On the Set: Secrets of The Closer Finale
Kyra Sedgwick | Photo Credits: Perry Hagopian
Last December, Kyra Sedgwick could be found conducting one of her hissing interrogations, the kind riveting enough to win her a Lead Actress Emmy; the kind she usually performs in a tiny, unadorned room at LAPD headquarters. Only, for "The Last Word," the 109th and final episode ever of TNT's hit procedural The Closer, Sedgwick's Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson is prying information out of a terrified witness while standing in a puffy black parka and thick beige scarf in a remote, windy part of Griffith Park.
Since The Closer debuted in 2005, it's been an unpredictable cop drama — offering up brooding slices of criminality then switching into comedic gear with, say, Tony Denison's roguish Lieutenant Flynn and G.W. Bailey's gruff Lieutenant Provenza doing their bumbling cop routine. But judging from the swarm of activity going on behind Sedgwick today —
cadaver-sniffing hounds, men in white jumpsuits examining what turns out to be a serial killer's mass burial site, a coroner's van — The Closer could be exiting on a grim note.
One thing is certain: Sedgwick's wish that the show goes out with a flourish is being granted. In the final six episodes, she'll have reason to stop trusting her defender Chief Pope (J.K. Simmons), who was responsible for her moving from Atlanta to Los Angeles in the first place. She'll meet up with old foes, like Billy Burke's suspected rapist Philip Stroh (who appears in two of the six). And the stress of the job and wrenching personal losses make her visibly fray around the edges.
Meanwhile, Captain Raydor (Mary McDonnell) finally uncovers the mole who's been sharing departmental secrets with oily plaintiff attorney Peter Goldman (Curtis Armstrong). The implicated squad room member provokes a mix of seething rage, crushing disappointment and feelings of total betrayal in Brenda.
Where's her husband Fritz (Jon Tenney) through all this? He stands by her, but, says creator James Duff, "It's clear that Brenda has put off dealing with her personal life for as long as she can, and that she has reached a point where she may have to change. Love does this to people."
For years, Sedgwick has said one of the things she admires about Brenda is, "She's not interested in self-analyzing — so she never changes much." But these days, when she rewatches early episodes, Sedgwick says she "sees a different Brenda. It was more black and white [for her]. It becomes grayer as the seasons go on. Having the law turn against her changes her profoundly."
It was last May when Sedgwick informed Duff and the other exec producers that the seventh season would be her last. Her announcement couldn't have taken them totally by surprise. For all of the ways that The Closer altered Sedgwick's life — making her name, talent and expressive face familiar to the masses the way only TV does — she never hid that there were parts of the job she struggled with. A New Yorker forced to reside on the West Coast, she tried condo living, beach living and once stayed in a big Arts and Crafts-style house in Hancock Park, but no matter where she set up camp, she could barely tolerate L.A.
Sedgwick never got used to being separated from her family for six months at a time. Last August, sitting on location in Inglewood, she reflected on the changes in her life since the series launched. Her list began: "I think I'm a better actress now...." But it soon drifted to her kids, Travis and Sosie, who are now both in college. In a guilt-tinged voice, she said, "It's pretty wild to think that when I started [The Closer] my daughter was 12 and my son was 15." She said this on a day of back-and-forth texting with Sosie, trying to help her with a dorm-room problem, her eyes betraying the helplessness she felt being a mom 3,000 miles from her child. "She's 19 now. It's amazing. That's a lifetime for her."