PART ONE: GOODBYE
It’s fortunate for all of us that TV producers and viewers love reruns. Otherwise we’d have to spend the rest of our lives missing the wit and wisdom of Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson on The Closer. After playing the leading role for 7 years, and a year of deliberation, Kyra Sedgwick has filmed her final episode.
It was not an easy decision for the star, who describes just how strong the chemistry among the cast members really is. “Gosh, who knows how these things happen? I think it’s so rare that everyone is lovable. I think it starts with ((Executive Producers) Mike Robin, Greer Shephard, James Duff, and (Casting Director) Bruce Newburg. I think they just went for the best actors, but they also went for kindness and authenticity and soul. Everyone has a really great work ethic, and we admire and respect each other. I think most of it is just luck, but I definitely think it starts at the top.”
She continues, “When we’re doing our first rehearsal in the morning, we call in the crew. I often just take the time to look at each and every one of their faces. They’ve all touched me very deeply, so I would love to box them all up and take them home.”
She explained how her husband, famed actor Kevin Bacon, helped her make the tough decision. "He was the one that told me to do the show in the first place and he was the one, when I was sort of feeling so terrible about the idea of ending it because I felt so responsible for everybody, the cast and the crew and everything - he was the one who ... helped guide me to my decision,” said Sedgwick.
When asked how she feels now about the years she has spent as Brenda, Sedgwick explains that right from the beginning “I really loved Brenda on the page. I just thought she was amazing, and I knew her. I wasn’t nervous for many different reasons, but mainly because she was just so vivid to me already and so real. I just thought, ‘You know, let’s just see how this goes.’ I think it’s always a leap of faith, but you just take it a day at a time.”
Now, seven years have passed, and the woman who has been running the Priority Homicide Division of the LAPD with a very unorthodox style, has evolved. Sedgwick describes her thoughts about Brenda today. “What I love about Brenda is that she hasn’t really changed that much. I love the fact that she’s so incredibly insightful and smart about other people. She is not at all about herself and isn’t really interested in growing as a person. If people see growth in her, I think that’s for them to see, not for me to play. I think that in these last six episodes, she has absolutely become aware of that fact that she needs to keep the focus on something other than her job. She has suffered tremendous consequences from not doing that. I think she learns from that.”
As difficult as it might be to imagine, The Closer’s finale is now very, well, close. But Sedgwick keeps the details of the final episode close to her heart. Still, she offers a tantalizing hint when she says, “I think her biggest growth spurt will happen in the final episode.”
We asked Sedgwick what she’ll miss the most about Brenda? “Sometimes it’s getting in someone’s face and being really scary. That’s been fun. It’s been fun to be a woman who can be really terrifying. Deception is sometimes mixed in with it. She does lie – there’s no question. But I also think that she uses her empathy to draw people out, and she’s a really good listener. I think that she’s a good storyteller, and she can take someone back to the scene of the crime. She can project onto them everything they were feeling, and they nod and feel sympathetic and then…. she’s got them.”
We wondered how she felt when she read the final script. Did it end the way she wanted it to end? “I thought it was brilliant,” she replied. It reminded me of the pilot in that it was just flawless right away. I was, of course, daunted by the task of all the things that I was asked to do, but I think it was right. The journey is right; the ending is right; and the process is right. James couldn’t have done a better job.”
So what’s next for the soon-to-be-retired Deputy Chief? Sedgwick said, "I'm looking to do more film," adding, “I'm interested in some theater, if that comes along. I wouldn't say I'm walking away from TV forever but just from this, for right now. I'm like a work horse. I wouldn't say I'm a workaholic but I really do like to work. That's how I express myself and so I miss it when I don't get to do it. I start to get not very fun to be around, let's put it that way."
Though Kyra Sedgwick’s departure from The Closer will bring the show to its end, it's far from the end for the rest of the cast. With deft and brilliant precision, TBS created a giant hole in its prime time schedule by cancelling The Closer, and then filled the void with a brand new show, starring the exact same people in the exact same time slot! Brilliant!
Now, immediately after The Closer’s highly-anticipated (or dreaded, depending upon your state of mind) and surely well-watched (I’ll be watching) finale, a spin-off show called Major Crimes will debut in its spot, Monday at 9pm et/pt.
PART TWO: HELLO
Major Crimes Creator James Duff described how that show picks up where The Closer leaves off. “What I mean by that,” he said, “is The Closer concentrated almost exclusively on getting confessions, while the major crimes team is expected to deliver convictions. And with the help of a few intriguing new characters, such as former Two and a Half Men’s Graham Patrick Martin as homeless teen Rusty, and a new undercover detective, a few DAs, and members of the FBI task forces, Major Crimes proves that in life, everything, even murder, could be a negotiation.”
“Because the justice system is over-taxed,” Duff continues, “Major Crimes is going to ask a question that has been asked -- I don't know if it's being asked overtly, but it is being certainly asked of our government and of our country: How much justice can we afford? We're about to release 30,000 prisoners in the State of California alone, because we can no longer house them in a humanitarian way. This is not because they are suddenly not guilty, it is because we can't afford to hold on to them. Last year, in pursuing the death penalty, the State of California spent $172 million. Can we afford to do that? And every time we go to trial it costs a lot of money. Is there a way to bring these people to justice in a way that saves us the expenses of -- you know, we just can't afford it anymore, basically, I guess is part of the problem. So, that's a lot of what Major Crimes will be about.”
Duff continues, “And then, a lot of it is also going to be about the rules. Not only do you have someone who believes in the rules running Major Crimes now, you're going to have Captain Sharon Raydor, who wrote a lot of the rules, running Major Crimes. You have someone who's saying policy can be our friend. And she has to encourage people to believe that. And it's about -- it's also about changing bosses. When a boss comes from the outside, from outside your division, people are generally not very happy. It's the next worse thing, actually, to having one of your friends promoted (laughs).”
“It’s like having somebody come out of the blue. And this is not really out of the blue. I have a friend who says there is no blue, and nothing comes out of it. Raydor is somebody they all know and mistrust.”
Mary McDonnell continues her The Closer role as Captain Sharon Raydor, the role that earned her an Emmy nomination last year. And she has a lot to say about what’s coming up, or at least what she’s able to reveal. “Well, I think one of the really beautiful things that James and the writers have done, is allowed an organic reveal of other aspects of Captain Raydor, via her relationship, which grew with Brenda. So, there wasn't a self-consciousness about, you know, creating a different woman, or suddenly making her more likeable. Do you know what I mean? They did a great job. I also loved being able to expose little tiny bits and pieces of my character’s humanity in The Closer’s last season.”
It seems strangely taboo to have the hero of a crime show follow the rules. It's not usually what we see. It's usually more like unseen maneuvers, backstabbing and that kind of thing…. “Yeah,” McDonnell agreed.
So how she can still be this character that people are rooting for, but she's a rule-follower? “Well, that's part of, I think, what's going to be interesting about exploring her. I know you're all thinking why would you want this job. Nobody likes you. You follow the rules. There's something interesting about being able to be comprehensively aware of how the justice system actually works, and having a deep respect for it, and having a nature that is a rule-follower or, I would like to say, understands policy and procedure. Because it's not elementary school. It’s now a position that's going to ask of her, demand of her, a more instinctive response”.
She continues, “If it's going to succeed, somewhere along the way something's going to have to flower, or the butting heads and the sense of frustration will be too overwhelming. So, that, to me, is the nut of it. How do you bring a person like this into this situation, and can they accommodate the situation, and what will
happen to them and everyone else around them. So, I think that's really it.”
So, does she use these rules and procedures as part of her toolkit? Does she wield them, like …. “Well, I don't think she wields them,” McDonell replies thoughtfully. “I think her position so far, her job has been to police the police. So, that's the only way we've seen her. Not being in that position is what unfolds. How does one take one's inner nature as a police detective, having been the police of the police, and find your way through to give your absolute 100% best to assist them, and figure out how to serve humanity, how to serve the Constitution? How do you do this in a new position that asks different things of you?”
Has this idea been in the works for quite a while, or did it come together fairly recently?
Executive Producer Michael Robin explains, “Well, what was really quite remarkable was the day after we found out that Kyra was not going to go forward with the character after her contract was complete, TNT President Michal Wright called us into his office and James, myself, Greer Shephard, the other executive producer, and Warner Brothers President Peter Roth, and said, "Okay. I want to offer you guys a 10-show commitment to bring these characters forward, and to continue them, to keep them going."
And so, you know, we all thought about it and said, let's -- you know, in about ten seconds, "All right. That's great. We want to continue with these characters. We love these characters. TNT loves these characters. And we want to create a new -- an additional – a spin vehicle where we can keep them moving forward."
Robin continues, “Can I follow up on that, with just one other little thing to what you were saying. As we start Major Crimes, all these characters are in a different place than they were when we started The Closer. They're all now fully fleshed-out, full-blooded characters that can all carry an episode, too. When we started that out, that's not where we were. They served as small parts of the story, but throughout the years, James and the
writers have crafted individual stories for these characters so they could really shoulder the weight of a full "A" story, and drive it all the way through. So, as we start Major Crimes, every one of these characters is in place, is fully nourished, and fully ready to do that. And they're also - they're fully realized foes and friends for Captain Raydor as we move forward, too. So, we start in a real fertile place with all that.”
Duff adds, “They're all coming back to their desks. The Closer will end, and you'll see most of them all back at work the next day. When we come back in our next episode, they’ll be doing the jobs, or some versions of the jobs, that they did before. Raydor will be promoted, of course, and so will Commander Taylor. And more than that, I'm not sure I'm supposed to say.
McDonnell concludes adding, “And it's going to be hilarious, sometimes.”
And get this, ladies! Michael Weatherly, known to all of us as Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo on the long-running CBS series NCIS, is set to guest star in an early episode on Major Crimes. He’ll play Arthur “Thorn” Woodson, an “Intuitive Life Strategist” to the wives of a group of Israeli mobsters. But knowing DiNozzo as we do, what do you think is going to happen?
The last six episodes of Kyra Sedgwick's crime drama kick off on July 9 at 9 et/pt, before taking a final bow. Immediately following the series-ender, spin-off Major Crimes kicks off its freshman season. Say Goodbye and Hello to both these great shows on Monday, August 13 at 9 et/pt