had to kill someone on the job. 

Lacey is sometimes envious of Cagney’s money, time, freedom and higher rank, but she also admires Cagney. Cagney, usually prefers male company as colleagues and potential role models. 

But despite their differences, their deep abiding friendship, mutual respect and the classic cop/partner loyalty make them a dynamic unit.

CHRISTINE CAGNEY  (Sharon Gless) is a combination of Westchester money and New York Brooklyn Irish Catholic street-sense. Her father and mother separated when Cagney was very young. She went to live with her mother, grandmother and older brother in Westchester.

Christine felt lonely and isolated in Westchester and doesn’t miss that lifestyle at all. Cagney was brought up by her mother to be among the upper crust. When she was nineteen and on Junior Year Abroad from Barnard in Paris, her mother died. Christine DID NOT return for the funeral, and her relationship with her brother, Brian (David Ackroyd), had been strained since.

At her mother’s death, Christine received a substantial amount of money in trust. Brian, 43, now lives in California with his wife, Ann, and their two children. 

Chris’ relationship with her father, Charles Fitzgerald Cagney (Dick O’Neill), a retired police officer whom she calls Charlie, was a close one. Before his untimely death last year, she was determined to make him proud of her, even though their relationship suffered a set-back when Christine learned of some minor bribe-accepting he was engaged in during his time on the force. Charlie Cagney had a stormy relationship with Donna La Marr (Carole Cook), a retired Rockette. Chris only grudgingly approved.

When Charlie became ill in December of 1985, Christine faced the fact that he was growing older. Charlie’s drinking brought on the crisis; he was told that if he kept drinking, he’d die. After repeated attempts by Christine to get him to control his drinking, her own drinking escalated. Later she found him dead in his apartment from an alcohol—related accident.

This triggered a binge which brought Christine to a recognition of her own alcoholism and ultimately, to Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A).

Chris began to repair her relationship with her brother, Brian, during a visit to California and when Brian came to New York to see Charlie in the hospital. Their relationship was further strengthened when Brian came for Charlie’s funeral.

There is an implied fresh rift, the result of Cagney’s drinking when she visited Brian post-funeral.

Cagney has also developed a relationship with her 21 year old niece, Bridget (Amanda Wyss).

Christine loves the city. She loves the pace. She loves her job. She wants to be the first woman Police Commissioner (she became a Detective in October 1981, a Sergeant in April, 1985). Her ambition is not without conflict.

If love comes, it will sneak up on her. She’s not looking for Mr. Right, although a Mr. Possible intrigues her. She had renewed interest in Dory McKenna (Barry Primus), a fellow detective who had earlier abuse problems with cocaine. But that ended. She makes light of her social matchmaking attempts. The truth is, however, that she knows the intimacy marriage would require and she’s not willing to make the commitment until she knows absolutely for sure that she can make it wholeheartedly. And who can know anything absolutely for sure?

Cagney had been seeing an ACLU lawyer, David Keeler (Stephen Macht)  on a non-exclusive basis for two years. However, this relationship hit some rocks when he defended a perp who had attempted to murder her. The relationship continued in an on-again off-again manner until he proposed marriage. This triggered a declaration of independence in which she decided on a life without matrimony.

At an A.A. meeting later in the season, she met Nick Amatucci (Carl Weintraub), a muscular, charming plumber. They dated regularly through the rest of the season. She is a romantic conservative. She had never gone out with a blue collar guy before. 

She has an easy, bantering manner, yet wouldn’t stop at anything to get what she wants. She is comfortable in almost any situation … except showing her vulnerability. Access to tender emotions is hard; however, since she has been in A.A., she is making progress in these areas. She can be tough, all-cop when the need arises. Cagney still wants to be one of the boys, even though she’s a sergeant. 

Christine lives in a loft in Soho purchased with the money her mother left her. Cagney’s address: 743 Broome Street N.Y. N.Y. 10013.

 MARY BETH LACEY   (Tyne Daly) became a cop nineteen years ago because it was one of the few good—paying jobs open to women at that time. One night on the subway, she saw a recruitment poster for the police force and decided to take the entrance exam. Successful at that, she enrolled in the academy and, much to her pleasure, graduated third in her class. She takes pride in her profession, works hard at it, and does it well. 

Mary Beth was raised in Boston as an only child. Her father deserted the family when she was eight. Her mother worked hard and long in a factory raising her daughter alone. Mary Beth has a strong sense of family and a clear memory of being a latch-key kid and missing her mother. She doesn’t want her sons and daughter to be deprived in the same way.

She attended Queens College for nearly two years,and now lives in Queens with husband, Harvey (John Karlen),the two boys,Harvey Jr. (Tony La Torre), Michael (Troy W. Slaten), and Alice Christine (Dana Bardolph, Paige Bardolph twins who portrayed the infant Alice,later played by Michelle Sepe).

She and Harvey have a solid marriage with all its ups and downs. They had a serious crisis when an inner ear infection cost Harvey his job as a high steel worker. But he pulled out of his depression, switched careers and is now contracting out for remodeling jobs around the city. It allows him a flexibility of schedule that Mary Beth doesn’t have and gives him a chance to be his own boss and share the parental and household responsibilities.

Harvey and Mary Beth are blue collar with a lot of the traditional belief systems. However, they are first and foremost individuals who take their commitments and relationships very seriously and are capable of surprising themselves and others with a new way of looking at problems. Because Mary Beth was a cop when she and Harvey met, that “adjustment” was made a long time ago.

Mary Beth has now returned to Queens College as a night class student. She has always dreamed of finishing school and is in love with Shakespeare. However, work, family and school is a lot to juggle, so this semester, she’s put her education on hold.

Mary Beth doesn’t always understand her partner, Christine Cagney, but she is fiercely loyal to her. There are times when she admits to herself that she would like some of the “advantages” Cagney has: the freedom from responsibility and the money to do some things. But at the cost of her family? No. 

Mary Beth is no John Wayne. She likes to “think” a way out of a problem rather than shoot a way out. She doesn’t mind that Christine is a hot dog and therefore gets more attention and accolades than she does; but once in a while she’d like Cagney to give her more credit. As often as not, their cases are solved as much by Lacey’s dogged determination and attention to detail as by Cagney’s flashy style.

Mary Beth is open to examining the effects the job has on her and enjoys the fantasy of packing it all up and heading out with her family to a place where it’s quiet and safe for her children. When Lacey is upset, she does one of two things. She either talks obsessively about unrelated subjects or doesn’t talk at all. Instead, she bakes bread, she cleans the refrigerator, moves furniture. She keeps busy.

She is 40, about to be 41. Harve is approximately the same age. Harve Jr. is 18, Michael is 14 and Alice is two. 

An incident of breast cancer brought the conflict of job versus family into sharp focus for Mary Beth. She came through it with a clear sense of how much she loves her life and being a cop. Her feeling is that Alice is a precious gift.

Harvey occasionally resents Cagney for getting Lacey into trouble or exposing her to unnecessary danger.  Harvey has quite a few conspiracy theories and is a self-educated liberal; sometimes his sophisticated views can surprise us.

Lacey has been promoted to Detective Second Grade and is making more money. Harvey’s contracting business is also doing well. Their success means less time at home, less time together and day care for Alice. Muriel, Harvey’s mother (Neva Patterson), sometimes helps out with the kids. Lacey’s father, Martin Zzbiske (Richard Bradford), from whom she has been estranged for most of her life, is making an effort to reinsert himself into the family picture.  

Harve’s success as a contractor plus Lacey’s sustaining income has allowed the Laceys to realize one of their dreams: they have bought a house of their own. A home with a rec room in the basement and a room for each of the kids. The house is in Fresh Meadows, Queens.

Harve Jr., against his parents’ wishes, joined the Marines. There was a family scare when he was missing during a training accident, but it turned out to be a false report. Also, the new house has been nothing but trouble. They’ve been burglarized, and their neighbors include a wife beater who brought Police Brutality charges against Lacey and whose son introduced Michael to marijuana. Another neighbor’s child in Alice’s day care is carrying the AIDS virus. Lacey is starting to look at their new life and home like it’s the Amityville Horror. She yearns for the city.

New Lacey address: 18945 Jewel Avenue (at Utopia Parkway) Fresh Meadows (house)   Old Lacey address:  333 86th Street Jackson Heights, NY 11370.

LIEUTENANT ALBERT SAMUELS  (Al Waxman). Commander of the Detective Squad, has seen it all. He’s not without ambition, but has seen too many younger men promoted over him to realistically expect to progress beyond his current rank. He’s a fossil, an old-time cop with “blue coming out of his ears,” who worked his way up through the ranks without Affirmative Action or graduate degrees.

He cares deeply about the Fourteenth and the people he commands. He’s solid and hard-nosed, with a memory like a Rolodex file. Gruff and hard-driving, he drives no one harder than himself. When Cagney and Lacey were promoted to the Fourteenth, he had to admit that he’d rather they weren’t in his squad. Not because he felt they couldn’t handle the job, but because he didn’t want to have to deal with all the side effects of having two women in the squad room. He changed his mind. 

He has a lot of respect and admiration for Christine Cagney. She’s good and she’s all cop. But it’s a helluva lot easier talking to Mary Beth. And, past Cagney’s flash, he can see Lacey’s steady, hard work. Divorced from Thelma, he worked his way through a mid-life crises. He now wants very much to figure out how to go on from there. How to rebuild a life and make it work this time.

He has a difficult time dealing with his three children, especially his oldest son, David (Matthew Barry). He is still not resolved about his relationship with Thelma. She dates and they still see each other occasionally. He used to see a psychiatrist. However, his personal life is exactly that. He tries not to bring it into the squad room.

Recently, for health reasons he stopped drinking, a fact he’d like to keep as quiet as possible. Samuel’s son, David marries an older Vietnamese woman who is in the restaurant business. Samuels has begun the long and difficult process of reconciling with his son, realizing that David has the right to his own dreams. David’s wife (Keiu Chinh) gave birth to Samuels’ only grandchild, Nguyen. At least for the time being, Samuels is a workaholic, putting most of his time and energy into his work. Things have changed a lot in twenty years, and Bert Samuels is trying to sort it all out for himself.

As a result of an angina attack which revealed a heart condition, Samuels has changed his eating habits and lost a great deal of weight. 

MARCUS PETRIE (Carl Lumbly). Formerly Isbecki’s partner, was finally promoted to Sergeant and left the Fourteenth Precinct. He has a wife, Claudia (Vonetta McGee) and a daughter Lauren. 

VICTOR ISBECKI (Martin Kove) is a maverick cop. Or so he likes to tell everyone. His childhood fantasy was to become a wild-west gunfighter. But, when you grow up in Brooklyn, wild-west gunfighter opportunities are rather limited. So he became a cop. He prides himself on his work.

An affable bear of a man, he’s got a real thing for “broads.” The addition of Cagney and Lacey to the team was a mixed blessing for him. He tries to watch his language, watch Cagney’s legs without getting caught, and maintain his usual barrage of jokes without wandering into the areas that set off Lacey. However, with time, he’s adjusted to the women in the squad room and has developed a bantering relationship with Cagney, one in which he almost gets in the zinger as often as she does.

He is fanatical about sports of all kinds. He is the squadroom’s resident male chauvinist. He is, however, revealing a sensitive side. He recently was caught scooping heroin, to give to his mother who was dying of cancer and in terrible pain. When Cagney, Lacey and Samuels covered for him he became indebted to them all.

He fell in love with an older woman, Ginger (Kelly Jean Peters), who is neither beauty queen nor bimbo, but a college professor and single mother. They married in 1988. He’s in his late thirties. He was the apple of his mother’s eye. She died of cancer last year.

 AL CORASSA  (Paul Mantee) is partnered with Manny Esposito. He is a conservative widower and career cop who has reservations about Esposito’s work style. His former partner, Jonah Newman (Dan Shor), died in 1986 from a random gunshot.

 MANNY ESPOSITO  (Robert Hegyes) is a street-smart Hispanic cop with a sentimental streak hidden by the desire to make a buck. He loves to get married. Although he’s broken off his engagement to his third wife, he is still close to her as well as his two previous wives. He looks at Corassa as a father figure and rebels against him with his casual dress and even more casual demeanor.

RONALD COLEMAN (Harvey Atkin)is the Desk Sergeant for the 14th. He has a retarded daughter, and loves to make lame jokes. He’s a gambler, a busybody and a clown.

VERNA DEE JORDAN (Merry Clayton)is a middle-aged, black female detective who joined the 14th squad at the start of the 1987-88 season to replace Petrie. She is a single parent of four children, mostly grown. She came late to the force from a welfare background. She’s a whiz at the typewriter and a homespun philosopher.

TONY STANTINOPOLIS (Barry Sattels), Cagney’s gay neighbor. He is a warm, generous and humorous man. Tony and Cagney have developed an open, friendly, non-sexual relationship that offers a non-threatening closeness for both of them.

PAUL LA GUARDIA (Sid Clute) was the senior detective on the squad before his retirement. He and Samuels went back a long way and it was to LaGuardia that Samuels turned for advice from time to time. LaGuardia lives with a much younger woman in New Jersey. He is enjoying life to the fullest and has not been seen since his retirement.