Being crazy-busy is one kind of challenge. But what about the opposite problem, when all that action starts to slow down? How do you handle the challenge of less? That’s the question Kyra Sedgwick is pondering as she sips coffee on Manhattan’s Upper West Side on a spring afternoon, with a riot of buds and blossoms outside providing an appropriate metaphor for growth.
The 46-year-old actress no longer has a steady job: In December she wrapped up her seven-year, Emmy-winning run on TNT’s The Closer as Brenda Leigh Johnson, the Los Angeles deputy police chief whose rapid-fire Southern tones pop suspects open like so many soda cans. Once a hands-on mom (to Travis, 23, and Sosie, 20), she’s now an empty nester. And after living solo in L.A. for half the year while shooting the series, she’s back home in New York City full time, reconnecting with her husband of 23 years, the actor-musician-director Kevin Bacon.
She arrives at her neighborhood café looking urban-cool in sunglasses and a belted trench coat,then disarms me with a hug. “I don’t know why, you just look like someone to hug,” she says. She orders a decaf mocha latte with soy milk, then asks the barista, “But can you make it mostly chocolate?” And when she opens her elegant hand, her next stop is inked in two words on her palm: duane reade. “I have to write everything down,” she says, rolling her eyes. Her voice is hoarse from a cold, and she frequently pulls down the sleeves of her gray Burberry sweater as if chilled. But her conversation is warm—thoughtful, energetic and peppered with the wordreally. It’s clear that Sedgwick doesn’t simply think or feel something; she really thinks it and really, really feels it.
“Kyra has a wonderful ability to put her attention on you,” says her Closer costar Mary McDonnell (see sidebar, opposite). “When she’s focused on you, you feel a lot of thinking going on. Her attention is very alive and personal.”
According to the show’s creator, James Duff, Sedgwick brings that same intensity to her work. “She’s like an amazing athlete,” he says. “She has a formidable intellect and also an intense sexual charisma that gave me great variety in writing her interrogation scenes—she could be a suspect’s girlfriend, ex, mother, sister. Right to the end, she never quit trying to do it better than she had the week before. Other shows use special effects, but ours always came down to her in a small room. Kyra was our special effect.”
Which makes you wonder just where she’ll direct that intensity now. “This is a change, no question,” Sedgwick says about her choice to make The Closer’s seventh season, which will resume July 9, its last. “I brought it on myself, and once I’d decided it, there was no moment where I thought, I wish I hadn’t. I’m not sitting around with nothing to do. I’m a lady who lunches, goes to the theater, the movies. I go out to dinner, I cook at home, I hang out with my family and friends. I am going to hit a wall, though, of needing to express myself creatively—sooner rather than later probably. But I’m trying to trust in this fallow period. I’m facing the unknowing: the excitement of it as well as the insecurity of it and concern about it.”
She’s usually good with change. (Bacon even wrote a song about it, “Woman’s Got a Mind to Change.”) And she’s capable of holding opposing thoughts in her head at the same time. “I’m so not a planner,” she says. “I didn’t plan getting married. If somebody had told me when I was 21 that I was going to be married with a kid at 23, I would have told them they were insane. Thinking too far ahead is scary to me. I’d rather say, ‘One minute at a time.’ ”