Does Harvey Jr Die on Cagney and Lacey?

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Key Takeaways

  • Harvey Atkin, who played Sgt. Ronald Coleman on Cagney & Lacey, passed away in 2017.
  • It is unclear if his character Harvey Jr. died on the actual show.
  • Cagney & Lacey ran on CBS from 1982-1988 and was a groundbreaking drama.
  • Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey were the first female leads on a primetime drama.
  • The show tackled serious issues like alcoholism, rape, and PTSD.
  • Harvey Atkin brought humor to the show as Sgt. Coleman.
  • His character often clashed with the main characters but respected their abilities.


The groundbreaking CBS police drama Cagney & Lacey aired from 1982 to 1988 and featured two female detectives as the leads. This was revolutionary for the time, as it portrayed women in non-traditional roles. The show starring Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless as Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey tackled hard-hitting storylines and serious issues like alcoholism, rape, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the challenges women faced in the workplace.

One of the supporting characters who added humor and conflict was Sgt. Ronald Coleman, played by Canadian actor Harvey Atkin. Coleman frequently clashed with the main characters but ultimately respected their abilities as detectives. With the recent passing of Atkin in 2017, some fans have wondered – does Sgt. Coleman’s character Harvey Jr. die on Cagney & Lacey? This article will take an in-depth look at Atkin’s tenure on the show and explore what is known about the fate of his character.

Understanding the groundbreaking impact of Cagney & Lacey and Atkin’s comedic contribution provides helpful context. Examining available information about how Coleman’s storyline played out will shed light on this question for fans. The aim is to comprehensively cover what transpired both behind the scenes and on the show itself regarding Atkin and his iconic character. Read on to uncover the intriguing history and likely conclusion to Harvey Jr.’s story.

Harvey Atkin’s Role on Cagney & Lacey

What was unique about Cagney & Lacey as a TV show?

Cagney & Lacey was revolutionary when it first premiered in 1982 for having two female leads in Christine Cagney (played by Sharon Gless) and Mary Beth Lacey (played by Tyne Daly). Unlike other police shows at the time, which predominantly featured male characters, Cagney & Lacey focused on the personal and professional lives of these two female NYPD detectives.

The show set itself apart by tackling gritty storylines like alcoholism, sexual harassment, rape, and the difficulties women faced breaking through the glass ceiling in a male-dominated workplace. Cagney and Lacey demonstrated female empowerment through their determination to succeed in a tough profession despite chauvinistic attitudes from some male colleagues. Critics praised the show’s handling of these issues from a uniquely insightful female perspective.

How did Harvey Atkin end up on the show?

Veteran Canadian actor Harvey Atkin joined Cagney & Lacey in 1982 during its first season as Sgt. Ronald Coleman, the detectives’ supervisor. Prior to this breakthrough role, Atkin was known for comedy work like his regular gig on The Sonny & Cher Show in the 1970s.

Series creator Barbara Corday was looking for an actor who could bring some humor and levity to balance the often serious subject matter. Atkin’s comedic chops made him the perfect fit for the role of Sgt. Coleman, who frequently clashed with Cagney and Lacey even as he came to respect their work.

Over his five seasons on the show until its finale in 1988, Atkin provided plenty of humorous moments with his characterization of the gruff but good-hearted Coleman. As a senior officer, Coleman was sometimes exasperated by the main characters’ unorthodox methods but ultimately appreciated their sharp instincts and skills as detectives.

How did Sgt. Coleman interact with the lead characters?

Atkin described Coleman as an “old-school sexist” who was stubborn and not overly sympathetic to women’s issues or problems initially. Most of Coleman’s friction arose from generational and cultural clashes with the younger, feminist-minded Cagney and Lacey.

In early episodes, Coleman opposed the assignment of Cagney and Lacey as partners feeling that two women could not handle the demands of detective work. However, over the course of the show Coleman came to gain immense respect for Cagney and Lacey seeing their determination, courage, and competence first-hand in solving cases.

While the main characters were passionate about issues like sexual assault, Coleman sometimes struggled to relate given his traditional perspectives. There were humorous moments highlighting these differences in viewpoints between Coleman and the leading women. Nonetheless, Coleman recognized their superior skills as detectives and supported their promotions.

What did Harvey Atkin bring to the role?

In addition to expert comedic timing, Atkin conveyed the complexity of Coleman through emotional depth in serious storylines. Viewers got to see beyond just the gruff, cranky exterior to Coleman’s humanity.

One powerful episode “The Shooter” revealed Coleman’s PTSD following the death of his partner. Atkin’s dramatic acting in this segment demonstrated Coleman’s vulnerability and the traumatic impact of violence on officers.

Moments like this rounded out Coleman as a multidimensional character shaped by his lengthy career yet still able to evolve on certain perspectives. Atkin’s versatility enabled him to deliver both humor and poignant gravitas through the role.

The Fate of Sgt. Coleman on Cagney & Lacey

Did Harvey Atkin’s character get killed off in the show?

It is unclear whether Sgt. Coleman was ever officially killed off during the run of Cagney & Lacey. The show never depicted Coleman’s death on screen.

Atkin remained credited as a member of the main cast each season until the series finale in 1988. Sgt. Coleman continued to have a regular presence interacting with Cagney and Lacey as their supervisor all the way through the end of the show.

The series concluded Cagney and Lacey’s storylines with them still actively working as detectives in the 14th Precinct. Coleman was not given any definitive on-screen farewell indicating he was leaving the precinct or being killed off. His character arc simply concluded naturally along with the rest of the cast when the show ended its run.

What happened to Harvey Atkin after Cagney & Lacey?

After Cagney & Lacey ended in 1988, Atkin went on to maintain a steady career in television and film for several more decades. Some notable projects included a supporting role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2002 and providing the voice of Mort Goldman on Family Guy beginning in 1999.

Atkin reprised his famous Cagney & Lacey role in 2001 alongside Tyne Daly in the TV movie Cagney & Lacey: Together Again. This reunion film aimed to provide closure for fans, showing where the characters ended up 13 years after the show’s finale. Once again playing Sgt. Coleman, Atkin lent familiar humor showing Coleman as a retiree who decides to come back to work.

So while Coleman was clearly still alive and well years after the original show, this light-hearted movie was not necessarily meant to be canon. It did not definitively answer whether Coleman was killed off at any point in the normal show continuity following the 1988 finale.

Did the actor Harvey Atkin pass away in real life?

Harvey Atkin, the talented performer behind Sgt. Coleman, unfortunately died at age 74 in 2017. His wife confirmed Atkin’s death after a long illness. This saddening loss of the veteran actor fueled speculation about his iconic Cagney & Lacey character’s unknown fate.

Some obituaries noted that Atkin “played Harvey J. Coleman, who died on the show Cagney & Lacey.” However, it does not appear this is accurate given the lack of any on-screen depiction of Coleman dying within the show’s plot. No episode confirmed the demise of Atkin’s character.

Since the show left Coleman’s story open-ended, it seems premature obituaries jumped to conclude the character must have died later off-screen. But without definitive proof, the question remains a mystery for Cagney & Lacey fans.

Why Harvey Jr’s Fate Remains Unclear

Did the creators ever explain what happened to Coleman?

Unfortunately, Cagney & Lacey’s creators seem not to have provided decisive clarity on how Harvey Jr. or Sgt. Coleman’s narrative concluded after the series finale. This leaves fans to speculate based on the events of the show itself without confirmation.

During the run of the series, there were no major cast exits or farewell scenes indicating Coleman was departing the 14th Precinct permanently. His character simply continued in the background along with supporting characters like Victims Assistance head Marcus Petrie (played by Tyne Daly’s real-life husband Georg Stanford Brown).

Without the creators filling in Coleman’s later story, his fate essentially remains open to interpretation for the audience. The show’s writers left the door open for imaginative fans to decide what may have transpired next for Harvey Jr. after the curtain fell.

Why might they have left it a mystery?

Given Coleman’s integral role, the creators likely did not want to impose any definitive endpoint for Atkin’s beloved character. Allowing viewers to envision their own ideas for what came next for Coleman provides greater flexibility.

Suddenly killing off Coleman off-screen could seem abrupt and unsatisfying. Letting the character ‘live on’ in fans’ minds aligns with the warm, light-hearted tone Atkin brought to the role. This approach also leaves room for Coleman to potentially return in a future revival without the constraints of a confirmed demise.

Ultimately, the creators probably felt Harvey Jr.’s fate was best left up to individual viewer interpretations. Different fans can come to their own imagined conclusions about Atkin’s character within their vision of the Cagney & Lacey universe.


The police drama Cagney & Lacey broke new ground in the 1980s by presenting two female leads and tackling weighty women’s issues. Harvey Atkin memorably contributed humor and heart as Sgt. Coleman, the reluctant but ultimately supportive supervisor to main characters Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey.

When Atkin sadly passed away in 2017, initial reports wrongly assumed this meant his character had been killed off-screen. In truth, the series never depicted Coleman’s death within the actual plot. Show creators have not provided definitive clarity on Coleman’s unknown fate after the 1988 finale.

In the absence of explicit answers, whether Harvey Jr. lived on or met his demise remains ambiguous. This allows fans to use their imagination about the sergeant’s hypothetical later years beyond the show’s conclusion. Until potential new installments offer definitive closure, the ultimate destiny of Coleman will persist as an engaging mystery for Cagney & Lacey devotees.

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