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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Interviews - Actresses > Feature Interviews - Directors, Producers and Screenwriters > Feature Interviews A to E > Feature Interviews P to T > Kyra Sedgwick and James Duff

 

Kyra Sedgwick stars as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson in THE CLOSER.

Kyra Sedgwick and James Duff

Bringing in The Closer

by Jay S. Jacobs

 
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: December 3, 2010.  

For years it was unheard of for movie actors to take roles on television series, but Kyra Sedgwick has played a huge role in changing that concept. 

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Sedgwick had made a name for herself in such films as Singles, Hearts & Souls, Something to Talk About, Phenomenon, Born on the Fourth of July and The Woodsman (with her husband, Kevin Bacon.)  However, for as respected as she was, she had never become the breakout star that so many people expected. 

Therefore, she made a bold step.  She was asked to star in a new cable crime drama called The Closer, which had been created by a Hollywood TV vet named James Duff (Popular, The D.A.). 

The Closer was not Sedgwick’s first foray into television series – she starred in a short-lived but rather good sitcom called Talk to Me in 2000 – however, her quirky role as the brilliant, but frazzled Homicide Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson has cemented her status as a star. 

Not only that, it became fashionable for movie actors to go into cable series – including Glenn Close, Holly Hunter and Timothy Hutton.  However, of all the acclaimed series now springing from cable, The Closer remains the most popular and most acclaimed, with Sedgwick winning the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Dramatic Series in 2010 after five straight years of nominations. 

The Closer is about to end a three-month layoff with the final five episodes of its sixth season.  Star Sedgwick and creator Duff were kind enough to have a conference call with us and a few other websites to discuss the show’s return.

I really enjoyed the upcoming episode.  There is so much political stuff going on in the squad this season and Brenda is so much not a political animal.  Why do you think it’s interesting to have her in these situations?

James Duff, creator of THE CLOSER.James Duff:  I think it’s interesting because of the premise in your question.  She’s not a political animal and she’s having to navigate political waters.  It’s a huge obstacle to her and I think it gives the character something interesting to play in the character’s dynamic.  Don’t you think Kyra?

Kyra Sedgwick:  Oh yes for sure.  Everyone projects their own dreams and aspirations on to her – whether it’s Mary McDonnell or it’s Fritz [the character’s husband who works for the FBI, played by Jon Tenney].  I think that often happens in the world.  What she wants gets completely lost in the shuffle because she’s also a person who doesn’t really know what she wants until actually the last.  I can’t remember which episode it is but there’s one in these final five when she finally gets clear about what it is that she wants.  But I think that she’s easily malleable because there are all these people with all these very strong opinions about what she should do.  It makes great stuff to play and great places for her to go. 

James Duff:  Also we’re told throughout our lives that we should be ambitious, that we should want to climb the ladder.  Not everybody actually does want to do that.  It seems like it’s a question of the pressures that society puts on us to excel – and how they measure that ability to excel.  Excel is oftentimes measured by the position in front of your name, rather than how well you were actually performing.  By the way, I’ve never been in an apolitical work place.  Even when I was tending bar, I’m not kidding – people jockeying for the shift and people having all kinds of good reasons why they couldn’t work Monday.  Even Acme rubber stamp company when I was going to college.  Even there.  People relate to politics in the work place.

The cast of THE CLOSER: l. to r. - G.W. Bailey, Michael Paul Chan, Raymond Cruz, Phillip P. Keane, Kyra Sedgwick, Tony Denison and Corey ReynoldsI think the returning episode, “Old Money” on December 6, really illustrates my question about the tone of the show and how it’s evolved.  We’ve got, in a single episode, very, very strong dramatic elements.  We’ve got sexiness, and we’ve got these laugh-out-loud funny moments.  Now we’ve seen other crime shows on other networks sort of take on the same tone that you’ve kind of carved out here.  I wanted the both of you to talk a little bit about how that tone evolved on the show and how the actors and their chemistry in the ensemble affected that? 

Kyra Sedgwick:  I think you should start with that one, James. 

James Duff:  The tone evolved after our first episode.  Our second episode has her trying to get to a crime scene with a book of maps and being utterly lost and then going to make an arrest and trying to make a statement by going off by herself and Gabrielle following and saying, “Are you sure you can find the way?”  This comes from my own observation with police officers who are at their darkest and funniest when they’re standing six feet away from a dead body.  That’s human nature.  You know that’s the humor of the hangman.  We visit some very, very dark places in this show.  I just feel we need to bring a flashlight with us.  And that flashlight is humor a little bit.  We also decided early on what we wanted was not only for there to be a mystery about a crime that you could follow but also a total mystery so that you never knew what you were going to get when you stepped inside The Closer.  So that it was not so formulaic.  We wanted to keep the formula from hardening; I guess is what I would say. 

Kyra Sedgwick stars as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson in THE CLOSER.Then just to add to that, one other thing, is that most of the cast has a huge range.  I mean all of the cast is rangy but I mean some of the cases like J.K. Simmons who’s known for his dramatic work, got his start, his big break is playing Captain Hook in Peter Pan [the musical version on Broadway in 1991].  Corey Reynolds was nominated for a Tony for Hairspray.  You have all these actors with comic chops and you don’t want to not use those.  You don’t want to narrow the range that your actors can play when they can do so much.  I think too… and maybe Kyra would answer this… I think going in and doing an episode like last year where she has to make a decision about taking this gang boy back home.  Doing an episode like that every week would be hard on the actors.  I think the lighter episodes are necessary to help them not live in such dark places all day long. 

Kyra Sedgwick:  Yes, I think so too.  It’s really good for the actors to be able to do that and it also feels very real and very right.  One of our writers is an ex-police detective for 25 years with that of the LAPD and he’s laughing all the time about the most horrific things that happen to him.  It wouldn’t have that reality to it if we didn’t have the humor.  Also I think it’s a good break for our audience too, because we don’t just want to be somber and gloom all the time. 

James Duff:  Remember, too, there was a gravedigger in Hamlet who’s really funny. 

Kyra Sedgwick:  Yes, right. 

James Duff:  And in Macbeth you have the porter who’s very funny.  There’s an element of that, which you have to keep that there to keep the audience.  You want valleys and troughs and as well as plateaus and hills.  We probably over-answered the question. 

Kyra Sedgwick stars as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson in THE CLOSER.What specifically is going on this season to keep things fresh and interesting for viewers who’ve been watching several seasons? 

James Duff:  [Sgt. Will] Pope [played by J.K. Simmons] is dangling onto his job by a thread.  Major Crimes is on the chopping block again.  This is not just the way the LAPD moves but one chief centralizes everything and the next chief decentralizes everything.  That’s kind of the human condition, almost, that the person in charge wants to redo everything and the next person who is in charge comes in and redoes what they do.  That’s what we’re facing.  We have a new chief and a new order is going to be put on top of things.  So you have that and then her parents arrive with a big surprise. 

Kyra Sedgwick:  (laughs) That’s fun. 

James Duff:  They arrive in episode 14 with a huge surprise and … 

Kyra Sedgwick:  And our final two were just the darkest episodes, of course, because they’re for Christmas, which is lovely.  And then there’s also a moment where … 

James Duff:  But they’re also our lightest episodes. 

Kyra Sedgwick:  Right, right.  (pauses, then a little surprised)  Really? 

James Duff:  Yes, yes.  I mean there’s lightness.  I mean if you remember the business of Taylor in a Santa suit. 

Kyra Sedgwick:  Oh that’s right, you’re right.  It’s very mixed but I mean the story is pretty dark. 

James Duff:  The story is very dark. 

Kyra Sedgwick stars as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson in THE CLOSER.Kyra Sedgwick:  The murder is pretty dark.  Then there’s a great moment where you know Gabriel goes over my head.  What I’ve been saying to people – James, you may not agree with this – but to me she’s more alone than ever this season.  I think that was sort of an unintentional theme of this whole season and these back five are the same way.  Again that thing of everyone projecting onto her what they think she should want and need and who she is.  She continues to have to make these decisions that leave her very much alone. 

James Duff:  Her antagonism with Pope early on left her alone, because she normally could count on him.  Also her antagonism with Fritz about this issues both the men in her life having huge opinions on what she should do.  One thing that we’ve always tried to do is play the pressures of being a woman in the workplace, a woman in power in the workplace.  It’s not so simple.  I mean we say it’s all very simple but it’s not.  There’s still so much that has to change that hasn’t changed. 

I was very happy that Brenda did not get the big promotion last season.  But now we’re faced with another one.  I was wondering – does Brenda really want to be promoted?  I would think that what she does best, she would not be able to do. 

Kyra Sedgwick:  I think that she really spent most of the season trying to figure out what it is that she wanted – especially with the influence of all these people in her life that she respected if not loved telling her that she should want this thing.  I think that ultimately where she comes to in one of the last five episodes is what she really wants.  That’s great because it’s really hard for Brenda to know what she wants.  She spends most of her life knowing why everyone is the way they are and what makes them tick and what motivates them.  What is really their driving force in their life.   I don’t think that she really knows.  She’s not a self-aware person.  It’s sort of a wonderful moment when she finally realizes what it is that she wants and what she doesn’t want. 

James Duff:  I agree with that. 

I was wondering if we’re ever going to see that lunch with her and Captain Raydor (Mary McDonnell.

Kyra Sedgwick:  Good point.  Are we? 

James Duff:  Yes we will see definitely see that lunch one day.  Not in these back five but definitely you will see.  Oscar Wilde had a great quote and I’ll hint at this and see.  He said, “Woman only call each other sister after calling each other a lot of other things first.”  That’s the take where we’re maneuvering a little bit with Raydor – to make her and Brenda surprisingly close in some ways.  Although they still have a ways to go.  I would say great ways to go.  But they’re moving in that direction. 

Corey Reynolds as Sgt. Gabriel, Mary McDonnell as Capt. Raydor and Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson in THE CLOSER.That was part of my question.  It seems like Captain Raydor and Brenda would be great allies if they got past a certain point.  Are they too much alike to get along sometimes, Kyra? 

James Duff:  I think they are a little bit.

Kyra Sedgwick:  I think so.  (pauses)  Well I don’t know how alike they are, actually.  No I actually think they’re very different and that the greatest obstacle in their relationship [is] because she… That’s a really hard question.  In some ways they are very similar but in some ways they are very different.  [Raydor] is much more of a political animal and she is much more of a by-the-rules kind of person.  And I think that she … well, actually now I’m going to renege on that.  Yes, actually, she thinks that they’re very different but then ultimately … I guess in that final scene before she actually goes for her meeting with the mayor, it really becomes clear that Raydor only took the I.A. [Internal Affairs] job because she felt it important for a woman to be in a uniform and it was the fastest way to move up in rank.  So it wasn’t that it was her passion to interrogate and to put police officers in a bad spot but it was the job that could get her up the fastest.  I think that in that way they are different because I don’t think that Brenda is about getting more, getting higher in rank.  She has no ambitions in that area.  In some ways [Raydor]’s that thwarted desire, she never really did get to do what she wanted to do and in some ways Brenda is getting to do what she wants to do.  Probably by the end of this season, we learn that there are more alike than they appear.  Right, James? 

James Duff:  Yes, and I was going to say, they come from different countries, in a sense.  Friendship seems unlikely between and I.A. Captain and a Homicide Deputy Chief.  I mean it’s just very unlikely in the real world.  Just [look at] the panicked use to the word friend when she introduces Captain Raydor to her parents

Kyra Sedgwick:  Right, right, right. 

Mary McDonnell as Captain Raydor and Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson in THE CLOSER.James Duff:  … creates a moment of stunned reactions from her squad.  She’s trying to introduce Sharon Raydor to her Mom and Dad and she pops out with the word friend.  And everybody is stunned by that.  So it’s more of a détente you have to establish first.  And they’re establishing a détente.  And you’re right, they would make formidable allies but how often do we see that in life where two people who would make formidable allies are at terrible odds and can’t manage.  You don’t know whether they would make better friends or better enemies. 

This isn’t a question but if I woke up in a hospital bed, I would love to have Brenda pressed up against me and doting like that.  Question for Kyra, I interviewed James MacArthur years ago.  He was Danno in the original Hawaii Five-O.  He told me about this great story about being pulled over for speeding and the punch line is basically the cop giving him back his license and saying “just a warning, Danno, professional courtesy – slow down.”  Now I’m sure that you’re an excellent driver but when you hear that story that I just repeated given the respect that real life police have for the show, can you relate, like been there, done that in any context or is the opposite true?  Maybe you’ve got a ticket that you now think you should have gotten a free pass? 

Kyra Sedgwick:  No but it is nice to get the respect from our fellow officers or officers that are actually in the field.  I definitely think that we really do try very hard to just stay real, and true and current.  I actually got a ticket for walking the dog off leash after a certain time and I really had hoped that it was going to end up by being somebody who was a fan of The Closer.  But she hadn’t a clue as to who I was or cared either way and gave me the ticket, anyway.  So I hope to cash in on that someday but it hasn’t happened yet.  (chuckles) 

James Duff:  Other members of the cast have.  I know Raymond [Cruz, who plays Det. Sanchez] was pulled over on a motorcycle and he took off his helmet.  The cop just lit up, started jumping up and down, he was so excited to meet him – and gave him a warning.  But on the other hand, Jon Tenney – who plays an FBI agent – has gotten three speeding tickets.  (laughs) 

Kyra Sedgwick:  Well, he needs to stop driving so fast.  And then he threw out a banana out of his car and had to do community service on the side of the highway.  (laughs more) 

James Duff:  A banana peel and we actually used that in the show.  He said I was driving a hybrid.  I can’t help but wonder if the natural antagonism between the police and the FBI shows up in Jon’s traffic record.

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