Closer, The: TV Creator James Duff, Starring Kyra Sedwick

Having watched a full season of the crime hit show, “The Closer,” it’s hard to imagine any actress other than Kyra Sedwick in the role of Brenda Johnson, the junk food-loving police chief, who’s the best when getting airtight confessions are concerned.

James Duff, the series creator and exec-producer, says that different casting was a distinct possibility, because he was thoroughly convinced early on that he’s never get Sedwick to do it. It’s also hard to imagine the Brenda’s role played by a man, as is often the case in such series. But that was an early possibility too.

TNT’s second season of “The Closer” kicked in mid-June. I’ll offer a formal review of the second season in a week. Meanhwhile, here is how it all happened per show’s creator, James Duff.

First season’s success

It’s always nice when people don’t kick you in the teeth. It’s just been a dream job. I’m the kind of person who’s always to be working, maybe too happy to be working. So everything that comes after enjoying work is just gravy. And this is more than gravy; it’s like eating and not gaining weight.

Like Brenda

Of all the characters I’ve written for TV in the series world, Brenda is the one that most resembles me. Although I don’t look anything like herI am not a woman, and have no intention of becoming one. I’m very happily male, but she really is an awful lot like me.

SAG nomination, beyond expectations

The reaction from the audience and from the critics was a lot more than I anticipated. I always anticipate the worst, so I find sometimes I’m very pleasantly surprised. When the cast got a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Best Ensemble that just shocked the living daylights out of me. Not that we don’t have a good cast, because we have a great cast. But we had been on for only a short time, in the summer, and I didn’t feel like people had really even seen it yet. So getting the ensemble nod was a thrill.

Show’s genesis

It began with TNT coming to Mike Robin, Greer Shepard, and me and asking us to develop something that could be used as a companion piece to “Law & Order.” It was my idea that we should focus on one character, and that we should surround that character with sort of a chorus that put the character through a terrific obstacle course in their job, in addition to having a mystery to solve. The idea was that there were several things going on at once, but there was only one story.

Specializing in getting confessions

When we were putting the show together, I wanted to do a priority homicide and I wanted to base it on the idea of helping the district attorney get convictions. I asked Gil Garcetti, who was the D.A. for the County of Los Angeles for 8 years and served 30 years in that department, ‘What was the very best thing the police department can do to help you get a conviction’ And he said, ‘To get an airtight legal confession from the defendant.’ From that moment on, that became what the show as about.

Show’s title

The show’s title actually was suggested in conference with one of my agents.

Character’s gender

We changed that idea. My partner, Greer Shephard, and I were talking about the concept and we started out with a guy who was recovering from a heart attack. And Greer said, ‘Why can’t it be a woman Why can’t we have a 40-year-old woman who is not perfect Sort of in counterpoint to the edgy guy detectives on certain shows.


We worked very hard on authenticity. That’s why we have a detective from robbery-homicide as one of our four technical consultants, and why Gil Garcetti is another of our technical consultants. We’ve really tried to stay on the straight and narrow, to keep this show as real as possible.

Kyra Sedwick

It’s really curious, because we didn’t even consider Kyra in the beginning, because she was so famously disinterested in living in Los Angeles. Our casting director, Bruce Newberg, asked me what I thought about Kyra, and I said, ‘Well, of course, she’d be great, but it’s not going to happen. You have to be realistic about all of these things.’ Bruce just ignored me. He went about getting her manager and agent to read the script and convincing them to give it to her. Kyra read the script and she wanted to do it. And I felt like an idiot! I was so eternally thankful to Bruce for ignoring me, which he’s been doing for 15 years anyway, because we’re friends.

Favorite characters

Each one of the characters lives with us. We don’t have an adversarial relationship with our cast at all. I get a special thrill writing for G.W. Bailey, since I have known him when he was 15. I get a special thrill when I really nail a line for a character. I’ve gotten it right a lot with Flynn, Pope, and Provenza.

Balancing weekly and series overall story

Because of our emphasis on theme, it works itself out on its own. Without a thematic approach, it would be very disconnected. The main story is basically how you do you job in a difficult work place and manage your personal life. It’s all about Brenda. She is the show; It’s how she thinks and how she works.

Theme for each season

In our season premiere this year; we set up the theme for the entire season. Last year, we asked what it was like to be a woman in a man’s world. In the pilot, we played on that by having a victim masquerading as a man. That set up the season’s theme, which was showing how a woman could use her femininity and still success in a man’s world. I think Brenda is one of the few real women in law enforcement on TV.