As defective-detective characters on basic cable go, this one has her share of quirks.
“The Closer’s” deputy chief Brenda Johnson dresses badly. She has trouble getting along with people. She’s miserable with directions. And belying her petite figure, she has a bit of a problem with sweets.
Of course, it’s exactly that kind of three-dimensionality that made the role so appealing to the traditionally feature-focused Kyra Sedgwick, who has been the principal force behind the TNT series’ ascendance to the No. 1 ranking for 18-49 viewers among original series running on ad-supported cable.
“I had some trepidation about being in L.A.,” Sedgwick admits, citing the required commute from the home she shares in New York with her husband, fellow thesp Kevin Bacon, and two children. “But I thought this character was really extraordinary. I thought I could do a lot with it. A lot of her quirks — the way she loses things, how she always gets lost — she’s almost a character unto herself.”
According to Sedgwick, the role — which has already garnered a Golden Globe nomination — was pretty well sketched out by series exec producers James Duff, Michael Robin and Greer Shephard when she first read the script. However, there were plenty of elements to Brenda Johnson — her affection for sugary confection, for example — that were all her.
“I definitely think there was something very interesting on the page, but there were also a lot of interesting things that I brought to the table,” Sedgwick says. “And I wanted to focus on her addiction to sugar. That’s a really long conversation, women and food issues, and I wanted to make sure it was something that we didn’t just give lip service to, that it was an ongoing struggle. I wanted it to be something that’s real for the audience.”
In fact, she says it was that kind of steady, consistent execution of story arc and character that made “The Closer’s” first season such a success. For instance, transplanted from her D.C. base to the LAPD, Brenda Johnson isn’t at all popular at her new workplace.
For Sedgwick, the challenge and the joy of the role was having her character not suddenly turn the whole division to her side, but gradually, episode by episode, turn each individual through plotlines that seemed true to the aud. “She slowly won their hearts and minds with her deep dedication and her deep sense of justice,” Sedgwick notes.
What’s most challenging about the role?
“The lines. She talks a lot, she’s very verbose, and she’s a hell of a lot smarter than I am.”
Did the original defective detective, “Columbo,” help inform her on the role?
“I grew up with ‘Columbo,’ ‘The Night Stalker’ and ‘Baretta.’ Those are the ones I really loved. But when I read the character of Brenda, I thought of (U.K. crime drama) ‘Prime Suspect’ with Helen Mirren.”
Could she see herself doing this show for five years?
“It’s creatively the most fulfilling experience I’ve ever had, and we do only 15 episodes a season. But I just have to take it one show at a time.”