In the world of Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) in THE CLOSER, life is simple: there is a crime and someone is going to pay. Intriguingly, making the punishment fit the crime has become an underlying theme. For is it enough to put away the bad guy if the legal system cannot guarantee that he will never see the light of day again?
In this final season, the unorthodox tactics employed by the Major Crimes Division to get the confessions they need to put away criminals has been called into question, especially if they cannot use the confession to obtain justice. After the state court threw out the case against Brenda in the wrongful death suit of a murderer and the big reveal that the same case was now going to be brought in federal court, the issue of a department “mole” has taken on new meaning and ramifications.
In a recent conference call with press, Kyra Sedgwick and creator/executive producer James Duff shared their candid thoughts on the journey of Brenda Leigh Johnson and what lies ahead.
You left us with a whopper of a cliffhanger! As we go into the holiday episodes, can you speculate as to what some of the motivations are of the person who may be considered the “mole” in the department? What he or she might be kind of motivated by — whether it might be political aspirations, altruism or personal payback towards Brenda?
JAMES: No, we can’t. I can’t give you any of that information, except to say that everybody on her team really loves her. So you have to think about it in terms of that.
There’s no one on her team who’s bad.
But somebody’s giving away good information.
JAMES: Yes, good information is definitely leaking out of Major Crimes.
Alright, on a safer subject, maybe you could talk about whether or not Mark Pellegrino who portrays Gavin might have a continuing role as the case continues in the federal court?
JAMES: Yes, he’s in several of the back five episodes of our bridge episodes between this summer and next. So you will see him, I think, twice more at least. He’s become a really almost like a member of the company. He and Kyra really do like working together. Their work together is fantastic.
Kyra, could you talk briefly about how you enjoy working with Mark as Gavin?
KYRA: Well, I just think that it brings out another side of Brenda and that side is someone who is really — I mean she’s incredibly vulnerable around him because she is in such hot water and he really is her ally in this. Even though sometimes she gets frustrated with him and sometimes his alliance with her seems to be slightly shifting there sometimes. He really is the one who’s hopefully going to be her savior in all of this, and at this point when she really doesn’t know who to trust at all and feels like she can’t trust anyone.
As we get closer to the ending of the series, is it going to focus more on Brenda and how things are going to resolve with her or are we going to see her working more cases and are there any really cool cases coming up?
JAMES: I will tell you that for sure we are going to be focusing more on Brenda. I want to write the end of THE CLOSER and she is “The Closer.” And anyone who has this much time to spend with Kyra Sedgwick and doesn’t maximize their opportunity is out of their minds. So my primary role is to focus on the end of THE CLOSER. And I think they will have some really cool cases. There are some that are a bit lighter than before. We have a couple of frothy ones, including our 100th episode where Fred Willard plays Santa Claus and what may be the first case of Santa-cide that we’ve ever investigated. But for the most part, they are darker, more serious crimes and I’m afraid actually I’m taking Brenda through some very dark places in her own heart. And hopefully giving something for Kyra to do which makes this last year as interesting as our first year together. That’s my goal.
Will the series wind up in a way that viewers will be satisfied or are you thinking of leaving it open-ended for la possible future movie for TNT?
JAMES: Well, I’m not thinking about anything beyond. What I’m thinking about right now and what you would be thinking about too if you had been sitting here since January and working through 21 episodes is: I’m thinking about how to best end this show for this character for right now, and to explain why she’s suddenly going to be leaving. Well, not suddenly, I mean it’s beginning to get really difficult for her to do her job. I will say this: that I think the biggest problem we face as adults is how to balance our professional and personal life, and that this character has not done that as well as she could have. She’s never learned how to balance her personal and professional lives and she’s going to be forced to figure that out.
What’s the hardest part when you see the end of this show that has been such an important part of your life for the last few years?
KYRA: I think I can partly answer that question because I think that there are many unforeseeable feelings that are going to come up for me at the end of this show and this character and working with these people. I know that I will miss my fellow players — and that includes the cast and the crew and the writers and the executive producers and all this family that we really have created. I know I will miss Brenda’s complications and her struggle and her successes and her triumphs — you know, the loss of someone I’ve been so deeply intimate with for such a long time, like this character. And in some ways through this character, with James as well, as more concrete and the fact that we have a good relationship. I will miss both of those things deeply. And I’ll miss as an actor the constant challenge of the workload, even though — I mean I’m in Boston right now and I can’t think of anything better. But I know I will miss that. I’m very much of a sort of work-horse actor and I really love acting and having those kind of demands on me. That many hours out of every day, I find it exciting. So I will miss all those things.
JAMES: I will vouch for that. If you want a marathon-running actor, Kyra Sedgwick is the person you want to hire. She is 100% committed, 100% of the time. But I will say, and maybe she will agree with this, that if you do have to end your show, ending it after 21 episodes is probably easier than ending it after 15.
This role is iconic. Do you think it changed women’s roles in television, and has it changed your life in any way?
KYRA: Sure, I mean I think that the success of the show has made me feel confident in a way that I don’t know that I would have for many years to come. In a short of amount of time, relatively, I feel like the success of not only the show materialistically in terms of the ratings and all of those things that we can point to – also just in terms of getting through a day and feeling really good about the scenes that we’ve done and feeling really good about the show. The episodes that we’ve done and feeling like we really served the piece has really given me a confidence. And also working as an executive producer with writers and giving notes and seeing things come together through some of my influence has been really a good feeling. So you get confidence in that, like I have good instincts around this and maybe this is something that I can do for future. I think that that’s been wonderful.
JAMES: And I would also say that she occasionally tries to arrest people, which is also a big change — she never did that before she started doing THE CLOSER!
For Kyra, if you could comment what you think that Brenda sees when she sees herself currently in the mirror.
KYRA: Oh, well, I’m sure like all women her age, she probably sees her mother. You know, I don’t think that Brenda’s a very self reflecting kind of person in any way. I mean I’m sure she does look in the mirror to put her makeup and get her hair done, but in terms of really looking inward, that has never been her strong suit. And, in fact, it’s been something she’s avoided like the plague. So I think that she probably sees the superficiality of what one would look at when one looks in the mirror.
Do you think recent events have caused her to kind of take a pause and look at what her decisions were in situations that she made?
KYRA: I think for moments, she’s had moments. But only moments. I think they sometimes come in overwhelming bouts, but I think they’ve been moments and then she gets right back on the: “I haven’t done anything wrong” and has a very sort defiant stance, almost a feeling of self-righteousness.
JAMES: I think she probably tries to avoid looking in the mirror for too long. That would be more like her, I think.
James, are you afraid as you’re trying to wind up THE CLOSER and working on MAJOR CRIMES that there might be some hesitancy about tarnishing the legacy of Brenda Leigh Johnson as you go down that path?
JAMES: No, I’m not because I feel like we’re going to do a really good job. I really do feel like we’re going to do a good job of the last three episodes that we have for THE CLOSER and that’s what I’m most concerned about. As to the other issue, MAJOR CRIMES, I don’t know. I can’t tell you exactly what I’m thinking will happen or what will go on there or anything like that. It’s just being afraid of something, isn’t a good way to approach it. And so I’m not being fearful, I’m trying to say goodbye to this character, as well as Kyra is. This character is so much a part of my soul and it’s very hard to be thinking about what comes next when you are dealing with loss. I feel like the loss has to be absorbed and I have to fully approach that and fully grab hold of it before I can move on to something else. So I haven’t really done that yet to be frank with you. I don’t know if Kyra has, I don’t think she has. I have not fully.
KYRA: We don’t have time for that.
JAMES: We don’t really have time, that’s actually the truth.
KYRA: That’s the way Brenda feels about everything, we don’t have time for that.
JAMES: I promise you, I have not dealt with my emotions on the end of the show. I haven’t dealt with how I feel about it, me James, emotionally, not the showrunner or not the executive producer or anything else. But, just me by myself, James, how I feel about it and I don’t think I ever refer to myself basically in the third person, so don’t take that too seriously, but I haven’t dealt with it — that loss yet. So it’s impossible for me to really even think about MAJOR CRIMES or what it will do. It’s not going to do anything to THE CLOSER legacy. At the very worst it could do is make THE CLOSER look better. And at the very best it will be a place where the people who like THE CLOSER can come and hang out and still see some of the people they’ve grown to love and care about.
For the MAJOR CRIMES, will Kyra play any role in that at all? Is she going to be any kind of producer on it, or guest star?
JAMES: Well she has agreed theoretically to guest star, and I think we have a three episode deal. But I don’t think we have times or ideas nailed down and to bring her back, it needs to be something special. Also I were her, I would want to have some time to put the character down for a while. Seven years is an extraordinarily long time to play a role of this size. It’s one of the largest speaking roles in television and for the first two years she was in every scene. And as much as I would like to have her back and as much as it would be great to end THE CLOSER and in the first episode of MAJOR CRIMES, guest stars Kyra’s Brenda Leigh Johnson, I don’t think that’s right and I feel like it would be not honoring the end of THE CLOSER. So I feel like we have to establish something new and we have to get that something new going properly. And then we have to see how Brenda would fit into that something new and it really does have to be something extraordinary. You don’t want to ask Kyra to come back and reprise something that she’s already done brilliantly unless you have something new to go with it. And I feel like that’s the answer she would give you too.
Are most of the cast members from THE CLOSER, you know the LAPD staff, going to still be there with the show when it becomes MAJOR CRIMES?
JAMES: Most of them, yes.
While Kyra and James were cautious in giving away anything that may spoil the upcoming storylines or reveal how the show will end next summer, they did share some wonderful reflections on a show that has made all other procedurals look pale in comparison. THE CLOSER returns with more on the traitorous “mole,” more quirky and possibly heart-breaking cases, and more thorny ethical issues while trying to balance the needs of police procedure, human rights and justice on Monday, November 28th. Be sure to tune-in for the first of five new episodes at 9:00 p.m. on TNT.
“A Night Celebrating THE CLOSER and a Look at Where the Show Is Going”
“Candid Photos From THE CLOSER’s 100th Episode Celebration”