The Emmy-winning star of The Closer dishes about the show’s conclusion after a seven-year run, Hollywood marriages and her new film, The Possession.
Actress Kyra SedgwickOriginally aired on August 31, 2012
Tavis: Pleased to welcome Kyra Sedgwick to this program. Fans of “The Closer” were certainly sad to see the popular TNT drama come to a close a couple of weeks ago. The series ended a seven-year run on a high note as one of the most watched cable series of our time.
But starting today, you can catch her in a new film called “The Possession,” the project based on real life events and now playing in theaters across the country. So here now some scenes from “The Possession.”
Kyra Sedgwick: Leave them wanting more. That’s what happened.
Tavis: Yeah, I think I’ve taken full possession of this film [laugh].
Sedgwick: You don’t even need to see it now.
Tavis: Yeah. I was saying to Kyra while the clip was running, is there anything left for you guys to want to go see? It’s like I’ve seen the whole movie.
Speaking of which, this is the kind of thing – I’m gonna tell her myself. I have to see this like in the middle of the day at like high noon. Scary movies and I just don’t…
Sedgwick: You know, you’re not alone…
Tavis: We don’t get along. I got to go at high noon, yeah.
Sedgwick: I’ve spoken to a lot of people who said, “Oh, no, it’s too scary. I get really scared.” Yeah, I used to get really scared when I was a kid.
Tavis: Yeah, I got to see this in the daylight. I can’t go to a late night movie and come home and go to bed after that. It’s looks a little scary, though.
Sedgwick: Yeah, it is. Oh, it’s scary, yeah, yeah, yeah, for sure.
Tavis: So what interests you in a script like this?
Sedgwick: You know, I’ve never done a horror movie and I think it’s something everyone should do. But I really liked the script because it was very character-driven. It reminded me of “The Exorcist” and “The Omen” and there was some great acting in that.
I feel like, when you care about the characters more and they’re more real and three-dimensional to you, that you get more scared.
It’s this story about this family that’s breaking up and it’s sort of – I mean, the box is a little bit of a metaphor of the evilness that comes into a family when they’re being ripped apart in a way.
And I love the director, Ole Bornedal, who is a very well-known and successful Danish director. I thought he really had a great take on the material.
I love Jeffrey Dean Morgan and the actress who plays the main character is Natasha Calis and she is extraordinary. They sent me her audition tape and she was amazing.
Tavis: There are two things you said I want to go back and pick up on. One, you suggested a moment ago that every actor ought to do at least one horror film. I want to know why you feel that way, number one.
Tavis: Let’s start with that and I got a follow-up behind it.
Sedgwick: Oh, I don’t know. It’s just a genre that I think is something that people really like to see, like a comedy, like a drama. Horror is a genre that can really, I don’t know, be compelling, I think, and inherently dramatic. I think it’s cool.
Tavis: And this movie is based on real life events, which means what specifically for this film?
Sedgwick: Well, actually, LA Times picked up on the story. There was a small box, a dibbuk box, which is basically a box that – dibbuk is the dislocated spirit – and it was sold at a yard sale.
Everyone who had it or owned it, terrible things started happening in their family. People got killed or horrible freak accidents, and it went from person to person and it actually created havoc in whoever had the box.
Tavis: So you said you wanted to do a horror movie because you’d never done one before.
Tavis: I assume, then, that now that you’re past “The Closer,” there is – my word and not yours – a level of freedom that you now have to explore stuff that you haven’t done?
Sedgwick: For sure. I mean, I did shoot this before I finished “The Closer.” But absolutely, I loved “The Closer.” It was an amazing experience on every level really, personally, professionally, but also it was so fulfilling creatively. It was one of the most creative experiences, fulfilling experiences, I’ve ever had.
So I left because, A, I wanted to go out on top, you know. I felt that was important, but it wasn’t an easy decision to come to. But the other thing was that, as an actor, I yearned to do other roles.
Tavis: I’m gonna tease you a little bit about something. You said everything about this experience was good for you. A little birdie told me that you were hating on our city of Los Angeles.
Sedgwick: Oh, yeah [laugh].
Tavis: That initially you really didn’t want to do this because you hated L.A. so much, that you didn’t want to come to L.A. from New York City.
Sedgwick: Well, let me say two things about that. First of all, I started acting very young, so my ego was very much affected by, you know, this business and whether or not I got parts and you’re sort of only as good as your project in a lot of ways.
So when I would come out to Los Angeles, I used to call it the City of Fear, honestly, because I was always auditioning and I was always waiting for that next thing and I was always hoping that the movie would do well or whatever. It felt like a one-business town, and in some ways, it is.
Tavis: Some ways it is.
Sedgwick: In some ways it is. So initially I also didn’t want to come out and do the show because it was so far away from home. I mean, it is a long way away. But I have learned to not just like the city, but love the city.
In fact, after seven years of renting, I bought a house after we finished “The Closer” [laugh], which is so outrageous. It was just part and parcel of the way Kevin and I do things, you know.
It’s just the way we sort of like, well, let’s do this. Okay, it makes no sense, but let’s do it anyway.
Tavis: Well, I’m glad you had a good experience, though. I’d hate to have had you come out here for all these years and hated every minute of it.
Sedgwick: No, I really grew to love it, I grew to love it.
Tavis: When you first started that seven seasons ago, did you think that it was going to resonate in the way that it did with the audience?
Sedgwick: I don’t think you can ever, ever know that, no.
Tavis: You can never know, yeah.
Sedgwick: And certainly not to the extent that it did.
Tavis: What do you think the reason for it is, though, that it did resonate?
Sedgwick: I think the reason really is the characters.
Sedgwick: I think that the characters were really well-drawn. I think that we – you know, yes, it was a wonderful procedural and, sure, the murders were exciting and closing the case every week is great, but people don’t come back for just that.
People come back because they really wanted to know what was going on with Brenda. They really wanted to know what’s going on with Fritz. They really wanted to see the dynamic in the squad room.
Tavis: Why was the accent so important?
Sedgwick: Well, she was from Atlanta, but I also really felt that it was part of what disarmed people and made them underestimate her. You know, when James talked about the project, he said, “It’s unusual to have a southern person the smartest person in the room,” and I loved that idea.
You know, I have a real respect for the south. I love southern people. I love the history there, so I really wanted to tap into that. Not only tap into it, but celebrate it, make it a huge part of her character.
You know, she was very much a southern lady, hence she hardly ever wore pants. You know, she was kind of an old-fashioned belle.
Tavis: Did you ever get concerned at all – this is always fascinating for me, speaking of how this town works. There is a point which on a particular series certain individuals, at least, get typecast.
I’m always wondering how actors make decisions when to let stuff go. I want to come back to your point earlier about wanting out on top, but even going out on top means you’ve done this for seven years.
Tavis: As an actor, do you ever get concerned that I’m playing this character a little too long and I’m gonna get myself in a box that I can’t get out of for the rest of my career?
Sedgwick: Well, a couple things to say about that. First of all, the character is so far from me. She’s such a stretch that I don’t think there are gonna be a lot – so anything I do after this is a stretch [laugh] because everyone will think, you know, that’s what she does. I also don’t think there are that many southern cops that I’m gonna get offered in the future.
Also, the other interesting phenomenon about my show – and I can say this now that it’s done – is that we were a phenomenal hit in the red states, not so much in New York and Los Angeles. That probably is a good thing for me ultimately.
I think when I was doing it, I was frustrated because it wasn’t like “Mad Men” and it wasn’t like all those shows that the Hollywood people watch.
I mean, I can remember my agent saying to me, “Nobody in Hollywood watches your show.” I was insulted initially, but now I think of it as actually kind of a good thing.
Tavis: I think I get it, but why stronger in red and not so strong in blue? I think I understand it.
Sedgwick: I think because we were just never thought of as the cool, hip show. Also, I think that people underestimated the greatness of the show because it was a procedural. I think that TNT is just more popular in the red states.
I don’t really know why, but I love that. That’s makes me so happy. They’re so middle of the country that I feel like New York and Los Angeles like we ignore it, but they are…
Tavis: I’m glad you said that because I wanted to ask – and I will, obviously – what you think that says about the industry?
Sedgwick: I think that, you know, we have a narrow view. I really do. I think that people who live in New York and Los Angeles have a narrower view of the way people behave, of what’s important to people – I hope I don’t get in trouble for saying this, but what the hell – of race, of acceptance of abortion and women’s rights.
I mean, I think that there’s a huge difference between what people politically believe and what interests people in Los Angeles and what interests people in New York and what they believe politically. It’s just a very different – and I think to ignore that is really cutting yourself out of a huge part of the population.
You know, I feel they’re under-represented and I think that was the great thing about Brenda Lee, one of the great things.
Tavis: But horror plays everywhere, red and blue.
Sedgwick: That’s right [laugh].
Tavis: So “The Possession” will do well all across the country. Since you opened the door, I’m gonna follow you in to the extent you want to go there.
Most people know that I have political ideas and interests, so there’s no surprise to our audience, but you have just run down a list of things. Would you consider yourself a political person? I know you do environmental work.
Sedgwick: Give me your…
Tavis: Are you politically active, politically engaged, politically involved?
Sedgwick: I’m politically active in that I try to educate myself about what’s going on. I try and educate myself about the issues. I try to read the paper. I certainly have passionate views about quite a few things.
Tavis: How did you come to be so passionate about the environment specifically?
Sedgwick: Because I have children, because the knowledge that we are devastating our national resources and that we continue to be addicted to the very thing that is killing us, fossil fuel, chemicals, power plants that are spewing fossil fuel, that we are addicted to them.
They’re killing us and we are not involved enough and there’s not enough money behind alternative energy and there should have been. We could have done it, we haven’t done it, we have to do it.
Global warming is happening. Climate change is here. I don’t want to be the person that doesn’t talk about it. I don’t want to be the person that denies it. There’s too much science. There was a moment in the early 90s and that was when I had my first kid.
I mean, this is really selfish, you know. I had my first kid and I thought, oh, my gosh. I started learning about what was really going on. They talked about greenhouse. Remember, the Time magazine said, “What is the greenhouse effect?”
There was a moment where we were all really motivated and then I don’t know what happened. Personally, I think the oil companies and I think that a lot of people whose pockets are lined by them just devastated that conversation.
Tavis: What do you think it’s gonna take for that conversation to get traction with everyday American people? I say the average American because it’s not like these issues aren’t discussed.
It’s not like people, you know, can’t feel that something in the environment – whether you understand global warming or climate change or not, it’s pretty hard to deny that the weather patterns are changing. I mean, your regular Joe can tell that something is happening.
Sedgwick: Oh, yeah. Ranchers are losing their cattle, they’re having to sell their farms.
Tavis: So how does this conversation get traction with everyday American people? What’s it gonna take? Some sort of catastrophic event?
Sedgwick: I think it’s become a political and divisive subject and I don’t how that happened, but it really has and that makes me really devastated. I think it’s a complicated issue because I think people think it costs their job and I think, to a certain extent, that’s true. To a certain extent, it’s really not true.
There’s no question that this is a complicated issue, but the fact that it’s become political and that we aren’t all in it together to save our planet, somehow the messaging has to change. I’m really not sure how to do it exactly except to say, “Do you want to side with your kids or do you want to side with the polluters?”
How are we going to find an answer to this question? When you think about it, of siding with the future and your children and polluters, I think that’s a pretty good message.
Tavis: Yeah. I think what troubles me most about this, thing being the fact that it has become political, as you said a moment ago, and it’s been that way for quite some time, is that I don’t get – I do get it.
I’m not naive. I don’t get how it is that we allow it to become political around the science.
The fact that people can press and push political points of view that are in complete violation of what the science says is what troubles me. It’s like the science just doesn’t get taken seriously.
Sedgwick: Right, because I think that the people spend a lot of money trying to negate that science and also to say, oh, that’s a left wing political liberal way of thinking they’re gonna take your jobs. You can’t put food on the table.
I mean, that’s the number one thing that people have to be concerned about is taking care of their family and putting food on the table. But somehow, taking care of your family doesn’t mean protecting the environment and somehow the environmental community needs to change that message.
I work hard to try and do that myself. I really am involved with the Natural Resources Defense Council who I think are an extraordinary group and we’re working hard to change that. I don’t know. I wish I knew.
Tavis: I appreciate the passion about the subject matter. So you mentioned your kids. We won’t call their names or mention their ages, but you do have two, as you mentioned earlier.
Sedgwick: That’s nice. They hate it when you talk about them. But they’re old [laugh].
Tavis: But they weren’t old when you started “The Closer.”
Tavis: Not that mothers don’t have to juggle a gazillion things every day anyway, but for you specifically, how did you manage a husband, two babies and working on a TV series that kept you pretty busy?
Sedgwick: It was really hard, it was really hard. My kids were in their early teens and I think that what happened was that we discussed the possibility of everyone moving to L.A., but I don’t think that we were all that helpful since we didn’t like L.A. at that time, and also the idea of, you know, taking them out.
We talked about it and the kids said no way. You know, the show was wonderful because we started in March right before their spring break. So they would come out for spring break as I was starting, so that was half of March.
Then April, May and the beginning of June, first half of June, they would come every other weekend. Listen, I mean, I missed a lot. It was hard. Then they would spend the summer with me and then I would be home.
It was a six-month gig. It wasn’t a nine-month gig, so it wasn’t completely impossible. There was no question. It was a hard choice. It continued to be a difficult choice year after year. You miss stuff. You just do. Every working parent misses stuff.
Tavis: As an actor, is there ever a feeling of guilt associated with that?
Sedgwick: Of course! Are you kidding? Oh, please. What mother doesn’t have guilt? Find me a parent, a mother, guys not so much. Women always feel guilty. And, you know, my feeling about guilt is, first of all, I feel it all the time, but here’s my theory about guilt.
Sedgwick: It’s kind of a useless emotion unless it leads you to a different action. If you’re gonna take a different action because of your guilt…
Tavis: I buy that.
Sedgwick: Then it’s useful. Otherwise, it’s kind of a waste of time. It keeps you out of being in the moment, being in the present, being where you are, you know.
Tavis: I only raise that because, as you know, there’s been this raging debate all summer about whether women can have it all or not. You got the Princeton professor with her point of view.
Sedgwick: Boy, that was a tough one.
Tavis: You have Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook with her point of view. This thing has just been back and forth all summer. Now you got Ann Romney on one side.
Sedgwick: I feel like I’m a really good example of having it, having it most. I mean, it sounds very showy to me and very sort of pompous to say I have it all.
But the fact is, my kids are intact so far, my husband and I have been married forever. In fact, my kids, I mean, I look at them in awe. They’re so much further along emotionally than I was when I was when I was 40 and they’re in their 20s. I mean, I look at them like who are you?
There’s no question that I’ve made choices. You know, when the kids were younger, I turned down a lot of things, but, yeah.
Tavis: So I like Kevin Bacon a lot and I assume you do too [laugh].
Sedgwick: I do too [laugh].
Tavis: He’s been on this show before. Please tell him I said hello.
Sedgwick: I will.
Tavis: He’s sat in that very chair on occasion.
Sedgwick: I will.
Tavis: I’m only raising this because you raised it. I can just tell, reading interviews that you have given, that you are so over being asked about your marriage and how it’s lasted and why it’s lasted. Obviously, you celebrate being married to this man for, you know, 20-some years.
But I get a sense, at least when I read your interviews, that you’re tired of being asked about this. I’m not gonna ask you about that.
Tavis: The question I do want to ask is why do those questions seem to touch a nerve?
I sense in reading – and I’m just trying to assess what I see in your answers as a guy who does this every day – I think that you sense that it’s normal, that it’s supposed to happen, that you’re supposed to get married and it’s supposed to work and why is everybody so taken by the fact that it is working. Am I reading that properly?
Sedgwick: I think to a certain extent that’s true. I think my feeling is that I think that actors and people in this industry get a bad rap of like, oh, they’ll never make it work. In this industry, you guys are the diamonds or whatever. You guys are unheard of. You’re a rare commodity.
I just don’t think that we hear about Sting and Trudy. I mean, I have others that I can’t remember right now, but lots of people that have stayed married forever. What about Tom Hanks and his wife?
So I feel like it’s just sort of, you know, tabloid fodder. And I also feel like I would never want to feel like I’m better than somebody else because I have a marriage that works and here’s my secret and I know better. There’s something unappealing about it.
I feel lucky, I feel grateful. I think I just got lucky. Yes, we work on it, but I don’t have any tips for anybody. I don’t know what the secret is. We just got lucky and we work at it and that’s it. Like I would never want to say, “Well, here’s the thing you need to do.” That’s unappealing to me.
Tavis: Okay, I get it now.
Tavis: So speaking of needing to do and wanting to do, now that you have this newfound freedom after seven years of “The Closer” and “The Possession” is out now, what do you want to do with your life now? Is it movies?
Sedgwick: I really want to do more movies. I’ve always loved film and I know that not many people are going to see movies anymore, at least the kind of movies that I want to make, but I still really want to do it. And I’d love to do stage if something great comes along.
Tavis: I think it will. I’m sure it will and I’ll look forward to seeing you on Broadway.
Sedgwick: Thank you so much.
Tavis: But for now, we’ll check out “The Possession” starring Kyra. Good to have you on.
Sedgwick: It was great to talk to you.
Tavis: Again, tell Kevin I said hello. Come back anytime.
Sedgwick: Thank you so much.
Tavis: Nice to finally have you on.
Tavis: All right. That’s our show for tonight.
Sedgwick: Thank you.
Announcer: For more information on today’s show, visit Tavis Smiley at PBS.org.
Wade Hunt: There’s a saying that Dr. King had that he said there’s always the right time to do the right thing. I just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. We know that we’re only about halfway to completely eliminate hunger and we have a lot of work to do. Walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the U.S. As we work together, we could stamp hunger out.
Announcer: And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.