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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

Seven TV seasons ago, the LAPD imported CIA-trained interrogator Brenda Leigh Johnson from Atlanta to head the major case squad where she employs a combination of charm, deception, bluff and guile on suspects.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE CLOSER")

KYRA SEDGWICK: (as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson) Do you recognize this gun? You should. We've just confirmed it as the weapon used to kill Mr. Parsof(ph).

ANDREW LAWRENCE: (as Eric Whitner) That's not mine. I didn't do anything.

(SOUNDBITE OF TAP)

SEDGWICK: (as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson) I told you I was coming after you, Eric, and here I am. I have the murder weapon. I have your cousin's statement saying that you're the shooter, that you fired at the police. And that after you were shot, he grabbed the gun and ran away, which means I have you for homicide. Eric Whitner, you are under arrest for the murder of Howard Parsof. You have the right to remain silent.

LAWRENCE: (as Eric Whitner) OK.

SEDGWICK: (as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson) Anything you say can be used against you...

LAWRENCE: (as Eric Whitner) OK, hold on a second.

SEDGWICK: (as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson) ...in a court law. You have the right to an attorney.

LAWRENCE: (as Eric Whitner) Please...

CONAN: Kyra Sedgwick stars as "The Closer," which just began its seventh and final season on TBS. Many of the shows best scenes take place in the interrogation room. If you have questions for the questioner, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION. Kyra Sedgwick joins us now from our studios at NPR West in Culver City, California. Nice to have you on the program and congratulations on your 100th episode.

SEDGWICK: Thank you so much.

CONAN: I wonder, how did you prepare to play this character?

SEDGWICK: Let's see. Well, I spent some time with some female cops over at the LAPD, female detectives. I spent some time in the robbery-homicide unit, which was the specialized - which is the specialized division that we represent over - at that time, it was Parker Center in Los Angeles. I went on some drive-alongs. I read up on CIA agents. I spent a lot of time talking to the creator, James Duff, who had sort of built this character on his sisters and his mother, which is interesting, even though the character really mostly resembles him. And, yeah, it was a fun journey.

CONAN: As you started this voyage on TNT, you've been involved in lots of, well, interrogations.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: This has been something that has been obviously in the news. Almost your entire run has been a nonstop series of revelations about what people are asked, what they're allowed to ask and how they're allowed to ask it.

SEDGWICK: Right, right. Well, you know, if you talk to cops who interrogate, they often say that they lie. I mean, it's not against the law for cops to lie in order to get to the truth. And there was actually a wonderful scene where my husband at the time played by Jon Tenney, Fritz Howard, said to me at one point, you know, you have to - you can't keep lying, and she said - and she says, oh, for heaven's sakes, Fritzy, if we all stop lying to each other, how can we ever get to the truth?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SEDGWICK: And it's really kind of true, I mean, at least in this line of work for sure. And she, you know, she is creative in that way.

CONAN: And that is one of the core - the deception that she employs, not just lying but any number of other ploys that are used to extract ultimately the truth. You will be leaving at the end of this season. How come?

SEDGWICK: You know, I really feel like the show has been an extraordinary journey, and it has been - we've been at the top of our game for the last several years.

CONAN: Number four in the most recent cable rankings.

SEDGWICK: In every way, we have been well received, and it just felt like I would hate to wake up in the morning and not want to go to work. I would hate to ever feel like I was repeating myself. I would hate to feel like we were somehow not giving the quality work that we are capable of giving. And on a personal level, it's just time for me, as an actor, to move on and explore other things. And, you know, I wouldn't want to, you know, hang around like old fish, you know?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Well, you're also an executive producer on the show. Is 100 episodes still the magic number that used to be?

SEDGWICK: You know, there is no magic number anymore. Unfortunately, our union is in such a state that we really get very little, if anything, for syndication. So, you know, that's a whole another - excuse me - issue. But it's really isn't the magic number anymore, at least not for drama. Maybe it is somewhere, but I don't think so.

CONAN: The show, however, will continue, or at least try to.

SEDGWICK: Yes, yes. It's going to spin-off to something called "Major Crimes" with Mary McDonnell and a lot of the guys from the show. And I'm sure it'll be wonderful. I'm sure it'll be different and wonderful.

CONAN: Let's get some callers involved in the conversation. Our guest is Kyra Sedgwick, the Emmy Award-winning actress who plays Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson on TNT's "The Closer," which is in its seventh and final season. 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org. Matt is on the line with us from Manchester, New Hampshire.

MATT: Hi. Thank you so much for taking my call. Kyra, I'm a huge fan of both you and your husband from way back when. Both of you premier in "Murder in the First" – loved it. I'm a fellow actor, and I was actually curious about wanting to talk - wanting you to talk about your process to acting from a film versus a television series, of being able to keep your character up for 100 episodes, but five, six days a week, on top of all that. So I just wondered if you could talk a little bit about the process of going from Kyra Sedgwick to your character on "The Closer."

SEDGWICK: Well, I'll say that the length of a television show is completely - it's unique, in the sense that you will never stick with a character for seven years if you're not - that is changing - if you're not on a TV show. So that is what is the primary difference between, to me, film and television. Unless, of course, you're on the "Bourne Ultimatum" or something like that.

So, for me, keeping it fresh is really about a lot - it has a - I really count on the writers for a lot of that. But for me as an actor, it has to be about the internal life and the internal struggles that she continues to have, of which she has many. And they are complicated and difficult and fraught. She is nothing if not an interesting, multilayered character. So I hope that answers your question. But for me...

MATT: Do you find it - it's a lot more difficult to stay focus on a character with grueling shoots for that length of the time?

SEDGWICK: Not for me. I found it endlessly fascinating and an extraordinary exciting challenge to keep growing and getting deeper and deeper into this character.

MATT: Thanks a lot.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Matt.

MATT: Thank you so much.

CONAN: The character, as you say, has a lot of layers. It's interesting that the greatest challenge she faced, early on, was winning over the squad room. This is now her family.

SEDGWICK: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it is her primary focus and always has been. I think that's the sort of interesting thing about Brenda, is that she is a woman who is married to her job, and a woman whose primary function and goal in life is to be doing what she's doing in her work and has - and struggles to be intimate with the people that love her the most - which is her, you know, her parents and her husband.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Let's go next to Jackie(ph), Jackie calling us from Tallahassee.

JACKIE: Hi. I'd like to say that I just love the show, watched almost every episode. I have a question in reference to the gang member, which is kind of like the whole central theme for the last season. If you had it to do over again, would you have Brenda leave him there again?

CONAN: This is a gang member who gets immunity from prosecution in order for testimony. In the course of - after he gets immunity, confesses to the fact that he has committed a heinous double murder. And because he is then immune from prosecution, the character's resolution to this...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: I was not going to say yours, Kyra, but the character's resolution is to make his guilt known to those will object to it and then leave him, at his home, to their tender mercies. But go on and answer the question.

SEDGWICK: I don't think that Brenda would have done anything differently knowing the heart that has, you know, the ramifications of her actions, even as this year has unfolded for her. Because I think, at her core, she is all about the victim and the victim's rights. And because those two people were - actually, it was five people who were ultimately killed because of Turrell Baylor. It was - one of whom was the old man who owns the store, and also the little boy - completely innocent, as well his twin brother and two other people. But - so I think that because her first obligation is always to the victim, and because she sees herself as this sort of angel of the dead, in some ways, I don't think that even with how it's destroyed her life, she would do it any differently. I don't think that she will be capable of doing it any differently.

She's not a person who can learn from her mistakes or learn very much about herself at all. You'll actually see in the last few episodes, she finally begins to learn things about herself. But it is a painstaking process and not one that she embraces at all.

JACKIE: Well, thank you. And I'm going to miss you.

SEDGWICK: Thank you so much. I really appreciate that.

CONAN: Miss you, but I think you're going to keep on working.

SEDGWICK: Yes, I will keep on working. Absolutely.

CONAN: Good. We're talking with Kyra Sedgwick, the star of "The Closer" on TNT, which is in its final season, at least in that context. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION coming to you from NPR News.

And let's go to Matthew, Matthew with us from Nashville.

MATTHEW: Hello. Ms. Sedgwick, I wonder if I could ask you about another role. My wife and I just saw the movie "The Woodsman" that came out a few years ago, with you and Kevin Bacon, and you're both wonderful in it. And I was wondering about a couple of things. One, how did you come across that script? And two, the producer says, on the disc, that he got the actors to work for almost nothing. I was wondering if that was true.

SEDGWICK: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. If you got a job for nothing, sign me up.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SEDGWICK: It was - we go the script through Lee Daniels, actually, who was the director and producer of "Precious" several years later. The film "The Woodsman" is about a pedophile who gets out of jail and is trying to resurrect his life. And I thought it was - we both it was an extraordinary film and one that - I mean, who wants to talk about pedophiles, although they live among us. And part of, I think, my job as an actor - and I know, Kevin feels the same way - is to shed light on the darkest side of humanity. You know, not many people saw the movie, but we felt it was important. And it's one of the things I'm most, most proud of, is that film. So thank you for watching, and thank you for bringing it up.

MATTHEW: It's very good.

SEDGWICK: Thank you so much.

MATTHEW: Thanks.

CONAN: Matthew, thanks for the call. Kevin Bacon also directed some episodes of "The Closer," no?

SEDGWICK: Yes, he did. Yes, he did and that was wonderful. He hasn't in a few years, but it was great to have him. He's really good at it.

CONAN: Let's go next to Nan(ph) , and Nan is with us from Wilmington, North Carolina.

NAN: Yes. I was so interested in the Brenda Leigh character and the Southern accent. And I want to thank you for making a Southern woman so very smart, because that doesn't often happen...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SEDGWICK: Yes.

NAN: ...in depictions of Southern people.

SEDGWICK: Yes.

NAN: I wondered how much you felt that that added to the character. And how difficult was it for you to bring that?

SEDGWICK: Well, I think it was one of the defining - it's one of her most stand out, defining characteristics. And it also was - is the one - one of the many singular things about her that made me want to do the part. To play a Southern person who's the smartest person in the room, is, as you say, unusual and wonderful and different. And a celebration of that is something that I applaud. And as far as the accent, which I think is what you're sort of referring to, I work very hard on keeping it real and keeping it authentic. I have a dialogue - dialect coach who works with me every week. And to me, it's something that - she's not interested in losing her accent. She's not interested in losing anything that is Southern about her. She's proud of her Southern heritage, proud of being a woman, proud of being a Southern woman.

NAN: Well, I so have enjoyed the series, and I hate to see it end. But you've done us proud. Thank you so much.

SEDGWICK: Thank you so much.

CONAN: Thanks for the call, Nan. I wonder, have you heard from police about your portrayal?

SEDGWICK: You know, we have heard from so many police officers who tell us that we are 100 percent authentic, and that they feel we are one of the few shows that make them look good, and that they appreciate the fact that we have, you know, very little in the way of high-tech, you know, gadgets, in order to solve our cases, that it's really about, you know, police work and...

CONAN: Yeah. The DNA results don't come in five minutes, yeah.

SEDGWICK: Well, that actually we do have, because we only have an hour to show it.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SEDGWICK: But we do show the frustrations of, you know, the budget cuts and things like that. And we don't have, you know, high-tech screens and, you know, things that, you know, that they have on some other shows that are very popular.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Let's go to Warren, Warren calling us from Tampa.

WARREN: Hi. I was just wondering how you like working with John Travolta, back in the day, on a film called "Phenomenon."

SEDGWICK: It was amazing. I love John. He's the sweetest guy. I mean, he just - he's a gentle, gentle, loving soul. And it was a beautiful film. And I know that that haircutting scene where she cuts his hair and shaves him, I think was some sort of, you know, to some people, the most romantic, sexist thing they'd ever seen and - which makes me feel good because I thought it was very romantic and sweet too. And I love to work with him again. I'm proud of that movie.

WARREN: All right. Thank you very much.

CONAN: Warren, thanks very much for the call. And, Kyra Sedgwick, do you really like chocolate that much, or is that Brenda Leigh?

SEDGWICK: A day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine, my friend.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Thank you very much. And congratulations on a wonderful run.

SEDGWICK: Thank you so much.

CONAN: Kyra Sedgwick joined us from our studios at NPR West in Culver City, California. "The Closer" is Monday nights on TNT. This is its final season in that format. Next season it will be called "Major Case Squad," with many of the same characters involved.

Tomorrow, TALK OF THE NATION: SCIENCE FRIDAY. Joe Palca will be here with the look at Asia's space race and why U.S. military officials are keeping a close on it. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

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