PTR Senior Staff Writer
Time for BBQs, beach goings, picnics, fireworks and vacations.
And another round of Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, Major Crimes, Los Angeles Police Department.
The Closer begins its fifth season Monday, June 8th at 9 p.m. on TNT. When we last left our favorite homicide detective (actually, still tied-for-first since Cold Case's Lilly Rush escaped the cancellation guillotine for next season), BJ was finally married to fabulous FBI Special Agent Fritz Howard. Some of us thought she might not make it to the alter but ... she did!
So, when I recently had the chance to join in on a conference call with none other than BJ herself, the lovely Kyra Sedgwick, I wanted to ask what we might expect on the Brenda/Fritz front this season given that is one of things we here at PTR enjoy the most about the show - the attention given to developing the interpersonal relationships mixed in and balanced against the semi-procedural crime-solving.
(And lest we should forget that fabulous chemistry between Kyra and Fritzy's alter-ego, Jon Tenney).
"I think the inevitable next step to marriage is the idea of having children, and I think that’s a struggle for the two of them," says Kyra. "I think it's hard for Brenda, who doesn't see the world as a benevolent, loving place. She sees a lot of the darkness of the human soul, and a lot of people who behave badly and a lot of things that seem random. It's hard for someone like that to believe the world is a loving, safe place to bring a child into, so I think that is a struggle for her and for him."
I was also interested in where Kyra continues to her draw her inspirations from in portraying Brenda - particularly now that the show is in its fifth season.
"I think the scripts always give me inspiration," says Kyra. "I think the writers are constantly bringing in great stuff and great cases and interesting conflicts for her. I also get a lot of inspiration from one of our writers on the show who is a 25 year veteran of the LAPD – Mike Berchem. [He] keeps me grounded in the reality of it [all], and I can always go to him for good stories [and] good back stories. I've always been a big research person, and it's a really good connection for me to have him there all the time."
Other highlights from the call (**POTENTIAL SPOILER WARNING**):
On getting into the persona of Brenda - putting on the "Brenda suit" - and the benefits of playing a character for an extended period of time: "I'm always putting on a Brenda suit. I think we continue to have vast differences between the two of us. But, I can tell you that playing a character for this long, it just gets deeper and more multi-layered for me. And as an actor, I really enjoy that. It's been an inspiring process - one that I never would have thought would happen. If you had told me I was going to play the same character for five years, and I was still going to find her fascinating, still find new things about her, I'd have told you were probably crazy. It was such a leap of faith [to take on this role]. I think it always is whenever you take on a creative project, but I think this one especially because it was such a long commitment. But it's been a great journey. It's been one of the most - if not the most - creatively fulfilling jobs I’ve ever had. I love the fact that I get to play someone who’s so multifaceted and also that [the show] can flip from being an intense drama to sort of a slap-sticky type comedy. The audience goes with us, and I love we continue to grow our audience every year. That's something that is incredibly fulfilling for me - especially since I have to be away from my family for that time, and it is such a huge commitment. So, it's all been really great."
On whether the comedic element of the show contributes to the show’s success "I think it does. It surprised me in the beginning. I remember the first season, when we did this real like slap sticky kind of thing with [Lieutenants] Provenza and Flynn, I thought 'Oh gosh, I don't know how this is going to fly.' But, I was so excited and happy that the audience loved it. It was actually one of our highest rated shows. It really says a lot about our show [in that] we are able to be thoughtful enough to do both mediums. The writing, the characters, and also the audience that we have, they will go along with the ride and still feel grounded in the characters."
On whether she prefers the comedy to the drama: "I am so grateful that I get both within one show. I think I like the comedy better. I mean, it's harder in a lot of ways. But it’s fun, and you laugh between takes whereas sometimes it can get very, very sad. There are some sad things that happen in the first couple of episodes this year, and I don't like going to those dark places and staying in them too long. I think, as I get older, I want less and less to go to those dark places."
On the theme for the fifth season: "This year's theme is change. I think the most obvious change is Brenda being married, and there’s been some shifts in the squad. In the first few episodes, the cat is unwell, and I think that's a change she doesn't want to have to deal with - the idea of life without her cat, who in some ways is sort of her independent self. The cat is the thing that she had before she got married. I remember Kevin's dog [that is, husband Kevin Bacon]. When I first met him, he had a dog [named] Jane, [and she] was with us for years and years. When she finally passed, it was a very big deal because it was sort of the thing he had before I came along - the thing that defined him before marriage and children. That's a very big deal. So, she's got to deal with some issues that come up this year that she didn't have to deal with before. And, I don’t think she likes it too much. I think change is hard for everybody."
On whether Brenda and Fritz's working together will give more insight into their relationship: "I do – I definitely think that their working together gives you more insight into their relationship. There is actually a whole episode where Fritz kind of brilliantly manipulates Brenda – what he knows to be true about Brenda, which is her tenacity and her inability to let go of a case even when she’s asked to let go of it."
On how the show continues to excel at keeping its "realness": "The way [writer and 25 year LAPD veteran Mike Bertram] talks about crime is always from the victim’s point of view. This is a vision that’s shared with [creator] James Duff, which is that Brenda is the advocate for the victim and the victim's family. [She] is sometimes the only living breathing person who is advocating for the victim. That is somewhat of a mission statement of the show - to really be the advocate of the victim, and to show what murder is really like, how it really affects people and the horror of it. We really do emotionally involve people in each specific crime and in each specific character."
On what makes people come back to watch each season: "There’s a lot of [emotional] accessibility to the characters and to what they are going through. And because [the show is not strictly a] procedural, it's got a lot of character-driven moments. I think that's really what makes people come back. It's the personal moments - the characters, getting to know them from the inside, getting to see their vulnerabilities and their struggles. I think that’s really what makes people come back."
Count us in that group, Kyra.
We at PTR extend our great thanks to Kyra Sedgwick for taking the time to chat all-things Brenda. We also thank our friends and Turner publicity for inviting us once again to confess … er, I mean report. The fifth season of The Closer gets underway Monday, June 8th at 9 p.m. on TNT.