Kyra Sedgwick shuts down her hit series
- Last Updated: 1:32 AM, July 8, 2012
- Posted: 9:49 PM, July 7, 2012
Brenda is back, but not for long.
LAPD Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson will wrap up her caseload as the last chapter — six episodes — of “The Closer” begins Monday night.
Kyra Sedgwick’s formidable yet demure Atlanta cop, transplanted into the male-dominated Major Crimes Division, became one of the most vibrant — and popular — characters to head up a police procedural. In the 2005 pilot, Sedgwick set the tone for the series’ seven-season run when a detective made an unkind remark about Chief Johnson and she replied, “If I liked being called a bitch to my face, I’d still be married.”
With her disarming Southern twang, Chief Johnson became a memorable “closer,” coming in at the end of a murder investigation to nail that final confession. Sedgwick was influenced by Helen Mirren’s incisive Det. Jane Tennison of “Prime Suspect,” the landmark British crime series, but made the character her own through a combination of grit, charm and charisma.
“Brenda is a seminal character for the history books. I think there’s really never been one quite like her,” says Sedgwick, 46. “I loved her fierceness and fragility. A powerful woman who never apologized for her power — and never stopped being a woman. Never wore the suits and strapped on the gun and left her femininity behind. In fact, she used it as part of her arsenal.”
Series creator James Duff believed women could excel in a boys’ club like the LAPD.
“I was watching other procedurals with women, and for the most part they might as well have been shaving their faces — they were like guys dressed in suits, saying guy things,” he says. “I wanted to show how femininity was not a weakness — it could be a strength.”
Sedgwick agrees, noting that Chief Johnson “wasn’t interested in assimilating because it wasn’t going to be helpful for her to do her job. People underestimate somebody with a flower skirt, a sweater set and a Southern accent.”
Now, after 109 episodes in which she’s arrested dozens and devoured countless pieces of candy (her coping mechanism), Chief Johnson will make way for a new division leader in a spinoff series, “Major Crimes,” set to debut after the final “Closer” episode airs Aug. 13.
The new series will include much of the same cast and crew of “The Closer” and use the same sets. It will also star Oscar-nominated actress Mary McDonnell as uptight and intrusive Captain Sharon Raydor, Chief Johnson’s Internal Affairs adversary on “The Closer” for the last three seasons. (See sidebar.)
In seven seasons Sedgwick’s quirky Chief Johnson has weathered many storms beyond run-ins with Capt. Raydor, including her coworkers’ discovery that she once had an affair with her now-boss, Deputy Chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons). She was also slapped with a civil suit accusing her of setting up the death of a gang member — the story arc started in 2010 but still reverberates in the squad room.
In the final episodes, viewers will see Johnson’s usual fierce interrogations tempered by the comic relief provided by her bumbling but second-in-command, Lt. Louie Provenza (played by G.W. Bailey). There will also be changes in Chief Johnson’s family and, in two of the episodes, the reappearance of her longtime nemesis — suspected murderer and rapist Philip Stroh (Billy Burke).
In the meantime, Duff, who continues as executive producer of “Major Crimes,” is dealing with fans who have their own views on what sort of closure Chief Johnson herself should have.
“I’ve had people grab me on the street and ask me not to kill Brenda,” he says with a laugh. “And I’m like — I’m telling a story. There is no Brenda!”
Sedgwick won’t miss schlepping to the West Coast from her New York home to film the series, living apart from her husband, actor Kevin Bacon, and their two children, Travis, 23, and Sosie, 20 — for months at a time.
But Sedgwick, whose next film, “The Possession,” opens next month, will miss the “Closer” cast and crew. Leaving “was a crying season. There was a lot of boo-hooing, long talks, teary good-byes — and a lot of speeches,” she says.
She’s relieved “The Closer” is going out on top, drawing 7 million viewers on a regular basis.
“It feels good. It feels right. I haven’t thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, I’ve made a horrible mistake,’” she says. “Just the idea that we would maybe jump the shark or hang around too long just scared me.”
Sedgwick also expects that fans will find closure themselves. “I’m so proud of what we accomplished in these last six episodes,” she says. “They’re among our very best — and the last one may be our best ‘Closer’ ever.”