The star of the hit TNT drama series talks about the upcoming fifth season.
The network that knows drama is about to have one of its biggest dramas return for another season when The Closer returns for its fifth season on Monday, June 8 at 9 PM ET on TNT. The show has consistently been one of cable's highest-rated programs since it debuted in 2005 and one of the big reasons for the show's success is the continually wonderful performance of Kyra Sedgwick as LAPD Chief Deputy Brenda Johnson. I was recently in on a conference call with Sedgwick as she discussed the new season, and here's what she had to say.
One of the things that I loved about the return episode which I saw a screener of this week, many crime dramas are so much about the puzzle solving, that they neglect to show any real and lasting consequences of a horrific crime. You all weren't guilty of that. We see how deeply the father was affected about his family being murdered, how Ramen's character was affected by his grief, how your character was - I'm not trying to get you to make disparaging remarks about those other shows, (they're great), but how important is it to you and the everyone involved in the show, is there almost like a mission statement to go the extra mile and make the show more real?
Kyra Sedgwick: Well, we have someone on the show who is a 25 year vet of the LAPD, who was originally sort of our - just someone that we consulted, but now he's the writer on the show. And I think he really - he always was very - the way he talks about crime is always from the victim's point of view and I think that this is a vision that's shared with James Duff, the creator of the show, which is you know is that Brenda is the advocate for the victim and the victim's family, and is sometimes the only living breathing person who is advocating for the victim. And because of that, I think we have to include those who are affected by the murder of somebody. And if nobody is alive to be affected by the murder of - by a victim's death or murder, then we are as a group. But I definitely do think that it is somewhat of a mission statement of the show is to really be the advocate of the victim and show what murder's really like and how it really affects people and the horror of it.
It's a bloodbath out there on TV sometimes and all we think is that it's cool. Do you find that the longer you play Brenda that the differences between you and the character are eroding or when you go to work are you putting on a Brenda suit?
Kyra Sedgwick: I'm always putting on a Brenda suit definitely. I think we continue to have vast differences between us - the two of us, but I can tell you that as an actor playing a character for this long, it just gets deeper and more multilayered for me as an actor, and I really enjoy that. I really - it's been an inspiring process for me to get deeper and deeper into this character and one that I never would have you know thought would happen if you'd told me you know you are going to play the same character for 5 years and you are going to still find it fascinating, you are going to still find new things about her, I tell you that you are probably crazy.
I wanted to ask you, it's always refreshing to go back to those first few episodes because I think it's just really amazing how your character really wins over your team. And for you as an actress going into each successive season, do you find new things about Brenda in terms of her leadership?
Kyra Sedgwick: Yes, I think that she has become more of a maternal figure for everybody and I think that in some ways that was sort of inevitable because she is sort of a loving maternal person in some ways even though I don't know that she'll ever actually have her own children. But the fact that her first marriage will always be to her job, it would make sense than her squad become somewhat of her children. So yes, I think that there is a lot of truth to that.
I attended a Turner party where you all were at and I almost sense that from you guys and realize is it, do you kind of feel like the mama hen in the cast?
Kyra Sedgwick: Yes, I do. I totally do. Actually, that's my nick name. The cast and the crew will call me mama. And I do, I feel very you know I think my kids are getting older and I need to fulfill that part of who I am. You know I'll try and fill that need anywhere I can get it.
I wanted to ask you, when you first started this five seasons ago, did you imagine that you could sit so comfortably in the TV - doing TV?
Kyra Sedgwick: No, I mean I think it was such a leap of faith. I think it always is whenever you take on a creative project, but I think this one especially because it was such a long commitment. It's been a great journey. It's been one of the most, if not the most creatively fulfilling job I've ever had and I love the fact that I get to play someone who's so multi-faceted and also that you know we can flip from you know to being an intense drama to being sort of a slap-sticky type comedy sometimes and the audience goes with us and I love that you know we continue to grow our audience every year, that's something that is incredibly fulfilling for me especially since I have to be away from my family for that time and it is such a huge commitment. So it's been really great.
You've had five seasons now, you're going into Season 5 to get comfortable in Brenda's skin. What are you suppose about that character and about by that show that has resonated so much with audiences that you guys are the number 1 you know cable drama out there.
Kyra Sedgwick: I think it's a little bit of what the our first question was about and I think it's because we take the job very seriously. I think that we really do emotionally involve people in each specific crime and also in each specific character. And if you let people in a different kind of way, there's a lot of accessibility emotionally to these characters and to what they are going through and I also think that it's because it's not a procedural and it's - I mean it is a procedural, but it's very it's got of lot of character-driven moments and I think that that's really what makes people come back. It's the personal moments, the characters getting to know them, getting to know them from the inside, getting to see their vulnerabilities and their struggles. I think that's really what makes people come back.
I was just curious like I know lot of theseseries are kind of - they have endgames kind of lined up, so do you know if James Duff or any of the other producers have kind of lined up an endgame for the series as of yet?
Kyra Sedgwick: Gosh, I don't think so, not yet, not yet. I would love to know what it is if they do. But I don't know of any just yet.
Can you talk about any like kind of guest stars that we might be seeing in this upcoming season?
Kyra Sedgwick: Yes, we have Mary McDonnell comes in for a couple of episodes, who is so great on that Battlestar Galactica show and also just in film. She comes on as Brenda's antagonist. She is a internal affairs officer, which, if you know anything about the LAPD, internal affairs is like the biggest nightmare. And since the Rampart Scandal, they're much more prevalent in the community and you know we just saw that - I don't know if you've seen that (sick) thing on the news where the cop was beating up that gang member after they you know after they surrendered.
Kyra Sedgwick: There will be big to do about that. And so - and they're complete opposites and they're real antagonists and I think it's a fun thing for people to be able to watch.
In The Closer, you play a strong female character in an all-male office, how have any of your past characters that you played either on TV or other in other movies prepared you for this role?
Kyra Sedgwick: Oh, gosh. I don't know of any that prepared me for this role. I think, gosh, I think growing up with two brothers prepared me for this role. I think that you know I've never played a cop I don't think, not that I can remember offhand and I don't think I've never been in a good old boy kind of network like I am in this movie - I mean like I am in this show. So I don't know.
Your character in The Closer often has trouble balancing her home and work life. Do you ever struggle with this? I'm sure it's much easier coming home to Kevin Bacon, but is that ever a struggle with you in your personal life?
Kyra Sedgwick: Oh you know I think that it's always probably a struggle for people that work and also you know have a family life. I just think it's always a struggle to fit everything in, to balance it, to give something to both - oh thank you - to give as much as you need much attention as each thing needs, I definitely think it's probably hard for everybody. But, yes, it's hard, it's not easy, especially when you're 3,000 miles away.
I was wondering which do you like - Brenda kind of seems to go from extreme to extreme from drama and you know, grab them by the balls, if you'll excuse my language, to comedy. Which do you enjoy more, which side?
Kyra Sedgwick: That's you know it's a really good question and I am so grateful that I get you both in this - within one show. It's a real shocker. I think I like the comedy better, it's funny, it's fun you know. It's really - we have a real ball and it's harder. I mean it's harder in a lot of ways. And but it's fun and you laugh between takes whereas sometimes it can get very, very sad. There are some sad things that happen in the first couple of episodes this year and I don't like going to those dark places and staying in them too long and usually it's a long you know long shooting week, that week that I have to go to dark places. I think as I get older, you want less and less to go to those dark places.
Do you think kind of the comedy balance contributes to the show's success?
Kyra Sedgwick: I do. I mean it surprised me in the beginning. I remember the first season when we did this real like slap sticky kind of thing with Provenza and Flynn that first year, I thought oh gosh you know I don't know how this is going to fly. And I was so excited and happy that you know just the audience loved it. It was actually one of our highest rated shows. So and they continue to be - and I think that really says a lot about our show that is able to be (thoughtful) enough drift through both - to do both mediums. I think that's very, very exciting and a real testament to the show, the writing, the characters, and also the audience that we have, that you know they will go along with the ride and still feel grounded in the characters.
Kyra, correct me if I remember this wrong, but James has a theme for every season of The Closer, right?
Kyra Sedgwick: Right.
What is the theme for this season?
Kyra Sedgwick: Well, this year's theme is change and I think the most obvious change is Brenda being married and there's been some shifts in the squad. And then you know the first few episodes, the cat is unwell and I think that that's a change that she doesn't want to have to deal with the idea of possibility of life without her cat who in some ways is sort of her independent self. You know I think the cat is the thing that she had before she got married. I remember when Kevin's dog you know Kevin, when I first met him, he had a dog and Jane was with us for years and years and I think that when she finally passed, it was a very big deal I think because you know it was sort of the thing he had before I came along, the thing that defined him before marriage and children, and I think that that's a very big deal. And yes, she's got to deal with some issues that come up this year that she hadn't had to deal with - didn't have to deal with before. And I don't think she likes it too much, I think change is hard for everybody.
I just thought I'd ask about the Brenda-Fritz (run) this season, you guys continue to have such, you and Jon have such great chemistry and I love watching you guys. What we might expect on that front or can you give us any hint? I know you said about change because you are married now, but ...
Kyra Sedgwick: Well, I think the inevitable next step to marriage is the idea of having children and I think that that's a struggle for the two of them. I think it's hard for Brenda who you know doesn't see the world as a benevolent, loving place. I think she sees a lot of the darkness of the human soul and a lot of people who behave badly and lot of things that seem random. It's hard for someone like to that to believe that the world is a loving, safe place to bring a child into, so I think that is a struggle for her and for him.
And I was just curious on five seasons in now, where do you continue to draw your inspirations to portray Brenda?
Kyra Sedgwick: I think the scripts always give me inspiration. I am always interested in you know I think the writers are constantly bringing in great stuff and great cases and interesting conflicts for her. I also get a lot of inspiration from one of our writers on the show who is a 25 year vet of the LAPD, keeps me really grounded in - Mike Bertram, he is actually one of the writers this year too. Keeps me grounded in the reality of it and I can always go to him for good stories, good back stories. I've always been a big research person and it's a really good connection for me to have that he's there all the time.
I wanted to ask about if there is enough pressure on a show to maintain an audience so to speak. But in some ways it seems like the quality drama at Turner, it just seems to be building up with your success and anchored around you, do you guys feel any of that pressure on the set?
Kyra Sedgwick: Oh, god, I could never take that on. I take on so much crap, I don't need take on. That would be way too much. No you know I mean I take on person stuff. That sounds very corporate and difficult, I can't go there. No you know I mean I am thrilled that we can usher in a show and hopefully give it a good lead-in and give it some legs you know. I mean that feels really good to me as a performer as well as a business person. You know I mean it's a show business and the fact that the show continues to do well and can be a good lead-in for another - a new show to get some traction is good for me as a performer as well as a person in this business, yes.
It was just great to see you and (Halle) and Jada now all in the same place.
Kyra Sedgwick: Yes, can't wait to see the show. I am really looking forward to it.
I wanted to get back to the Brenda and Fritz question, working with and against the FBI seems to be an underlying theme in a couple of episodes. And I was wondering if that was taken from some real life cases that you know and also if working together will show us some more insight into their relationship.
Kyra Sedgwick: Yes, I do - I definitely think that their working together gives you more insight into their relationship. There is actually a whole episode where Fritz kind of brilliantly manipulates Brenda's - what he knows to be true about Brenda which is her tenacity and her inability to let go of a case even when she's asked to let go of it. But in terms of the reality of that, I mean if you ask an LAPD officer about the FBI, they'll say often they feel like they do a lot of footwork and then the FBI swoops in and takes over. And also they are - because I don't know they have different kind of rules at the FBI and some of the things that we can do at the LAPD especially in terms of interrogation they can't do at the FBI. So there is some conflict that arises because of that.
You can see Kyra Sedwick come back as Brenda Johnson when The Closer returns with its fifth season on Monday, June 8 at 9 PM ET on TNT.