I don’t know if I can do an interview any more last second than this, but TNT got me on the phone with Tony Denison, who plays Detective Andy Flynn on “The Closer,” less than six hours before the final episode hits the airwaves.
I have screened that final episode: long-time fans of “The Closer” won’t be disappointed, though her departure is certainly sad. (One tease: keep your eye on Brenda’s infamous monster-sized purse!)
Moments after Brenda fades from the screen forever, TNT tonight rolls out the spin-off “Major Crimes,” which keeps most of the “Closer” cast but loses Kyra Sedgwick (Brenda Leigh Johnson), J.K. Simmons (Will Pope) and Corey Reynolds (David Gabriel).
Mary McDonnell will be back as Sharon Raydor, the Internal Affairs captain who hovered over Brenda the past couple of seasons after the department got sued, partly for Brenda’s actions. But she is back in Brenda’s job and given a new mandate: focus on getting plea bargains to avoid costly trials. Brenda’s goal had always been to get confessions but wasn’t in control of how cases played out in the legal system.
For most of the cast, the transition has been smooth. The crew and key executive producers remained. Even Brenda’s husband and FBI agent Fritz (Jon Tenney) stuck around, along with Provenza (G.W. Bailey), Tao (Michael Paul Chan), Sanchez (Raymond Cruz) and Buzz (Phillip P. Keane.) They add a new detective, Amy Sykes (Kearran Giovanni), an Iraqi war veteran and in the first episode at least, a bit of a kiss up.
“There was a moment after Kyra’s announcement [in 2010] when we didn’t know what was going to happen,” Denison said. “But that moment quickly faded away because within a couple of hours, [creator] James Duff called and said we may continue on. There are more stories he wanted to tell.”
The end of the Kyra era blended so quickly into “Major Crimes,” “we didn’t have a chance to get too sad. Plus, we were blessed with ‘]Academy Award nominated] Mary McDonnell.”
Minus the maelstrom that was Brenda, the cast gets more breathing room and deeper story lines. “You know Provenza’s been married six times,” Denison said. “You know Andy’s been in AA. Now you get to see more of that, maybe even follow us home once in awhile.”
He understands some Brenda fans may not stick around. “Her character was far reaching. People loved her. But we’ll soldier on. I think people who watch ‘Major Crimes’ will be very happy.”
In the first “Major Crimes” episode airing tonight, Provenza steps in to take over Brenda’s spot, but he is soon usurped by Raydor. Provenza is not pleased. “He wants to be head of the squad,” Denison said. “He feels like he’s earned it.”
Raydor quickly shows her style of solving a case is different from Brenda’s. She is more methodical and detail oriented – and lacks that Southern drawl. “It’s a whole different vibe,” Denison said.
The detectives do not like Raydor or trust her since she came from internal affairs. (Then again, they didn’t initially like or trust Brenda seven years ago either.). He said they eventually warm to Raydor’s style and competency. (Teasers show she can use a gun.) Raydor also fosters a teen witness from the final crime Brenda handled, which is apparently an attempt to soften her sometimes icy character.
“The Closer” season finale, 9 p.m. Monday, August 13
“Major Crimes,” season debut, 10:06 p.m. Monday, August 13.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk