THE CLOSER: Tony Denison Interview (2012)

"Major Crimes"
“Major Crimes”

As the end of the TNT drama series THE CLOSER wraps up, it is a privilege to talk with co-star Tony Denison about all the fun he has had working on the series and his hopes for his continuing role in the spin-off series MAJOR CRIMES. Playing Detective Andy Flynn, who is frequently embroiled in the comedic misadventures of his partner Provenza (G.W. Bailey), Tony has had the pleasure of portraying all different facets of such a complex and intriguing role. While THE CLOSER has been cautious about delving into the personal lives of its characters, when it does, it always surprises us in ways we never thought possible. THE CLOSER has delivered stellar drama over its seven year run and as it is building towards its climactic finale, each character is caught up in the maelstrom of a department leak that has haunted them all both in their personal and professional worlds. Tony teased a bit of the ramifications of that devastating storyline and what lies ahead as THE CLOSER launches the new series MAJOR CRIMES.

Last week’s episode “Fool’s Gold” looked like a lot of fun to film. What was it like for you to do that episode with G.W. Bailey?
TONY: It was a lot of fun. Any time G.W. [Bailey] and I get a chance to go off the reservation, so to speak, I love it. It was an opportunity to do some comedy and the two of us take turns, one of us being the straight-guy and one of us being the funny-guy. It’s great. We’ve done a lot of those and hope to be doing more of those in MAJOR CRIMES.

The Flynn/Provenza episodes have been a perfect balance of comedy mingled amongst the heavier drama of THE CLOSER. It reminds us that these are people who have lives and they do not just solve crimes.
TONY: Actually Mike Berchem, who is a producer on the show and former lead detective is our advisor from the LAPD, I was talking to him one day because I cracked an ad-lib at this crime scene and everybody kind of laughed. It was an uncomfortable laugh, but the director/producer James Duff really liked it. He said, “You know what? Let’s leave it in. I think it works.” Then Mike came over to him and said, “Oh yeah, you’ve got to leave that in. We do that all the time. ‘Cause if we didn’t find a way to laugh a little bit, we’d go out of our minds.” With all the depravity that we come across, you’ve got to let it out somehow. You know what I mean? It doesn’t diminish the depravity, it just helps you to keep a little bit of a distance.

Do you enjoy playing the comedy more than the drama?
TONY: No, ’cause I think the most comedic things in the world comes from drama. I remember I was doing a play directed by Phil Hickey and he said, “You’ve got to play this as serious as a heart attack because that’s where the comedy is, it’s in how serious people take themselves.” And I was like, “Okay,” and I did it his way. I thought he had taken all the comedy out of it and then when we did the play, everyone laugh. At first I thought,”What a sick audience.” Then I realized: that’s what life’s about. Like you noted before, when Provenza and Flynn get a chance to expose more of our humanity, rather than how much they’re affected by this depravity, I think people enjoy that. At least, I enjoy it.

Have you been surprised how your career has taken this interesting turn where you have this opportunity to play the drama laced with comedy?
TONY: Not really. I’m grateful for every opportunity that THE CLOSER and now MAJOR CRIMES has given me. I remember that on CRIME STORY, which was my first big break where I played a ruthless killer, John Santucci (god rest his soul) was my side-kick, so to speak, and he was sort of the comedic relief. Now I always played straight-men, but we got an opportunity to do some really funny stuff in the midst of these “gangsters.”

Turning a little bit to the darker side of THE CLOSER, there’s a lot of darkness as far as the final episodes are upcoming. What can you share about what’s upcoming in the next few episodes?
TONY: I think what you’re going to see in the next 4 episodes is the slow unraveling of Brenda Leigh Johnson. How the job affects us all in the decisions we make and the things that we have no control over and how we deal with them. It’s going to be some very intense episodes. I’m not at liberty to tell you who lives or dies, or who stays or goes. But suffice it to say that Kyra won’t be there anymore. But as far as the other characters, I can’t tell you. But I guess you could figure it out if look up who’s going to be in MAJOR CRIMES.

Assuming you’re still playing Detective Flynn in MAJOR CRIMES, are you still looking forward to him being paired up with Provenza?
TONY: Oh yes! I can tell you now, I’ll be on MAJOR CRIMES, as will G.W. So Flynn and Provenza’s trails and exploits will continue on ad infinitum. [Laughs] And you know, it’s a blessing. The other blessing is Mary McDonnell, who plays Captain Raydor, as she moves from one show to the other — she’s phenomenal. She’s a phenomenal person to work with. I tell people that if Mary McDonnell is not genuine, then there is no hope for mankind.

Do you feel like it is going to be a seamless transition for the team?
TONY: It’s perfect that you said that. It is seamless. They’ve done something really interesting — TNT. The minute THE CLOSER ends with its final scene, they then show station identification or whatever, and then right after that it goes right into the first scene of MAJOR CRIMES. There’s not even a breather. It’s just like life; when one saga ends, the other saga continues. And that’s what people are going to be able to see. It’s going to be great.

Will it feel disruptive because there will be a few faces missing on MAJOR CRIMES?
TONY: No, I think people will be like, “Oh, he’s gone or she’s gone.” They’ll be kind of dealing with that, but basically the characters are cops. They investigate murders and major crimes and our story will continue.

One of the things I’ve always admired about Detective Flynn was his willingness to embrace his sobriety and his struggle to stay sober. Is that going to be an ongoing storyline as well?
TONY: Yes, Flynn’s sobriety stays. I appreciate that I get an opportunity to explore a lot of different things as that character. Like Jon Tenny’s character Fritz is an alcoholic and he’s working on his sobriety, and, personally, I’m sober 19 years. So I get an opportunity to do things as Flynn. I get to explore different things and certain challenges that I don’t get in my real life. I get to playing a police officer and it’s a great opportunity to play one as sober. It’s a great opportunity to do that make it be honest and make it be real. Some times you play those kinds of characters with overt melodrama, but while sober people tend to be highly sensitive and emotional, they are not overly melodramatic.

I think it kind of grounds Flynn a little bit. He is always introspective and aware how the path he is taking affects him personally. It makes him an interesting cop.
TONY: I think the episode in which Elizabeth Perkins guest-starred (and I hope to God she gets nominated for any award for that performance), she played a drunk driver in the episode “Road Block.” It was one of our last episodes last year, that was an amazing opportunity to play Flynn in that episode. He was sensitive to the woman who had killed someone drunk driving based on his own experiences — in his life and my life. So it was really interesting. She was not well because she is an alcoholic, but at the same time, she committed murder. So it’s like, “I’m really sorry, but in the meantime I’ve got to do my job.” It was an interesting set of circumstances.

You’re right, that was particularly heart-breaking.
TONY: Yeah, the woman who played the mother was wonderful too. She actually had me crying in that one scene when they are out on the street where her daughter was killed. She was wonderful and Elizabeth Perkins was just great too.

We don’t always see Flynn paired up with anyone besides Provenza, but it is always a fun thing to see him thrown into the mix. Is there another detective that you would like to see him work with in MAJOR CRIMES?
TONY: Flynn and Sanchez (Raymond Cruz) have always been kind of cut from the same cloth, so in a sense they are similar. They are both by-the-book and on some cases uncompromising and they have no qualms about getting in there and mixing it up with somebody. They’ve both been in major fight scenes in different episodes of THE CLOSER. So while Flynn goes back-and-forth in scenes with Provenza all the time, certainly Sanchez and Flynn bleed blue and they wear blue. You know what I mean?

That would be a fun mixture to see how they would work a case together.
TONY: I think so. I’d also like to see Flynn work with the new detective Kearran Giovanni as Detective Amy Sykes. I’d like to do a case with her. She’s a rookie in MAJOR CRIMES, but she’s an Iraq vet. She’s a wonderful person and actress and I would like the opportunity to work more with her. And of course, I’d like to work more with Mary McDonnell. Like I said before, she’s just wonderful. But I look at this way, whatever James wants me to do, I’ll do it.

You all seem like you’re a big chess set sometimes. James [Duff] moves you all around expertly as if he were strategizing very carefully.
TONY: I’ve known James since we met in 1997. So I have been friends with him — and when I say we’ve been friends, we’re not just Hollywood friends; he’s a friend-friend — and I really believe what he writes is brilliant. As an actor talking about an executive producer, I think he’s brilliant. So I trust whatever he writes for us is going to be born from — I guess the word is “super-reality” because drama can’t be done in real-time. ‘Cause people would go crazy watching two cops on a stake-out for 12 hours. So everything has to be heightened.

It has created a fabulous show. It has been a lot of fun watching it over the seven seasons, and we’re looking forward to MAJOR CRIMES and continuing all those stories.
TONY: Look at it this way, if you loved THE CLOSER, then you’ll love MAJOR CRIMES. Kyra won’t be there, but everybody else will of the people who decided to move on to the new show. It’s giving us a chance to tell the stories we couldn’t tell before about how broke the cities and states are and a lot of times they really can’t prosecute all the crimes. So they are constantly looking for a plea bargain because they don’t want these criminals to get away, but they do want is an opportunity to put them away for at least 10 to 15 years. Because now with trials being the way that they are, the state is broke. They cannot afford to take cases to trial.

It’s a sad reality that we don’t have the money and resources to prosecute. It’s really unfortunate.
TONY: That’s why Raydor’s character starts to really loom large in the show because she’s expert in negotiation since her character comes from internal affairs. At the end of the day, we show up, we do what’s put in front of us and I think what’s put in front of us is wonderful. Like I said, it’s a “super-reality” and the wonderfulness of THE CLOSER just continues on to MAJOR CRIMES. You’ll be surprised. I think you’ll genuinely enjoy it.

Looking towards the finale of THE CLOSER, the final episode is called, “The Last Word.” It kind of sounds like it is going to shock and heart-break us a little bit as fans. Can you comment about how we’re possibly going to react to that episode?
TONY: Let’s put it this way: if you loved Kyra’s character, you’re going to be sad when she leaves. So there’s that. There’s a death coming up on the show, so there’s that to contend with. Then there’s the snitch, so there’s a lot of stuff coming up.

Does it sort of set up MAJOR CRIMES to start off with a big bang — something that they all have to imperatively deal with right away?
TONY: It’s hard to say because, like you said, it is seamless. Because it is seamless, the story picks up like a bump in the road that has already occurred and then suddenly we’re in the new show where there’s a new bump in the road. And how we deal with that is the new story.

Sounds enticing. I can’t wait to see that!
TONY: It is and I’m not just telling you that it is because I work on the show. I’m a fan of the show. I think the show is so well-written and I enjoying playing Flynn more than you can imagine. I just feel like every day is a gift.

These last few episodes of THE CLOSER are going to be heart-breaking as they lose one of their own and the identity of the department leak is finally revealed. To see how the entire team handles all this turmoil and loss, you will not want to miss one single second. THE CLOSER may be ending, but as that chapter closes the next chapter begins on MAJOR CRIMES. So be sure to tune in to the last four episodes of THE CLOSER as it sets up the pivotal story to be dealt with on MAJOR CRIMES. THE CLOSER airs Monday nights at 9:00 p.m. on TNT and MAJOR CRIMES premieres August 13th at 10:00 p.m. on TNT.

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