No more crimes for her to solve
Kyra Sedgwick does not have a Southern drawl, isn’t partial to bright red lipstick and flouncy dresses and, even though she loves chocolate, does not have Ding Dongs stashed in her purse. Just to clear up any confusion about her resemblance to the best-known character in her repertoire so far, top cop Brenda Leigh Johnson of TNT’s hit “The Closer.”
Nor is Sedgwick stricken with Johnson’s righteous tunnel vision, which has landed the dogged homicide investigator in a heap of trouble that will unfold in the series’ final six episodes, launching July 9.
Unlike her crime-fighting counterpart with the laser focus, Sedgwick has chosen to look at the bigger picture. So, after seven seasons, more than 100 episodes, stellar ratings and an Emmy award, she’s moving on in her career. That will include feature films in her immediate future and maybe even Shakespearean dramas and Broadway musicals down the line.
“It’s a little bit like ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ to play a character for so long,” Sedgwick said during a recent visit to Los Angeles from her home in New York, stylish in an earth-toned outfit and loose curls, no pony tail or sweater set in sight. “I’ll miss acting that much -- I’m a workhorse -- but that kind of volume is incredibly hard and I’m sure it took years off my life. But it was very satisfying as an artist.”
“The Closer” ends its run in August as one of cable’s most popular dramas, averaging 8.3 million viewers this season so far for live tune-in and time-shifted viewing. It could have continued past Season 7, but as tempted as executive producer James Duff might have been, he didn’t try to talk Sedgwick out of leaving.
“Somebody had to pull the trigger, which no one wants to do when everything’s going well,” Duff said. “She didn’t come to this decision lightly, and this way I could write Brenda’s ending and she could play it.”
“The Closer,” with a series-ending theme that focuses on love and loss, will bring back Johnson’s Moby Dick (an elusive serial killer) and her needling parents -- all while she’s contending with betrayal from colleagues in the LAPD and fallout from an informant killed after she pitched him back onto the street.
For fans of the lighter side of the show, there will be an episode devoted to the antics of Dets. Flynn (Tony Denison) and Provenza (G.W. Bailey).
The series, rare in that it’s a character-driven procedural, highlights a current dramatic trend on TV that might be described as the anti-"Cagney & Lacey.” Female characters, whether portrayed by Glenn Close in “Damages” or Julianna Margulies in “The Good Wife,” can be tough as nails without being androgynous, said Judith Halberstam, gender studies professor at USC.
“TV is increasingly trying to represent strong women in the workplace without stripping them of their femininity,” said Halberstam, author of “Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the End of Normal.” “It’s almost becoming formulaic. It doesn’t come down to good or bad, it’s just the moment we’re in.”
Sedgwick, who’s also an executive producer on “The Closer,” described her character as “not a pants-wearing woman,” in the literal sense, but every bit in charge.
Duff said he consciously made Brenda Leigh, a CIA-trained interrogator with a heady mix of charm and guile, as different from her male cronies as possible.
“I wanted to show a woman in a paramilitary operation who succeeded not because she could act like a man but because she embraced that feminine side of human strength,” he said. “She was disarming and discounted and flew beneath the radar.”
Costar Jon Teneny, who plays her on-screen husband, FBI agent Fritz Howard, said Sedgwick fully embraced Brenda, down to wearing the right touch of perfume, just as Johnson would.
“She really loved that Southern gal thing, playing tough in a man’s world and yet still so feminine,” he said. “Time will tell, but it feels like that character will stand up to a lot of the really iconic powerful women on TV.”
Though “The Closer” is ending, part of the story will continue, again with a strong female lead. A spinoff, “Major Crimes,” starring “Battlestar Galactica” veteran Mary McDonnell and a number of “Closer” cast members, premieres in August. Sedgwick won’t be among them, swapping Brenda’s syrupy “thank yew” for an upbeat “buh-bye now” to her co-workers. (Both character and actress make a major life change of their own accord, something they do have in common.)
Sedgwick will keep up her visibility, starring in the August-opening thriller “The Possession” with Jeffrey Dean Morgan and the indie movie “Kiss Your Darlings,” while figuring out her next move.
She’s putting films high on her to-do list, after having a string of notable credits such as “Singles,” “The Woodsman” and “Born on the Fourth of July.”
She and husband Kevin Bacon may become more bicoastal to allow for a range of work.
And as she scouts for her next projects, she sees nothing but upside from having played Johnson’s girly-girl crime solver.
“The great thing is, she’s so vastly different from who I am that anything I do from now on will be thought of as a stretch,” Sedgwick said. “If I don’t have stuck-in-the-'70s hair and a twang, people will be surprised.”