How Kyra Sedgwick finally got to to be a leading lady. Thanks to TNT's surprise hit ''The Closer'' Mrs. Bacon has been bringing home the, well, bacon

The morning of June 14, Kyra Sedgwick woke up and found 13 messages on her cell phone. When she told her husband (you know, that Kevin Bacon guy), he snapped out of his a.m. haze. ”Oh, my God!” he said. ”That must mean the news is good!” ? More like great. As in break-out-the-bubbly fantastic. The Closer, TNT’s new 13-episode cop series starring Sedgwick as a CIA-trained interrogator, premiered on June 13 to 7 million viewers — a new record for a scripted series on basic cable, and well above the network’s expectations. After the numbers came in, the show’s producers lined up to congratulate her. ”I listened to the first message, and then one on top of another on top of another,” says Sedgwick later, over brunch in Santa Monica. ”Kevin and I were jumping up and down. We were so happy.”

As was the show’s creator, James Duff (The D.A.), who fretted that The Closer (Mondays, 9 p.m.) would get lumped into the not-another-crime-procedural heap because of its premise: Whip-smart Brenda Leigh Johnson leaves her native Atlanta to head a priority homicide division of the LAPD, where she goes toe-to-toe with colleagues (J.K. Simmons and Corey Reynolds) while using sneaky-but-effective methods to elicit confessions. Unlike the female characters on Law & Order and CSI, who Duff argues ”might as well be shaving” their beards, ”Brenda is a woman. Instead of that being a weakness in the workplace, she turns it to her advantage.”

TNT deployed its own strategy, debuting The Closer in the far less cutthroat summer season, which helped drive the ratings — as did the network’s $10 million marketing campaign. ”To be on the air with a well-written drama when the networks are in repeats and there’s a great deal of reality TV out there, the timing is terrific,” says TNT’s senior VP of original programming, Michael Wright. ”And you can’t say enough about Kyra.” Both he and Duff say it’s 39-year-old Sedgwick’s spin on Brenda that’s keeping those numbers solid. By week 3, viewership had declined just 1.6 million. That’s a far cry from her last TV venture, the 2000 sitcom Talk to Me, which ABC axed after it lost 4 million viewers in its first three weeks. ”Kyra can do anything,” Duff boasts. ”We’re so lucky to have her.” For Sedgwick, the feeling is mutual. ”I feel like I’ve fallen into a jar of honey,” she says with a happy sigh, tucking her hair behind her ears. ”I love this character. She’s so rich, so flawed, so smart. I feel hugely attached to her.”

The actress’ connection to Brenda is obvious. While shooting episode 9 recently, she was relaxed and joyful, effortlessly slipping in and out of Brenda’s sugarcoated drawl. She seems so comfortable in her alter ego’s skin, it’s hard to believe she almost passed the role over. A native New Yorker (she’s from the same prominent East Coast clan that produced her late cousin Edie, whom she never met), Sedgwick has been adamant about staying in Manhattan with Bacon to raise their son Travis, 16, and daughter Sosie, 13. (She has often referred to Los Angeles as ”the city of fear” for actors.) So when her agent sent her the script for a show that would require her to spend four months in L.A., her initial reaction was ”forget it.” But, intrigued by the character and encouraged by Bacon’s pledge to be a stay-at-home dad, Sedgwick met with Duff and the TNT team. ”There wasn’t an a–hole in the bunch,” she laughs. ”I was like, S—, I want to do this. It wasn’t about, this could be good for my career. It was: This could be consistent work doing an amazing character.”

The Closer
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