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Originals give TNT spark

The stars of The Closer and Saved say cable TV is becoming an attractive medium to many actors.

Published June 11, 2006

A decade ago, the best original programs on basic cable were . . . what, exactly? Politically Incorrect? Beavis & Butt-Head? Mystery Science Theater 3000?

Back then, an audience of 7-million was unthinkable. Today, it’s not far from the norm.

“The TV landscape has definitely changed,” said actor Kyra Sedgwick, whose TNT series The Closer reeled in 7-million viewers for its premiere last summer, giving it the highest rated debut of any scripted series in cable TV history. “Even young people who have thriving movie careers are going, 'You know what? I’m going to do TV,’ which I find so amazing.”

That includes actors like Tom Everett Scott, who has his own new TNT drama, Saved, about young EMT workers facing career and personal crossroads. Scott has starred in network series like ER, Philly and The $treet, but Saved marks his first foray into the basic cable universe — and all the sex and language it has to offer.

“They keep pushing the envelope,” he said of cable networks. “I’m not just doing it for the nudity and the
S-bombs, but I think we can start growing up a little bit.”

Together, Scott and Sedgwick are the anchors of TNT’s summer lineup, which kicks off tonight. Season 2 of The

Closer, which last year earned Sedgwick a Golden Globe nomination, kicks off at 9 p.m., followed at 10 by Saved. Both episodes will air commercial-free.

Sedgwick and Scott recently talked about their roles as Brenda Johnson, a no-frills deputy police chief with a sweet tooth and a talent for making criminals talk, and Wyatt Cole, an ambulance driver with a borderline gambling addiction. Here are excerpts from those conversations:


Even you must have been a little surprised by the numbers The Closer put up in its debut.

I was. I wasn’t expecting anything, because I’m out of the loop in the TV world. I mean, I know about box office, but I didn’t really know about TV numbers. We have such a great time in our own little bubble before it goes into the world. That’s what happened last year, and we’ll see how it goes into the world this year. I feel good about the work.

Parts like Brenda Johnson don’t come along very often. Do you get feedback from other female actors on the role?

Yeah. I think they think she’s a great character, and she’s really out of the box. They love how she’s breaking a lot of the rules and a lot of the stereotypes about being a powerful woman who can wear a skirt. Being a powerful woman who doesn’t have to apologize for her power. Being someone who’s brilliant at their job but terrible at their personal life.

In the season premiere, it looks like Brenda is trying a diet — or a “life change,” as she calls it. How long do you think that’ll last?

(Laughs) I wouldn’t last very long, I’ll put it that way.

Do you have a Brenda Johnson snack drawer at home?

Not a drawer, but I do like my sugar. Chocolate in all sorts of forms. I particularly like one on the West Coast called See’s Candy.  It’s just amazing. It’s kind of like Russell Stover, but a jump up.

You’re from New York originally. Whose accent did you study to get Brenda’s Georgia accent down pat?

It’s not that I studied anybody in particular. I worked with a dialect coach. A lot of these really good dialect coaches, they go down to Atlanta, and they tape people, just laymen.

They say, “Tell me your story. Did you grow up in Atlanta?” And they just tape them. That’s really helpful. I also work with a dialect coach who breaks down the script for me every week and sends me MP3s, and I go over the dialogue.

Do your fans from the South tend to pick apart your accent?

No. I’ve heard nothing but amazement that I’m not Southern. Honestly, that’s what I’ve heard. And if you’ve heard otherwise, don’t tell me. (Laughs)

Your husband, Kevin Bacon, is a great actor, but how would you compare your Southern accent in The Closer to his accent in Tremors?

I haven’t seen Tremors in a long time, and I think that guy was supposed to be from Texas. That’s different. Texas is not the South. But he’s absolutely genius. Mystic River, he did a Boston accent. Stir of Echoes, he did a Chicago accent. Sleepers, he did a Baltimore accent. The guy’s a genius when it comes to accents. He’s much better than I am.

Do you have trouble shaking it when you leave the set?

You know, it’s funny. I went in for an audition the other day, and this guy said, “You’re going in and out of a Southern accent.” I’m like, you’re kidding! This is a nightmare! I’ve become Brenda!


Were you apprehensive about returning to television?

No. I’ve always been a TV watcher. There’s some really great TV shows on now — Lost and ER, and I’ve been a big fan of The Sopranos. (Previous TV experience) didn’t make me not want to do TV. It just educated me on the process, and beat me into submission.

Is it more nerve-racking waiting for a movie to come out or a TV show?

Wow, that’s a good question. With television, usually, you know when it’s gonna come out. You have a date and everything. With films, you don’t. So it’s a little more nerve-racking, not knowing when it’s gonna come out.

Did you spend a lot of time with real EMTs to prepare for the show?

Totally, yeah. Most of it’s not worth retelling, because it’s kind of boring. They go on a lot of calls that are just nothing calls, which is mundane. But there were some very fascinating calls. We went on one where a guy fell 50 feet down an escalator and tore his head up, and that was bloody and gross and pretty serious. And then I saw some drug overdoses and some pretty disgusting stuff.

When that happens, do they just say, “Tom, stand back, because we’ve got to do our job”?

I was constantly asking, “How close can I get to you guys?” They were like, “We’re doing this for you; we want you to get it.”

When we went on the call where the guy fell down the escalator, there were firemen and there were security. They were like, “Here man, you put on this jacket and this tag, and you’re with us. You just stand somewhere where you can watch. It’s cool. And if you’re too close, we’ll tell you.”

People were asking me stuff, and I was like, “Uh, I have no idea.” To me, that was such a great experience.

Since you’re a Red Sox fan, I’ll ask: Have you seen all the brawls that the Red Sox and Devil Rays have gotten into the past couple of years? It seems like every time they get together, there’s a giant fight. Why do the Red Sox hate the Devil Rays so much? I mean, we’re not worth the effort.

Yeah, there’s some real physical animosity between those two teams. I think Lou Piniella had quite a bit to do with it. He’s one of those guys who’s like, “You come anywhere near our batters with the ball, we’ll go headhunting.” They’ve had some headhunting matches. That’s what it comes down to, who’s hitting whom at the plate.

Do people still come up to you and sing That Thing You Do?

(Laughs) Nobody actually sings it to me. But I’ve gone into a couple of places where some smarta-- sees me, recognizes me, then puts the song on the store stereo.

You should make it your ring tone.

(Laughs) Yeah, right.

Jay Cridlin can be reached at (727) 893-8336 or

[Last modified June 11, 2006, 19:04:05]

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