Kyra Sedgwick Up Close
On the outside, Kyra Sedgwick is the picture of California cool. She arrives at a tiny outdoor Hollywood cafe in worn jeans, a trim black blouse, and a lowered cap, which she quickly removes to reveal a mass of loose blond curls. She stretches out her lean legs and flashes a wide beach-girl grin as she scans the menu. But within minutes of ordering a bowl of strawberries and a tall iced tea, Sedgwick is fighting back tears. It wasn't the strawberries that set her off. Rather, it was the topic of California itself. The conversation went something like this:
LHJ: "How do you feel about being in LA? I know you're a New York girl...."
Sedgwick: "I'm more peaceful about being here, about being away from my family, even though in some ways that piece of it is...um...harder than ever." [Her voice cracks and her eyes well.] "Oh... I'm just a teary mess about that part of it."
For the past five years Sedgwick has been a full-time actress and a long-distance mom. Every March through September, she leaves the New York City home she shares with her husband of 21 years, actor Kevin Bacon, and their 17-year-old daughter, Sosie (their son Travis, 20, attends college in the Northwest), and relocates to Los Angeles to shoot the top cable drama, The Closer.
"It can be so hard," says Sedgwick, who makes a cross-country commute home every other weekend and stays in touch with her family through daily phone calls and iChat. "I remember the first few years it was like I was in an ocean and constantly getting tumbled over," she continues. "As soon as I'd get out of one set of waves, another set would come along and I'd tumble over again. I thought I was going to drown. It's not like that any more in terms of my being overwhelmed by the workload, but the homesickness -- missing the kids, missing those life moments -- that gets harder and harder."
"I think she feels guilty, like a lot of working mothers do," says Closer creator James Duff, who is also a friend. This year he rescheduled filming because Sosie was doing a play at school. "Kyra called and said, 'Please, can we start one week later so I can stay in New York and see her play?' So we did."
When Duff was casting the role of tough-as-nails police interrogator Brenda Leigh Johnson, Sedgwick wasn't interested . "She said, 'I am not leaving New York and I don't want to do a television series,'" he recalls. "But then we gave Kevin [Bacon] the script and he said to Kyra, 'I think you should read this.' She read it while she was in Canada filming a movie and she told me she said, 'Oh crap.' Because she really liked it. She really identified with the character."
So, apparently, do a lot of Americans. More than 7 million viewers tune in each week to watch the sweet-talking (and sweets-addicted) Brenda cajole the truth out of murder suspects. The show has earned Sedgwick a Golden Globe for best actress and has made her one of TV's highest-paid female stars, earning a reported $300,000 per episode. At 44 -- an age when roles are drying up for most women -- Sedgwick is at the top of her game. Was she worried about making the move from film to TV, something that is often considered a giant leap backward for a movie star? "That stigma has gone away," she says. "Every one knows there are only a certain amount of absolutely, positively bankable leading women who do movies. TV affords you more opportunity."
Sedgwick credits the success of The Closer to its characters, including Brenda's cute, charming husband, FBI agent Fritz Howard (Jon Tenney) and her hangdog boss, assistant police chief Will Pope (J.K. Simmons). "Yes, the show is about murder and mystery, but it's also about what it means to be human and how the characters relate to one another at work," she says. "Brenda is tenacious at her job and she is very strong but at the same time she's feminine and fragile. She's a bundle of contradictions. A lot of women can relate to that."