‘Major Crimes’ carries on ‘The Closer’s’ legacy
August 19, 2012
Article taken from Sioux City Journal
LOS ANGELES — When “The Closer” ended and “Major Crimes” started, insiders wondered if there’d be a noticeable shift.
“But it wasn’t any different,” says Raymond Cruz, who plays Detective Julio Sanchez. “Major Crimes is “‘The Closer’ on steroids.”
Most of the cast is the same; many of the sets are the same.
The big change? Mary McDonnell’s character, Sharon Raydor, is now in charge. Coming from Internal Affairs, she was a cold, almost distant presence who didn’t exactly have a legion of fans. Clearly, she was yin to Kyra Sedgwick’s yang.
“She’s made a big journey,” creator James Duff says, “and she’s taken the audience with her. It’s a great tribute to Mary’s performance.”
When Sedgwick indicated she wanted to leave “The Closer,” producers had enough time to plot the shift.
“It was an organic transition,” McDonnell says. “The writing allowed it to happen. She was allowed to grow.”
For the better part of a season on “The Closer,” writers were able to move her “from antagonist to protagonist,” Duff says, “which was a fantastic arc for an actor to play. Normally, one of the things we like about our television shows is the static nature of the characters.”
Indeed, McDonnell says, it was difficult to play an unlikeable character. Fans of “The Closer” frequently voiced their disapproval of Raydor — in blunt terms.
Now, they’re warming to her.
Among the biggest surprises? Her home life. During preparations for the new series, Duff consulted McDonnell and let her help choose some of the set pieces in Raydor’s apartment. Among the obvious? Watercolors everywhere. “I’m not good at painting but I decided she did them herself,” McDonnell says. “It shows another side of her personality.”
In Raydor’s office, cast member Phillip P. Keene opens a desk drawer and shows that her predecessor’s candy stash is gone.
“Brenda used to have a ton of candy in there,” Jonathan Del Arco says. “And we raided her candy draw.” He laughs.
The two actresses have different vibes, Keene adds. “You have to dance to their tune.”
And that’s what made the new series interesting for regulars on the old one.
Cruz says, “Raydor has her own speed, but there’s more energy around her. Everything around her seems more frenetic. Whereas with Brenda, she was always on the run but we were trying to catch up.”
Tony Denison, who plays Lt. Andy Flynn, says the two actresses are like “Tom Seaver on the mound and Greg Maddux…they’re still control pitchers but they have different styles. They both come with their ‘A’ game each episode. They’re ready to play, ready to take the field.”
Others — like Michael Paul Chan, who plays Lt. Mike Tao — get their moments to shine. Chan, in fact, got a major storyline in one episode. Says co-star Jon Tenney, “We’re able to sort of take more jump shots. That’s a great thing.”
Before producers detailed the new edition’s changes, the actors considered leaving. “I like doing different characters,” Cruz says. “Once James gave us information about what he wanted to do, I realized it’s a different job.”
Keene saw that when he had his first scenes with McDonnell. “It’s like any regime change. You have to dance to their tune…and Buzz is trying to make himself as useful as possible.
“The transition was pretty seamless. It’s like having dinner with a big family and somebody has to move away. You miss that person, but you know they’re still there.”
Officials say Sedgwick could come back at any time, if she wants. Her character is just across the street in another building.
“One door closes, another door opens,” Duff says. “The day after Kyra said she was going to leave, I was feeling sort of blue but not unhappy. I was proud of what we had accomplished.” Then, he got a call from TNT officials and they told him they were going to spin off ‘The Closer.” “It’s a new show called ‘Major Crimes’ with Mary McDonnell. You’re going to love it.”
Duff set out to craft the new series and realized it was “a really interesting challenge. I was sitting there, thinking I had a very nice time, and out of the blue I got an offer.”
Now, “Major Crimes” is deep into production. McDonnell is getting her bearings (and loving the new set she calls home); the other “Closer” cast members are feeling renewed.
“I hadn’t even thought about this as an idea,” she says of the sequel. “Nobody had even suggested this and, suddenly, here it was. We were in it before we knew it.”