Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson is murder in the interrogation room and prone to chocolate binges between busts, but at the end of the day, she still has to deal with crimes of the heart.
It’s a winning trifecta and one of the main reasons actress Kyra Sedgwick grabbed the role of Brenda on TNT’s consistently engaging drama “The Closer.”
“I absolutely fell in love with her and I saw so much potential on the page,” she says of the role. “I thought she was smart and funny and flawed and confused and yet utterly not confused.”
One thing’s clear, though. Thanks to Sedgwick, Brenda is one of the strongest female characters to hit television in more than a decade. Like Cagney, Lacy or “NYPD Blue” Detective Diane Russell before her, Brenda’s emotional vibrato — part fish-out-of-water, part barracuda — makes her sizzle.
“The Closer” murdered the cable competition when it debuted on TNT back in the summer of 2005. A surprise ratings hit, Sedgwick turned heads playing the tough-as-nails L.A. homicide interrogator with a knack for trapping criminals in their lies. (The southern twang — it can go from sweet to savage in a matter of seconds — helps.)
Sedgwick nabbed a Golden Globe for her performance in the show’s second year. Season three, now under way and airing at 10 p.m. on Mondays, revolves around “family.”
Fueled by a solid supporting cast that includes J.K. Simmons, Jon Tenney, Gina Ravera and Michael Paul Chan, “The Closer” is one of those rare shows that has managed to win the blessings of both critics and viewers. Sedgwick says she believes some of that has to do with the XX chromosome.
“There are a lot more interesting roles for women in television than there used to be,” Sedgwick says. “I think that maybe we’ve broken the glass ceiling a little bit more, but I still see a lot of cookie-cutter women in film and TV.”
Closer to home, locals may have a soft spot for the drama. Two of the series’ stars — Chan and Ravera — are San Francisco natives.
Chan (Detective Tao) spent his weekends working with his grandmother above a Chinatown smoke shop.
He says the city was ethnically rich, something he feels makes “The Closer” stand out.
“There’s a wide range of ethnicity among the main characters,” he says, “but shows that premiere that way kind of wave a flag that says, ‘Look how diverse we are.’ We haven’t done that. It’s just L.A. It’s a fact of life.”
Ravera (Detective Daniels) lived in numerous places around The City but bonded with North Beach.
“I grew up on gelato,” she says with a laugh. “I am a pure city girl, and I say ‘The City’ because I’ve had to endure so many people saying ‘Frisco’ living in L.A. Every time I hear ‘Frisco,’ I cringe. I don’t know what it is. Did they teach that in grammar school?”
Maybe so. But it wouldn’t hurt to get Detective Johnson on the case.