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Snarking off 'Closer' Kyra Sedgwick



Sedgwick2 Now I’ve done it. I’ve snarked off one of the coolest characters on TV, Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Brenda Johnson.

The conflict came last week during an interview with the actress who plays her, Kyra Sedgwick, star of TNT’s hit police drama The Closer. Returning for its fourth season at 9 tonight, the show features Sedwick’s Johnson struggling to solve a murder committed inside a raging wildfire while coping with a nosy Los Angeles Times reporter assigned to tag along with her unit and cramped living quarters with her FBI agent fiancée.

I made the mistake of pushing Sedgwick a bit on the reporter character, who lives down to the typical stereotypes of journalists on TV shows – trying to solve the case before the cops do, insisting on publishing information which would obviously tip off the suspect, etc. I asked why some many journalists on TV shows and movies are so unprofessional; she concluded I was being defensive.

She had a point, but so did I. After a particularly satisfying season last year, in which producers upended the quirky family of characters who fill Johnson’s squad room, The Closer returns this year with a episode which feels like its running in place – hinting at great things to come without really producing many of them for to show at hand.

No wonder Sedgwick and I spent some time trading verbal ripostes. Here’s an edited version of our conversation:

Deggans: I watched the first episode and it seemed like last season you guys were playing a lot with the family dynamic being disrupted, you know. Your character’s relationship with her second-in-command was damaged and he also developed a forbidden romance with another detective in the squad. In the first episode that I’ve seen for this season, it seems you’re not playing on that field as much. Is that an accurate reading…?
Sedgwick: Oh my God, no. Absolutely not. First of all, there’s a conflict going on between (the dating officers) Det. Daniels and Sgt. Gabriel. I don’t know if you noticed that.
D: Oh, right, right.
SedgwickandtenneyS: They’re snapping at each other all the time. That is totally something that needs to be dealt with in the next … that will be demonstrated … dealt with in the next few episodes. And because it’s a relationship that’s verboten and because it’s a relationship that Brenda never supported because it’s a work relationship and she doesn’t think that those are … you know, you can’t have a partner be a lover as well. She has a lot of feelings about it that will come to the fore. There’s a whole thing that happens with Provenza around his screwing up again, you know. Gabriel screws up again. I mean, there’s a lot of that, and that’s something that we’d never ever lose because the squad is a family in and of itself. There’s the personal life of Brenda and (her fiancée) Fritz, etc., but there’s also very much that family dynamic that happens. Last year’s theme was family; this year’s theme is power. But there’s gonna be plenty of personal dynamics within that scene.
D: So now, how does the power theme kinda assert itself?
S: Well, I think that in the first episode you see that she loses some of her power simply by virtue of the fact that there’s this reporter that’s sniffing around and, you know, screwing up evidence and speaking to one of her main suspects and telling him things that he shouldn’t know. There’s that issue of power there and who’s in control and who has the power in that relationship, the reporter or the cop who’s trying to get at the truth. There’s the issue of the fire, which is so completely out of control that she has no power over whatsoever. It’s sort of a mirror to her dealing with this case and feeling so overwhelmed and feeling so out of control in her own life and in her, you know, personal relationship with Fritz and the fact that she had to move into this place that she didn’t want to move to, and the fact that the men can’t know about the cat and she has no cat and the fact that she keeps everything in boxes and that way she feels like she can compartmentalize and control her life and be in power, be in control of her life by, you know, keeping everything in boxes. I mean, it’s insane but that’s the way our minds work as people.
D: Sure, sure. She’s this really nice control freak (laughter).
Closersedgwick61 S: There will be shakeups in the squad this year and I think that people will go with it because I think that, you know, they believe where we’re taking these characters and so I don’t think it limits us in any way. I think it gives us tremendous, tremendous freedom. But I think that it’s a lot more work because … and it’s a lot harder for the writers now that the characters are so ingrained in all of us. The other actors come to the set with so much, so many great things to do and so many great, subtle sub-stories that, you know, I think it’s more work for the writers but I think that, you know, ultimately it’s what makes the show so rich.

D: Well, I gotta say the one scene that kinda surprised me, and maybe it shouldn’t have, is the scene that TV Guide talked about on its cover recently where Brenda’s changing her clothes and I’m sort of, wow, you know, surprised by a little bit of cheesecake there. What do you think about that scene?
S: You know, I mean, honestly I think it was just being in the moment. The fact of the matter is that she’s changing her clothes and, you know, she’s got her boyfriend of several years there and she’s not gonna go into another room and change her clothes… you know what I mean? She’s, you know, rushing to get to work, she hasn’t slept all night, you know. It’s always about the reality … the realness, the reality for me, you know, the reality of it. And the reality of it is that she needs to change her clothes and she’s in the middle of a conversation with her boyfriend of four years, and she’s not gonna go in the other room, you know, to change her clothes. She’s just not that kind of a person and, plus, it’s all about time. For me it was not even an issue. And I think that, you know, I mean, it’s all about the reality for me. If I can’t make it real, then I can’t do it.
D: Right. Well, that’s what’s interesting to me about Brenda. Brenda sometimes reminds me very much of Jodie Foster’s character in Silence of the Lambs where there’s always this issue of her sexuality and how it impacts all the guys she’s gotta deal with, you know? So I thought it was interesting … I mean, I’m probably thinking too much about this ‘cause I’m a critic and I’m like paid to do that, but it felt almost like the show was sorta saying, okay, we get it that she’s sexy and we’re gonna give you a bit of that, and then let’s move on. I don’t know. Am I reading too much into that?
S: Well, I mean, I definitely think it’s a backdrop and I don’t think that it’s an issue that we explore. I mean, I definitely think it’s important that we know that she’s a sexual creature, I mean, because she is. And actually in the next episode, yes, we see a little bit more of their sex life which I think is important because I think that’s absolutely part of what keeps them together. I mean, if they fight all the time, they should have good sex. You know what I’m saying?
Sedgwick1 D: Exactly.
S: I mean, they’re constantly at each other, so if they’re not having good sex, then they should break up, as far as I’m concerned.
D: (laughs)  Exactly.
S: But honestly, I didn’t think about it for a second. It wasn’t even in the script that she took off her top and there she was in her bra and underwear. It wasn’t even in the script. It was like I was in the middle of doing the scene and I knew I had to change and I just took off my slip and changed into my clothes. It wasn’t even in the script, so, you know, I think you’re probably reading a little bit too much into it but that’s okay.
D: Like I said, that’s what I get paid to do (laughs).
S: That’s right, you get paid for that. I think it’s more telling that, you know, she is keeping everything in boxes. I mean that that’s such a metaphor for how she compartmentalizes … tries to compartmentalize her life. And the whole (craving) sugar thing is a metaphor for sex. I mean, you know, if you really want to get into analyzing it, you know …
D: Oh, yeah, definitely. And I do love this idea that the more you try to hold on to something, the crazier it gets.
S: Right.
D: And Fritz is this voice in her world that is constantly saying, “Just let it go. You’ll get more control if you just let it go.” And she’s relearning that lesson over and over again, which is wonderful.
S: Right, right.
D: Well, you know, the other thing I noticed, of course, is that you got a journalist as a character and, you know, us journalists, man, we always get abused on TV (laughter). So tell me a little bit about bringing this character in and what he adds.
S: Well, I think that he’s an agitator for her and I think that that’s really what he is. He’s another obstacle, and I do think that the press are always getting in the way … are often getting in the way of cases because they will reveal something that shouldn’t have gotten out. They’ll reveal that we’re looking for, you know, this kind of a person and then, you know … he wants to give the name of the guy that they’re looking for. You know what I’m saying?
D: Sure.
S: So I do think that … and if you talk to LAPD – I mean, much as I’m sorry to say this – the press can be very difficult for them to deal with. And they can leak information that makes it harder to gather evidence, and they can taint evidence. They do it all the time. And they speak  to … you see, if they speak to a witness before we get to speak to a witness, then that witness’ testimony can never be used in court because they’ve been tainted by a journalist.
D: Well, like I say, I know it’s a TV show and you’re trying to entertain people but, you know, like a journalist who gets that kind of access to a cop shop, I mean, we’re not stupid. We know if we print the name of the suspect you guys are chasing, that …
S: Okay, sounds like you’re getting a little defensive, so I’m not gonna argue with you (laughs).
D: And one last question – and I’m sure you’ve answered a lot of questions about this before – but it seems like right after the success of The Closer, we saw a lot of new shows crop up with strong female characters – strong female law-enforcement characters even, you know, from Saving Grace to In Plain Sight now. Do you sort of feel like your success helped pave the way for those shows?
S: If it did, I’m so happy about that because I just think there’s so many great actresses out there and it’s usually such a men’s club, you know? And I just feel like … I definitely … I do think that it paved the way for it and I’m so thrilled about it, and I think that, you know, when a movie in Hollywood that’s about robots does well, then there’s more movies about robots. So, you know, I feel like when you make money for people and you show that you can, you know, make money, I think that more people want to gravitate toward that and I think that good, wonderful actresses that can do really good work on television is clearly something that is resonating with people, and I’m thrilled about it.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:49pm]


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