When Kyra Sedgwick decided to leave her award winning role as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson on The Closer after some seven seasons, James Duff and TNT executive Michael Wright soon settled on the notion of continuing the show with a new lead in the form of a spin-off titled Major Crimes.
The actress who would take on that task of leading the spin-off was none other that Mary McDonnell (arguably best known to international audiences for her role as President Laura Roslin in Syfy’s rebooted Battlestar Galactica series); reprising her guest role as Sharon Raydor, the Captain from the LAPD’s Internal Affairs/Force Investigation Division.
In the four seasons that have followed, McDonnell and the show’s writers have fully fleshed out the character; moving well beyond her roots as an antagonist for Deputy Chief Johnson on The Closer. We have seen her grow – from becoming an adoptive mother to witness Rusty Beck, warming to her squad of detectives, the exploration of her past with an alcoholic husband, to entering into a relationship with Andy Flynn (Tony Denison).
With season five now airing on Monday nights on Universal Channel here in the UK, TVWise caught up with Mary McDonnell to discuss the genesis and development of her character, what’s in store for Sharon Raydor in the supersized fifth season, the mother/son dynamic with Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin), the blooming relationship between Sharon and Andy and much more.
TVWise: This started off for you with a guest role on season four of The Closer. In a previous interview, [Major Crimes creator and showrunner] James Duff spoke about the genesis of the show and how the decision was made to transition your character from antagonist to the lead. What was your reaction when you were essentially asked to fill Kyra [Sedgwick]’s shoes?
Mary McDonnell: Well, because it wasn’t put to me that way, I chose not to think of it that way. That would not have inspired me, because I don’t think you can fill someone else’s shoes. Creatively, I think that would have been kind of a blockade to being able to find a new Sharon Raydor. The way James cleverly put it to me was more in the way of “How would you like the challenge of trying to shift the character from antagonist to protagonist? How would you like to try that? Do you think you’d be up for it? Is Sharon that interesting to you?” The idea of that was interesting to me. I had no idea – nor did he – in the moment, how it was going to happen.
But I also didn’t want to give up on Sharon Raydor or as the fans lovingly referred to her in The Closer, Darth Raydor – I love that name! There are times in Major Crimes when Darth comes out [laughs], she comes back and [the fans] get so excited. But that was a very big commitment for me – doing the show, but not at the cost of losing this woman. She’s been a great role to play and it would be unfair to the fans and the show to suddenly make her nice. I was up for the challenge of it and we were challenged appropriately; meaning we did not know how it was going to be solved or how we were going to make it work. All we did know is that we wanted to try.
TVWise: That mirrors what James confessed to me. That he didn’t have a solution and that they lucked into having Graham [Patrick Martin], because they got to use Rusty as a surrogate for the audience…
Mary McDonnell: Absolutely and that grew, naturally, into a way of letting us see another side of Sharon, because of Graham’s presence. Rusty’s needs were so identifiable and so organic that they exposed [Sharon] as a mother and that’s always a humanising factor. I felt that, with Sharon, as I discovered the mother, and bridged that with the woman who was in a position [of power], and informed that by this woman who had been limited in her expression in internal affairs, it became a very interesting jigsaw puzzle.
Read the full interview at TVWise