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This story first appeared in the Aug. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
It’s time to say goodbye to Brenda Leigh Johnson. TNT’s record-setting crime drama The Closer, which launched in 2005, shuts down with the Aug. 13 finale and bids farewell to Kyra Sedgwick, who as the CIA-trained deputy chief had a way with confessions and herself took home an Emmy in 2010 after four previous nominations. Recalls series creator James Duff about that fateful Emmy telecast: “I went to see Inception again so I wouldn’t see any part of it. I thought superstitiously that was the only way she’d win.” For Duff, working with Sedgwick “was like she was informing the writing and I was informing the performance. We had a mind meld doing the show.” The actress — who moved from New York to L.A. with husband Kevin Bacon and their two kids for the role — shares her thoughts with THR.
THR: The Closer is closing its doors for good. What has it been like?
Kyra Sedgwick: It’s been a nonstop gantlet for seven years. Even the times when I’m off, I feel like I’m preparing for the next six months. This last year, with nine months in production, has been insane. It’s been great, intense and a marathon.
THR: What was your reaction to the project?
Sedgwick: My manager told me about it for three months, and I said: “Don’t send it. I’m not going to do it because it’s in L.A.,” and I wasn’t looking to do TV. Finally, she said, “It’s like Prime Suspect.” I’ve worked with Helen Mirren several times, so my manager hooked me with that one. I read the script and thought it was great. I saw so many possibilities for this Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, so much potential. Kevin said, “How is it?” I said, “It’s great, but I can’t do it.” “Why?” “Because of the kids; it’s so far away.” I didn’t even think to move them here.
THR: So relocating was never a possibility?
Sedgwick: We were pretty ensconced on the East Coast. Now, I’ve really learned to love it in Los Angeles, but at the time, I was visiting and I thought, “If there’s one jerk, I’m outta there!” I sat down with James Duff, director Michael Robin, producer Greer Shephard and casting director Bruce Newberg, and they were among the nicest and smartest people I’d ever met. They had a vision that was important, meaningful and big. And I felt safe with them.
THR: What’s your next move?
Sedgwick: My kids are grown up now — they don’t need me as much as I need them, but I want to do features. I want to do stage if something amazing comes along.
THR: What will you miss most?
Sedgwick: I love to work. I think I will miss that consistent work and intensity. You get a certain addiction to the adrenaline. It’ll be an adjustment. I’ll miss deeply my castmembers and my crew, who have become a close family. I’ll miss the connection I have with James as a writer, knowing exactly what it is that he is going for and being able to deliver, and knowing who this character is so intimately that at this point I really only need to learn the lines, show up on set and something magical happens.
THR: What will you take away from having played Brenda for so long?
Sedgwick: I admire her a great deal. I admire her tenacity. I admire her number-one focus being the people that are gone and who can no longer speak for themselves. I’ll miss her complexities and her flaws.
THR: The Closer was a groundbreaking series, centered on a strong woman in her 40s. Can you speak to how it paved the way for such shows as Saving Grace and The Good Wife?
Sedgwick: I was 39 when The Closer started. It certainly wasn’t intentional for me to have a groundbreaking show. It just happened to be. The idea that I can have anything to do with the possibility of more opportunities opening up for women is wonderful. At the time, I didn’t think big-picture that much. I went where my gut tells me, where the character seems interesting and where the writing seems good. You take it a day at a time. That was what we did. Then it became a phenomenon, but you never know that going in.
HOW THE CLOSER OPENED DOORS: After Sedgwick, these film actresses d’un certain age nabbed TV series
Glenn Close: Damages (FX/DirecTV, 2007-12) The six-time Oscar nominee, 65, honed her ruthless lawyer Patty Hewes to a fine yet brutal edge.
Holly Hunter: Saving Grace (TNT, 2007-10) As detective Hanadarko, Hunter, 54, drank, smoked and swore at her guardian angel while solving crimes.
Laura Linney: The Big C (Showtime, 2010-13) Linney, 48, stars in the dramedy as a suburban mom who recklessly and joyfully wrestles with cancer.
Sigourney Weaver: Political Animals (USA, 2012-) Weaver, 62, plays her version of Hillary Clinton on the new show.
— Jane Aquino