‘Burn Notice’ Star Sharon Gless Talks Series’ Big Death: ‘It Made Me Cry’

Robert Ascroft/USA Network

Robert Ascroft/USA Network

The veteran actress looks back on her seven-season run on the USA hit

Although “Burn Notice” creator Matt Nix and others at USA believed it was time to end its popular spy drama, star Sharon Gless could’ve kept going.

“I always think that we all get better as we get older,” Gless told TheWrap. “The more you get to do something, the better you get at it. And I love working with a family forever. It could’ve gone for 12 years for me, Madeline would probably be in a home, but I never like the story to end especially in TV when you love the people you work with.”

Note: Spoilers if you haven’t watched Thursday’s series finale, “Reckoning.”

In the end, Gless’ character, Madeline, sacrificed her life to make sure her loved ones got out alive. TheWrap spoke with the veteran actress who previously starred on “Cagney & Lacey” and “Queer as Folk” about her experience on the USA drama and that final emotional death scene.

Also read: ‘Burn Notice’ Postmortem: Creator Talks Series Finale, Its Emotional Death and a Spinoff

TheWrap: Matt Nix gives you a lot of credit for the evolution of Madeline over the seven seasons. What are your thoughts on her growth?
Sharon Gless: After the pilot got picked up, Matt came to me and said, ‘There has to be more to her than I’d written. Let me give you one piece of advice: Mike gets all his moxy from her.’ I said, ‘OK.’ Maddie was very manipulative and it just sort of grew. She would do anything to get Mike back in her life. Also, what’s cool is that no spy has a mother. James Bond didn’t have a mother. Nobody cares about a spy’s mother. But, Matt wrote this interesting woman, which they used. And they became funny together and sad together and you learned why Mike was the way he was.

How did you find out that Madeline would die on the final episode?
When Matt and I were talking about Season 7, I wanted her to quit smoking in the last season but I told Matt that I didn’t want to be a saint about it. I wanted her to say in the last scene, ‘Oh, f–k it, I’m lighting up.’ And he said, ‘Interesting enough, that’s what we want you to do. Your last scene will be you lighting up that cigarette.’ Then, he said, ‘It’s not quite what you think. You are going to take one for the team.’ I was never quite sure how she was going to do that or how he was going to write it. I just knew that Maddie would die.

How did you feel when you found out just how she would die?
It made my cry at first. There was an earlier scene in the previous episode where Michael comes to see her at the safe house and he’s saying goodbye. She knows that he’s going to die and she even tries to use Charlie’s birthday as a way of getting him to stay. That’s the last time she sees him and she has no idea that she’s the one who’s actually going to die. So, time is running out and they’re all in danger and the only one who can save her grandson is Jesse. So, I thought Matt did a beautiful job. When I read it, I cried. When I performed it, when it was time for her to go, she just did it. She was scared, but there was no other choice. So, you just do it fast.

Also read: ‘Graceland’ Postmortem: Creator Talks Finale Fallout, What to Expect on Season 2

How do you feel about the way it turned out? Would you have changed anything?
Many actresses do this. I prepare a lot for a scene before I perform it. And then I’ll replay it in my mind afterward as I’m driving home and think, ‘Damn, I wish I did it this way.’ But, I don’t think about that closing scene. I guess there’s eight thousand ways to do it and I just did it. She just didn’t have a lot of time and it wasn’t the kind of place where you could milk it – wait a little longer and everyone gets blown up.

What would you like to do next?
Well, no spinoff for Madeline [laughs]. I’m going to take a few months off and then I’d like to get to another hit series. I prefer drama that has comedy in it, like Madeline. That’s my favorite thing. I love to work. I hope they let me do it until I can’t anymore.

  • Melishark

    I just love her. :) Maybe she didn’t die afterall ..she hid behind the couch. That way we can see her with Sam and Jesse. :)

  • dominick

    sharon, you’ll probably never see this but 7 years ago i thought, god no. i was pretty much proven wrong from day 1. when you (off camera) interrogate the guy in your garage, i must have laughed for the rest of that show. and when you slapped micheal because nate was killed…i still tear up during re-runs. maddy didn’t have to die, it was just a real weakstick ending to a fantastic series.

  • dave

    I did not want to see burn notice end, but the story had been told and the show could not have ended any better, including Sam eluding to the possibility of a call from Mike.

  • Dancerina

    Burn Notice is one of the best series I have ever seen..I can’t get enough of it..The Actors are all sublime, storyline is suspenseful and I hate that it wasn’t continue for
    another 7 years. Hoping to buy all of the videos of Burn Notice soon.

  • Clemmieo

    Oh, I love Maddie! Sharon Gless was so wonderful in that role; it fit her like a glove and she made it fit like a glove. That what was so great about this show: the ensemble playing. Michael, Sam, Fiona and Jesse with Maddie, just meshed. And all the great supporting characters like Barry and James. They are just such accomplished actors and you didn’t see egos all over the place, although we know they are very much there. Naturally. But more like British actors than American in that regard. I am so happy to see two shows every weekday night on Esquire Channel, but I am hoping and praying for movies like they have done with Series such as Perry Mason, etc. Or another spinoff series. I hope it isn’t too much to hope and pray for!