G.W. Bailey began his acting career on stage, appearing in several local productions after dropping out from Texas Tech University in the mid-1960s. He later moved to California and began appearing in minor roles on TV shows such as Starsky and Hutch and Charlie's Angels.
Bailey's breakout role came in 1979, when he appeared in the seminal series M*A*S*H as the lazy motor pool head Luther Rizzo. However, his best-known role was in the Police Academy films, as the mean-spirited Thaddeus Harris. He appeared in the first film in 1984, and later reprised the role in the fourth to seventh films.
Bailey also held recurring roles in shows such as Goodnight, Beantown and St. Elsewhere, and later was part of the second season of The Jeff Foxworthy Show. In 2005, he joined the cast of the TNT drama The Closer.
Currently, Bailey stars in the new TNT drama, Major Crimes