'The Closer' Stays True to Herself


Say this for Brenda Leigh Johnson: She's consistent.

Entering her third year in as a deputy police chief in Los Angeles, she still has trouble getting organized and still can't find her way around the city. Perhaps she should get a GPS device for her car?

"I know, right?" says a laughing Kyra Sedgwick, who plays Brenda on TNT's hit "The Closer." "She should get a GPS and not figure out how to work it. That's a good idea."

And, of course, Brenda Leigh Johnson is still the best at getting suspects in a crime to confess and, as played by Sedgwick, one of the singular characters on TV.

"I don't think she's really changed that much. I certainly think her struggles have changed," Sedgwick says. "Her issue with being such a combative force within her squad has definitely changed. They've all come together as a cohesive group as the years have gone by, although there will be some struggles within the group this year. ...

"I think she's very much the same. It's something she's stubborn about, not wanting to assimilate into Los Angeles, changing her hair, her outfits. She's kind of stuck, in a good way, in staying close to her roots."

When it begins its third season at 9 p.m. ET Monday (June 18), "The Closer" will feature the usual twisty murder cases and Brenda's unorthodox, more-flies-with-honey approach to solving them. Additionally, Sedgwick says, the season will explore the idea of family, "in all the different forms in can take."

That includes Brenda's own family: Frances Sternhagen will return as Brenda's mother, and viewers will meet her dad, played by Barry Corbin ("One Tree Hill," "Northern Exposure") for the first time. That's not a development you'd necessarily see in other crime shows, but "The Closer" has always worked to balance character-driven stories with the mysteries that are the show's core.

"A lot of the success of the character and what makes her watchable, and that people relate to, is the character-driven stuff," says Sedgwick, who won a Golden Globe for playing Brenda earlier this year. "It's a really integral part of the show. She's always got some issue she's dealing with that's a very strong subplot in whatever crime she's trying to solve, and often the crimes reflect very much what she's going through personally, which I think is kind of genius on [the writers'] part and really fun to play."

Sedgwick says she loves playing the more fallible aspects of Brenda -- the horrendous sense of direction, the suspect eating habits, the giant, messy shoulder bag -- but she has to walk a fine line between playing the comedy and keeping the character's sense of authority at her job.

"It's important ... to try to keep it grounded in reality. It's funny to see someone make mistakes and screw up, even if it's, you know, tripping," she says. "But I think if you keep it grounded in reality, you're halfway there."

Brenda's apparent vulnerability is an asset in her job, of course, as suspects and others tend to take her lightly at first. But it's also, Sedgwick believes, a big part of why people have responded to the show as strongly as they have (in each of its first two seasons, "The Closer" was the top-rated drama on ad-supported cable).

"I have a lot of feelings [toward the character] -- I find her to be an honorable person, and I'm very protective of her honor," she says. "And I'm protective of making her real, someone who's flawed and quirky and who's struggling through her work and personal life. I feel like it's important to have a character people can relate to, and we can all relate to people that are real and struggling and have flaws."

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