Mary McDonnell will star in new series "Major Crimes"
BY RITA SHERROW World Television Writer
Sunday, August 12, 2012
8/12/12 at 5:00 AM
For video of the new series.
Actress Mary McDonnell will be filling big shoes, literally and figuratively, starting Monday.
The Oscar-nominated actress will take over Monday nights when Emmy winner Kyra Sedgwick wraps up the final episode of "The Closer" starting at 8 p.m.
McDonnell's "Major Crimes" debuts at 9 p.m. Both air on TNT, cable 29. The new series takes over the 8 p.m. Monday time slot next week.
"Crimes" is a series that takes former Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson's detectives into a new world, one where their crime solving will have to change with the addition of Capt. Sharon Raydor, formerly of Internal Affairs.
It's a series that will retain the familiar and introduce new stories, said McDonnell in a recent teleconference.
"We've got these wonderfully rich characters that we've been attached to and exploring life with for seven years," said the actress, who was nominated for an Oscar for her roles in "Dances with Wolves" and "Passion Fish."
"And they are still there, most of them trying to solve crime in Los Angeles. So there is the sameness. How this particular division goes about solving crime now has to change inherently because they no longer have Chief Johnson."
Instead of focusing on Johnson's uncanny ability to get airtight confessions from suspects, "Major Crimes" will center around what it takes to secure that airtight conviction.
The department's last leader was the star, but this department head is all about teamwork and giving credit where credit is due. But first, her detectives must learn to trust her. And that's not easy when her previous job was investigating them and their boss.
"She was clearly brought in to be the antagonist," said McDonnell, who has played the mother in cult film "Donnie Darko," the president on "Battlestar Galactica," the first lady in "Independence Day" and Eleanor Carter on "ER."
"As we evolve into 'Major Crimes,' this character professionally changes, she shifts. And we begin to view her through a different job, a different set of circumstances and different things are asked of her," said the soft-spoken native of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
"And one of the beautiful things about the writing is that it very organically allows her to grow in front of us because we are watching her in a different situation from a different point of view."
McDonnell hadn't planned for her character to stay on "The Closer" or spin off into her own series, she said. In fact, she was asked to do a short story arc on "The Closer" and was "happy to do it."
"I really wanted to work with Kyra, and James Duff (the show's creator) offered it to me, and I thought I was coming in to do three episodes. It just sort of evolved, and here we are." She was nominated for an Emmy for her "Closer" role of Capt. Raydor.
Playing the president on "Galactica" sort of prepared her for the series, she said, adding that Duff wanted to talk to her about being on the show because he was a fan of that science-fiction series.
"It was kind of interesting because of having been, excuse me, president of the universe. I did learn a little bit about a sort of solitary woman in power position. So I did a little research about that when I was working on her. And, when I came to 'The Closer,' I realized that this woman, the character that James brought me, had an element of that in that she had to have her eye clearly on the goal."
Continuing on the show will be veterans G.W. Bailey, Tony Denison, Michael Paul Chan, Raymond Cruz and Phillip P. Keene. Robert Gossett and Jon Tenney will guest-star in several episodes. Graham Patrick Martin will play Rusty, a homeless juvenile whose character will be introduced in the final episode of "The Closer," and Kearran Giovanni will join the cast as Det. Amy Sykes, an undercover police detective and military veteran who served in Afghanistan.
McDonnell's character will, it turns out, have a family, but McDonnell couldn't reveal her character's back story other than that she had been captain of Internal Affairs for decades before and was totally committed to her job.
"She's a woman who has had a very full life," said McDonnell, 60. "Whether or not it was perfect, of course not."
The role will explore how professional women raise children and what choices women have to make at mid-life to try to make their lives balanced.
"There's a little bit of exploring that reality in there because that is what we are seeing with women my age who are now taking on positions in their professional lives that are more demanding than ever before. A generation ago, these same women would have been retiring.
"So we have an opportunity, I think, to explore something that's happening all around us. And to have some stories evolve out of that."
When: 9 p.m. Monday
Where: TNT, cable 29
Original Print Headline: Actress ready for 'Major' change
Rita Sherrow 918-581-8360
Mary McDonnell (center) heads up the Major Crimes unit of the Los Angeles Police Department in the spin-off series "Major Crimes." It debuts at 9 p.m. Monday on TNT, cable 29. ART STREIBER/TNT