PTR Senior Staff Writer
Confession: we here at PTR love The Closer.
Then again, if you've been with us for a while, you already knew that.
So, when we were recently invited to speak with Kyra Sedgwick, who plays Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (or BJ – as we like to call her), in anticipation of the premiere of The Closer’s fourth season on TNT, we were feeling a little giddy and eager to confess to the woman who has almost single-handedly redefined the appeal of creating shows centered around strong, lead female characters on
As we’ve previously mentioned here at PTR, if it were not for the initial success of The Closer, do we really think we’d have, among others, Holly Hunter (Saving Grace), Glenn Close (Damages) and Mary McCormack (In Plain Sight) entertaining us so thoroughly on the small screen right now?
No, not in our opinion.
But Kyra sees the bigger picture, especially when explaining the trend of so many well-known film actresses continuing to make the move to the small screen. It’s about the good work, but it’s also about the success – and availability – of creating a good product.
“I think we [as actresses] go where the good work is,” Kyra says, “but I also think that [more] people are willing to spend money on these kinds of shows [nowadays] – willing to bank on these characters and these women – because The Closer has done well. [It makes people] want to do more things like it, or at least have a female character in the center of the piece. It’s been great to be part of that revolution. But, it’s also timing. Cable offers you a lot more freedom than network [television]. There’s a lot more that you can do, and I think that’s interesting for actors as well as women in general.
“In Hollywood,” she continues, “there’s nothing like making money for people. I think that [these kind of shows] have been something that people have always been ready for, but because The Closer did so well monetarily for TNT, [other] people are more willing to put these [kinds of] shows [on the air] – [ones with] strong female lead characters – because they see that it works, and that people like to watch it.”
Spoken like a true producer, for whom Sedgwick is on the show, which begins its fourth season Monday, July 14th at 9 p.m. on TNT. Things look to get even more interesting between not only Brenda and the squad, but more importantly, between Brenda and fiancé Fritz Howard (played by the fabulous Jon Tenney).
“Brenda has to once again be confronted with the personal issues around her relationship [with Fritz] – whether they’re actually going to get married, whether they’re going to make the leap into possibly having kids,” says Kyra. “It’s complicated because her first commitment is to her job. That’s really the thing she really loves, and it’s always her first choice. It’s not Fritz, it’s her job.”
Much to our chagrin, but alas, at least BJ has someone willing to take a journey with her (unlike our other favorite but perpetually depressed homicide detective in Philadelphia, who seems stuck in a box room with no one left to give a care).
“I think [the devotion to her job] makes it interesting to watch the dynamic [between Brenda and Fritz] manifest itself,” Kyra continues. “[It’s] sort of [this] push me, pull you dynamic. Fritz is someone who is always growing, always on an emotional journey that she is not really interesting in taking. She’s not self-aware – she’s not aware of why she ticks, how she ticks. She’s incredibly intuitive about other people, but not about herself. That dynamic is interesting to watch – that he is very insightful and has a lot of self-knowledge whereas she does not.”
But there is also the squad to worry about.
“I look forward to the internal conflict within the squad,” says Kyra. “That’s always interesting to me. Brenda is sort of the den mother to this group of people and, as with all work situations, conflicts ensue, things happen. She has to try to manage it.”
And how about ol’ mom and dad? Or that ingenious sense of humor? Or knowing when to give us a classic laugh-until-your-side-hurts episode vs. one that completely gets under our skin?
“[My] parents will come back. That’s always fun and interesting to see the child that [Brenda] becomes when her parents are there,” says Kyra. “We have another amazing batch of scripts. I don’t know how the writers do it. My feeling is that we have never underestimated our audience’s ability to roll with change-ups. With one episode, we’ll give them incredibly dark, gritty, sad, grizzly show. Then, in the next show, we’ll give them slapstick comedy with a coffin rolling down some steps and a body falling out. I think [our audience] seems to like both equally well. We really trust they'll like what we give them. We never underestimate their intelligence.”
Amen to that. No formula-auto-pilot-procedural box, here. And even after four seasons with the same character, Kyra says she continues to learn a lot about herself not only as Brenda, but as an actor in general.
Says Kyra: “There’s something about playing someone who’s so different from you, who is from a different place – from the South, [which is] certainly not where I am from – that affords me a great deal of freedom. [And although] I feel like I learn something every time I do a job, what’s been exciting about The Closer is sticking with a character this long, and getting to go deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper into [her]. What I’ve learned as an actor is to really try and mix things up, just try and surprise myself. I think I’ve become more free doing this role because it’s such high-demand and such high-output all the time – that [in and of itself] demands a certain freedom, [which] has really helped me as an actor.”
When PTR specifically asked her what she has found most challenging about her time on the show, her answer was both pragmatic and truthful – kinda like BJ herself.
“What I find most challenging,” says Kyra, “is the sheer volume of words I have to learn. I have learning differences, and I am not as good at learning lines [as others]. It’s something that probably takes me a lot longer than most people. What I like most about doing the work is the other actors and the writing. I just think that the writing is spectacular on the show.”
So do we.
We at PTR extend our great thanks to Kyra Sedgwick for taking the time to enlighten us on all-things Brenda, and we thank our friends and Turner publicity for inviting us to confess … er, I mean report. The fourth season of The Closer gets underway Monday, July 14th at 9 p.m. on TNT.