Sedgwick’s career was just starting to take off; by the time the couple announced their engagement in the spring of 1988, she was starring with Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst in Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! on Broadway. She also had a plum role opposite Tom Cruise in Born on the Fourth of July, released to much acclaim the following year. But her priorities were about to shift. On their honeymoon in September 1988, Sedgwick, then 23, and Bacon, who had both discussed their desire for children, made a spur-of-the-moment romantic gesture. “We were like, Let’s just not use birth control,” she says. “I didn’t think it was going to happen so fast. I got pregnant in two weeks.”
Determined to be a hands-on mother, she turned down a lot of work in the years after Travis, and then Sosie, were born. She was also selective about the parts she did accept, eagerly signing on to play the daughter of Paul Newman’s and Joanne Woodward’s characters in Mr. & Mrs. Bridge but refusing numerous girlfriend-as-accessory roles. “I could never be ‘the girl,’ ” she says. “I had to have something I could sink my teeth into.”
The couple knew that moving to Los Angeles might improve their career prospects, but they decided to base their family on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, with a country retreat in Connecticut. “We’d go out to L.A. and start to feel intimidated and want to go home,” she says. “You’re only as worthwhile as your last project and how much money it made. We felt we didn’t measure up in some way, which is kind of crazy.”
Shortly after Sosie was born, in 1992, Sedgwick decided to go into therapy. “I used to be so serious. My life was weighty, and my heart was heavy,” she says. “When the kids were little, any joke made at my expense, I couldn’t handle it. I’ve done a lot of interior work, embracing my mortality and knowing I’d better have a good time because I’m not going to go this way again.” She saw a therapist for nine years. Now, she says, “I embrace my flaws and quirks and can laugh at myself. Having children, you’ve got to face your shit or be ruled by it. I really believe that.”
Until recently, Sedgwick’s career moved in fits and starts. She had high-profile roles in Singles, Something to Talk About and Phenomenon; she also did a number of indie films and TV guest appearances. “I still have to audition all the time,” she says. “I like it—‘Let me show you what I can do; I’m going to surprise you.’ ” When she was initially offered the lead in The Closer, she demurred because she didn’t want to spend six months a year in L.A., away from her family. But Bacon encouraged her to take it, offering to cut back on his own career to stay home with the kids. “Kevin said, ‘I think you should do it. We’ll work it out—I won’t work for the first year,’ ” she recalls. And she is very grateful. The show, which debuted in 2005, has broken cable-TV viewership records, and she’s earned high praise from critics.
Since she is in virtually every scene of the show and serves as an executive producer, Sedgwick puts in a grueling seven-day week when she is in L.A. “She’s a cross between Mary Poppins and Cruella De Vil,” Bailey jokes. “If you show up on time and know your lines, she’s all sugar and spice. If you’re late and haven’t done your homework, she’ll skin you and make a coat out of you. I’ve been in this business almost 40 years, and I’ve never seen anyone who works like she does—first one there, last to leave.” On the set, the cast jokingly calls her Mama.