Before the TNT crime drama hit "The Closer" premiered, actress Kyra Sedgwick was known primarily for her film work in such movies as "Singles," "Phenomenon" and "Born on the 4th of July." However, in creating the memorable female television character of Brenda Johnson in 2006, Sedgwick not only scored annual Emmy nominations and won the Golden Globe but she also inadvertently opened up the door for other film actresses like Glenn Close, Holly Hunter and (coming this August with Showtime's "The Big C") Laura Linney to venture into series television on cable. As the sixth season of "The Closer" premieres tonight, Sedgwick talked to our Jim Halterman about this season's theme, how she manages to still find freshness in her character and whether she and work-obsessed/sugar junkie Brenda would be friends in real life.
Jim Halterman: As with any new season, there are changes afoot. Can you tell me what viewers can expect to see?
Kyra Sedgwick: The first episode deals with this new building. Like the real LAPD, there is a new police administration building and that is where the police are housed in Los Angeles. It's this big, huge, very expensive building that is a frustration to the cops working in it. We tried to create a story around that and it's a really big obstacle for Brenda. I think the desire was to mimic the pilot a little bit, which is her as a fish out of water in Los Angeles and the obstacle being the squad and all the people she is working with and now it's the obstacle of this new building and her being a fish out of water. It's always fun to see Brenda with obstacles and conflict and no one likes change even when it's good, especially Brenda.
Also, like the LAPD, they lose their Chief of Police who retired last year and so we're looking for a new Chief of Police and Pope (J.K. Simmons) desperately wants the gig and that creates a lot of drama and difficulty in Brenda and Pope's already fraught, difficult relationship. His desire and attraction to being a person of that job and be in that powerful position leads him to behave badly and that sort of drives many stories. Brenda is being forced to making a decision about something she doesn't want to make a decision about. Fritz (Jon Tenney) gets a promotion within the LAPD that he's confused about whether he got because he's good or because of his wife's position in the LAPD. The theme this year is attraction and what we're attracted to and it's physical attraction as well as work attraction. Also, situations that we're attracted to and things we aren't attracted to, things we attract without knowing it. It's always fun to watch every episode and see how it relates to the theme.
JH: You've been playing Brenda for a while now but are you still finding new layers to her?
KS: Absolutely. Honestly, she's constantly surprising me. I really, at this point, just learn the lines and then go in there and see what happens. I don't make any decisions about how to play something and I'm constantly surprised by what comes up. Sometimes she can handle situations differently than I would expect. I'd been taught as an actress how things should be played but then something else comes up. I don't have any trouble keeping her fresh. For me, she's endlessly interesting. She's a bundle of contradictions and there are many layers and I think part of what makes her so interesting is that she's so incredibly insightful about other people and so not insightful about herself. I think that sort of level of deep denial makes her interesting to play.
JH: One of the more emotional stories from the show was when Brenda lost her beloved kitty since it really showed a unique insight into her. Did you have a personal connection to that story?
KS: My cat had just died, actually! It was some kind of sick joke but actually what was happening was the real cat was dying. The cat we'd been using to play Kitty was not well and he died soon after we shot that final episode. And I had just put my cat down. Kevin [Bacon, Sedgwick's husband] read the script and said 'My God! Were they listening to our conversations?!' Fritz and Brenda had conversations about whether or not to put the cat down, what the vet said... these were conversations we were having! It's devastating losing an animal. There's a special place that animals touch in your life and I think that she just absolutely was touched by an animal in a way that no human could ever touch Brenda. That was her first relationship before anybody and it was a really devastating loss for her and I can totally relate to that.
JH: Before 'The Closer' came into your life, were you a fan of crime dramas and procedurals?
KS: I think as a kid I was a real fan of 'Baretta' and 'The Night Stalker' and shows like that but I always watched them for the character but I never watched them for the mystery or the whodunit of it all. I never could figure out who the hell did it. I just cared about Baretta's relationship with the informant guy... I can't remember his name...
JH: ...Huggy Bear!
KS: Yes! Huggy Bear and then his relationship with that damn bird. And I just loved him. He was so fun to watch. The mystery always passed me by. I had been offered procedural crime dramas before and I always said no because there were no real characters there. This was really based on my love for character and not my love for the procedural drama.
JH: You're often credited with this wave of female film actors coming to television like Glenn Close and Holly Hunter. Do you see it that way?
KS: I feel like in Hollywood if you make a movie about robots that does well at the box office then you're going to make another movie about robots. I think 'The Closer' is a very successful show and so it opened the door for the possibility for more things like it. I love actresses and I love really great work. I think the wonderful independent movie-type characters are now on cable. Our independent movie industry has just plummeted now and there are so few things that ever even get out there. All the great innovative stuff is on television. So if I can get credited for getting actresses work I'll take that but I think it was just more a matter of business.
JH: I saw 'Singles' recently and wondered if you ever go back and watch any of your old work?
KS: If I'm flipping through the channels and something is on I'll take a look at it but I wouldn't say I make a habit of it. But it's fun to go back and go 'God, that was really good.' There's a certain timelessness to some of the films that I've been lucky enough to be in and I think that's really great. To be in something like 'Born On The 4th Of July' or something like 'Singles' that kids in their 20s now can watch and relate to that's just really great.
JH: If Brenda could exist in our real world, would the two of you be friends?
KS: [Laughs.] Gosh, I don't know! I can't imagine... she's so obsessed with her work. She's not someone you'd have a casual relationship with so I think I would like and admire her. Something I've always wanted the writers to write is a female relationship for Brenda. I think that she has no one to whom she can share in a way that women share with each other. I think that the closest relationship that comes to that is with Fritz but they're married so that already makes it difficult to make it 100% honest about all your feelings. There's a way that women relate to each other that you just normally don't have with anyone but another woman so I would love to have that for Brenda. I'm sure I would admirer and respect her and want to be her friend but I don't know that she'd have time for me.
The sixth season of "The Closer" kicks off tonight on TNT at 9:00/8:00c.