Kyra Sedgwick and James Duff – Bringing in The Closer
Kyra Sedgwick stars in “The Closer.”
Kyra Sedgwick and James Duff – Bringing in The Closer
by Jay S. Jacobs
Originally posted on 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: 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.
I 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.
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.
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: 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.