The end of any television show is always a bit hard to come to terms with. But with only six episodes remaining, this is the chance for the show to honor its roots and the brilliant character of Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, as phenomenally portrayed by Kyra Sedgwick. In a recent press conference call, creator and executive producer James Duff along with star Kyra Sedgwick talked how they feel about the end of THE CLOSER.
Why did you decide it was time to leave? Did it have anything to do with Kyra’s husband Kevin Bacon getting his own show [THE FOLLOWING]?
KYRA: No, it was before Kevin got his gig. I think we were in the middle of shooting Season 6 actually, when I started to contemplate the idea of what Season 8 would look like. It was something that I struggled with for many months; almost a year really to make the decision. It just felt like time, mostly for me as an artist, time for me to do something else. There really wasn’t an epiphany. It was just the idea of doing a Season 8 I think felt daunting to me and overwhelming, and sort of just didn’t feel right. I think as an actor you really kind of just have to follow your instincts. It was a hard decision because, you’re putting so many other people out of work. There was just a lot of factors that go into making that kind of decision. But I feel like it’s wonderful that we get to go out on top, and that James had a good long time to close this out in the right way to finish.
JAMES: Yeah, she gave me an opportunity that most writers never have, which is the opportunity to end the show the way I’d always wanted to. That was a great gift at the end of a great journey.
How do you feel about Kevin going on television now?
KYRA: I’m thrilled for him. I mean, I think it’s such a satisfying venue and it’s so exciting to stick with a character for many years if you get that opportunity. And it’s so wonderful to work with a family. I mean, Kevin’s always been very loyal and very much a family-oriented person, and I think that for those of us who like to have recognizable faces and people that we love and that support us and help us to do our very best work around us, it’s a unique opportunity and I’m thrilled for him. I’m really excited.
What do you hope that people take away from having seen THE CLOSER?
JAMES: Well, of course first and foremost, I hope they are entertained. The idea of doing a series is to distract people from the pressures and horrors of ordinary life, and I hope we managed to do that. And the second thing I hope they take away is this extraordinary perspective on the justice system that we got to view through the lens of this character. We can look at the justice system several different ways, and Brenda Leigh Johnson’s way off looking at it, which is not entirely my own, but which is interesting, was I feel like a fascinating experience for me as a writer. And also, I hope they feel like at the end of the day we honored that, that the last six episodes are true to the character and true to the ethos that we tried to create.
KYRA: I feel like I hope that people have higher expectations of where their entertainment dollar can be spent. I feel like we really delivered great stories and great characters, and I hope that, this will make them speak out — encourage them to speak out – about really good shows and not be satisfied with the norm or simple things. I also so hope as an actor that they really grew to understand and love this character as I love her, her complexities and her passion and through reality of being a woman in this kind of situation, and someone that they could really relate to.
What do you guys think will be the legacy of this show after it’s over? How will people remember it?
KYRA: I see her as a significant and sentinel character in the lexicon of female characters ever played for a long period of time, whether it’s a movie series or a television series. I think we broke a lot of ground and I think that we were able to consistently weave exciting storylines with deep and resonating character arcs. And I think that that’s something that’s very hard to do, especially in a procedural. And I think that we accomplished that.
JAMES: I would say too that when we created the series I wasn’t aware that we would be breaking ground. It hadn’t really occurred to me that way. Except that I was watching these other procedurals and it seemed to be a lot of times that they were asking women to be successful by acting like men. And that’s just not my experience in the workplace. Women are not successful because they act like men. Women are successful because women have their own feminine. I mean femininity is a power. It is not a weakness or something that needs to be compensated for. So I was very concentrated on making sure that Brenda remained a woman in this world. And I hope that resonates. I think it did. I think afterwards we saw a lot of single female lead shows where women were not, you know in effect dressing to disguise their femininity or overexposing themselves either. There seemed to be some acceptance that women were strong in their own right, not because they could act like men, but because they had powers as women.
Last Christmas there was the revelation that the civil lawsuit had been dropped against Brenda, but was still going forward against the City, and then they settled after Brenda was dropped out of the lawsuit with the Johnson Rule still intact. Is that going to be explored further? What current implications does the Johnson Rule have over Brenda and the team for the rest of the series?
JAMES: That’s part of the continuing storyline and we can’t answer that question fully, except to say that naturally whenever you create a solution in government there are unforeseen consequences. And, you know the Johnson Rule ends up being an admission of a problem that it becomes more problematic as the last six episodes unfold. I think it was a really unfair solution personally, but it is the kind of solution that you find. And I wanted to show also the sort of stress, that really heroic — dare I say — public employees take-on on a daily basis, and the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune they endure. We’ve heard a lot about, you know how awful public employees are lately, and I just wanted to remind people that they are serving us and it is a vocation and what they get for it. And what they get for it us sometimes things like the Johnson Rule.
Also can you comment on whether Jason O’Mara might be returning as Billy Croelick?
KYRA: Unfortunately he is not.
JAMES No, he was doing another series while we were finishing ours. We loved him. The interesting thing about Jason’s character is that he never actually committed a murder that we know of on Brenda’s watch. So he’s not an unclosed case actually, technically. But I would have loved to have seen him some time in our last year, he just wasn’t available. He’s such a great guy too.
How does it feel to be recognized with so many award nominations for your role on THE CLOSER?
KYRA: It made a difference in my recognition factor for sure. And I think that people know my name now, and I think that’s always a good thing. And I think THE CLOSER afforded me the opportunity to really show my wares and show the places that I was capable of going as an actor; the dark places and the funny places. I’ll never forget that. I mean, that has been an opportunity that I never really knew that I was going to get. Where this character went everywhere emotionally.
JAMES: I want to add something to that, and that is that, she’s always been a great actress, always. And she’s always been someone who was capable of carrying the A-story just in her eyes. But, the nice thing I think THE CLOSER might have done is that she got a chance to actually prove that, and there are a lot of actors who don’t get a chance to prove it, but she’s too modest to say so. But, the truth is she proved absolutely that what everybody thought about her was true, that she was in her being the A-story that she is a amazing actor and one of the most talented performers in the English speaking language. And she always had that and she always had that in her, but she got a chance to prove it and I think that’s a fantastic opportunity for an artist, and she won’t say it, so I will.
Any chance you’ll be making a MAJOR CRIMES appearance then, Kyra?
KYRA: Yes, for sure. It’s definitely a possibility.
JAMES: It’s a possibility, yes.
James, you will still be involved with the MAJOR CRIMES, right?
JAMES: We’re still doing MAJOR CRIMES. I’m playing the same role in MAJOR CRIMES that I played in THE CLOSER.
Will there be some sort of crossover where an introduction near the end to kind of lead up into MAJOR CRIMES?
JAMES: I would say there is a crossover character. There is a character who transits between THE CLOSER and MAJOR CRIMES, and he wasn’t planned exactly. It was just ended up being that way, and that THE CLOSER is the end of THE CLOSER. There are a couple of illusions to what comes next, but my focus was entirely on ending the series, and incidentally launching MAJOR CRIMES. So the illusions to MAJOR CRIMES are buried and hopefully some of them will be a surprise in the final hour. But, I will say, I was more focused on concluding THE CLOSER than I was beginning MAJOR CRIMES when I was writing the show. I think that’s the experience people will have.
As you look back on last season, do either of you guys have a favorite episode or a favorite story arc that will stand out in your memory?
KYRA: That’s always so tough for me. I feel like we have so many years to choose from it’s hard to pull out some favorites. I’m always most intrigued and feel most satisfied by the character arcs. And by those I mean some of the character arcs with Fritz and Brenda. I loved their courtship, and then when he finally asks her to marry him in that doctor’s office, in between tears of realizing that’s she’s suffering from peri-menopausal symptoms brought out on that have to be operated on, he asked her to marry her in the most inopportune moment. But it’s beautiful and funny and wonderful. I also loved the whole cat arc, the getting the cat and her not wanting the cat, and then the cat becoming an intrinsic part of her life, and then the eventual demise of the cat. I loved her parents. I loved the fact that no matter what age you are when your parents come to visit you’re suddenly that 12-year old kid again who hasn’t learned anything; hasn’t changed at all. I so appreciated being able to see that side of Brenda. I loved the personal moments with some of her squad, like when Detective Sanchez’s brother died and she had to be there for him in a very special and different way. Moments when she had to have Gabriel turn in his badge and his gun after he beats up the pedophile. I thought that was very difficult for her as he is her favorite. And I loved that personal moment. So those were among my favorites.
JAMES: I think my favorite moment in THE CLOSER overall is in the finale, and so I can’t really talk about it. But it is a scene between Brenda and Fritz halfway through where he begins to identify with the witness in a fairly spectacular way. For me, THE CLOSER, one of the things I think that makes it appealing to the audience we have is about how to balance your professional life and your personal life, and how we never really know exactly how to do that. How we’re always making it up day-by-day, and not knowing where to put ourselves. And she, in that scene, Brenda is perfectly poised between both places. It’s a very, very long time we spend just on her face as that moment plays out. To me it was just one of those things that. I like it for two reasons: one is because it is exactly where I always wanted the character to end up, and also because it’s one of those things that only Kyra Sedgwick could do. I felt like that was, for me, the most amazing moment of the whole series, and everything after that is good too. I mean, what she does after that, after she has that epiphany, if you will, is fantastic too. But so much was building to that moment. I think it was the very first scene we shot of the finale, as Michael Robin announced as we were shooting it, that it was rarified air we were breathing being able to bring the series to a close. And oh my God, if you liked the show, that moment in the duplex and between here. Fritz is just going to be – well, John Tenney — he’s such an amazing actor too.
Will the final episodes continue to balance the funny moments with the darker storylines?
KYRA: Oh, absolutely. I would say it’s a dramatic ending, but there’s a really fun romp in the second episode of the final six. And yes, there’s always an element of humor. I don’t think we could do our job as well as we do if we didn’t have an element of humor. I mean, there’s always a gallows-humor within, but there’s also just the interpersonal, recognizable things about each other that you have when you’re with a family or a cast a long time. There’s a lot of interpersonal winks and people are still who they are, even in the midst of the most dramatic circumstances. So there are still a lot of laughs and a lot of good character fun stuff.
What did you take away from set as your souvenir?
KYRA: I didn’t take away anything from the set. I didn’t actually take away any material things. I mean, everyone on that set will, and the cast as well as the crew, will always have a very, very special place in my heart. I was given a beautiful sort of seven-year yearbook from my makeup and my costume team. They’ve taken many, many pictures over the years and they interviewed people and they put together this yearbook, but for over the last seven years, and that was a really beautiful memento to take away and it’s all in there.
Tiffany Vogt blogs at The TV Addict.