Kyra Sedgwick is trying to compose herself. She was fine a minute ago. With pleasantries barely exchanged and refreshments offered, the 41-year-old folded her delicate limbs on the couch in her Hollywood trailer and began to talk about spending half the year in L.A., away from her family in New York City. Then came what seems like an innocuous question: How's it working?
''Um...you know, it's working out really well. I think so far the kids are...great,'' she said, her eyes welling, her voice cracking as she chased away threatening tears. ''I miss them terribly. Terribly.''
Let's give her a moment. Because if Sedgwick could speak right now, she'd probably tell you that, professionally, she's better than ever. Her TNT cop drama, The Closer, launches its third season June 18 (Mondays at 9 p.m.) as an unqualified cable hit with an average 6.6 million viewers. Her portrayal of the show's steel-magnolia homicide deputy chief, Brenda Leigh Johnson, garnered an Emmy nod and won her a Golden Globe. Plus, she just wrapped The Game Plan, a comedy in which she costars with The Rock as his sports agent a part she landed on the strength of her resurgent career. ''I don't think I would've gotten offered [the movie] without auditioning had it been a couple of years ago,'' she says. ''Never in a million years.''
But this is Hollywood, and as nice as plum roles and gold statues are, true love is a fat paycheck. So when the third-season contract renegotiation was completed, Sedgwick walked away with roughly $250,000 an episode, making her one of the highest-paid actresses on TV. But she also wanted something else, recalls series creator James Duff, who has become a friend. She needed assurance that the people who help her bring Brenda to life the ones for whom she leaves behind son Travis, 17, daughter Sosie, 15, and husband Kevin Bacon, 48 are as committed to the series as she is. ''When she was going through her renegotiation, Kyra [asked me], 'Will you stay with this?''' recalls Duff. ''And I said, 'Of course.''' As Sedgwick puts it, ''[The Closer] is a family.... I need to feel comfort, especially when I'm away from my [real] family and family, to me, is not leaving.''
Which explains the tears. Because Sedgwick's recent success has hinged on precisely that leaving. It wasn't always that way. When you're part of a couple an 18-plus-year partnership like Sedgwick and Bacon's you make compromises. Theirs: While one took a job, the other stayed home with the kids. Which would've been perfect, but Sedgwick's husband works a lot (says Duff: ''They don't play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon for nothing''). So after early acclaim in films like 1989's Born on the Fourth of July, 1992's Singles, and 1995's Something to Talk About, Sedgwick took a backseat. ''I have spent a lot of time saying no to things I have,'' she says. ''I don't think [Kevin] wanted to see me do that with [The Closer].'' It was her turn.
And the TNT series came along at the perfect time. The kids were getting older and Sedgwick was turning 40 the age at which many actresses come into their own just as the parts dry up. It's also when many actresses consider enhancements like Botox, lip collagen, even plastic surgery. Would Sedgwick? ''Absolutely,'' she declares. ''Because I'm a big believer in 'whatever makes you feel better.' Because I'm in a business where my face is really important.... Because what is really the difference between putting makeup on and having stuff shot into your face?''
But before Sedgwick could lament the plight of aging actresses and her own future in Hollywood, along came The Closer's Brenda, a dewy Southern honeycomb, all sweetness and sting. ''I love that you get to see her be this tough-assed strong woman...who doesn't apologize for her power in her work space, and then be fragile and girly and broken in other places,'' she says. The fact that such a part comes in a procedural drama is, frankly, shocking. ''I've been offered those Law & Orders over the years,'' she reveals. ''I sat down with Dick Wolf and said, 'Is it going to be character-driven?' He said, 'No. It's plot-driven.' I was like, 'Thanks, but I can't. It just wouldn't work for me.'''
It's with a certain irony, then, that Sedgwick is the face of TNT, as the network moves from Law & Order morgue to creator of original content. On the shoulders of The Closer, the channel launches two dramas this summer: Heartland and Saving Grace. But ask how she feels about being powerful enough to jump-start a cable network, and you get...ambivalence. ''It certainly wasn't one of my goals. I don't know, it's great. I'm thrilled for them.''
''Listen,'' she says, before we carry this notion of ambivalence too far, ''I love this character more than anything I've played, other than Olivia in Twelfth Night on Broadway.'' But not even a career-defining role erases her ''mother guilt.'' ''My son is going to college next year.... When you spin it like, 'Omigod, this is so many years, how, how will you do it?' I don't know.... One day at a time, really.''
Kyra Sedgwick's Must List
Hot Fuzz 2007
''Hysterical and brilliant,'' Sedgwick raves. ''Probably the kind of movie you can see over and over and [find] new things to love and laugh at.''
''Of the pundits, I dig him the most. I used to love Dan Rather. He told me I had pretty hands. Anyone who tells me I have pretty hands...because I have the ugliest hands.... Rather was a smart reporter. But he's gone, so I like Chris Matthews.''
What Cops Know 1990
Connie Fletcher's book captures ''a group of Chicago cops talking about the personal nature of homicide detecting. It's fascinating.''
''An amazing observation on the human condition. To me it was a movie about how...there's hope to heal the wounds we inflict on each other.''