Take heart, fans of "The Closer"!
A new season of 10 weekly episodes begins Monday at 9 p.m. EDT. Then the TNT network will air another five episodes this winter and six more next summer before the series comes to a close.
So there's plenty of "The Closer" ahead.
But for Kyra Sedgwick, who stars as LAPD Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, the end is in her sights and on her mind. In December, she and "The Closer" wrap production.
And then? "I'll be home," replies Sedgwick with a display of fingers drumming idly on a table top.
"Knowing for the past seven years where you're going to be for six months — working on this show — makes those other six months precious, special, finite," she muses. "The idea that I'll have the whole year not really knowing, waiting for the phone to ring, is going to be really different and hard.
"I know that intellectually, and I'm trying to prepare myself emotionally."
These days, the 45-year-old Sedgwick and her actor-director-musician husband, Kevin Bacon, are already empty nesters, with Travis and Sosie, their grown son and college-age daughter, out of the house.
Then, in a few months, she'll say "Thahhnk-yeewwwwww" in Brenda Leigh's syrupy tones a final time.
"It's all going to hit me — totally," Sedgwick says.
But walking away from her series — a hit that averaged more than 7.6 million viewers last season — was Sedgwick's decision, which she announced in December.
"I had thought about it for a full year," she says, "and I was really back and forth. But at the end of last season. I was feeling really tired. Kev, who was the one who told me to do the show in the first place, said, 'How about just make the decision tonight, and then see how you feel in the morning?' I woke up the next morning and thought, 'This is the right time to go out.'"
It's been quite a ride these seven seasons playing Brenda, a crime-busting Atlanta transplant who, after all these years in Los Angeles, retains a Southern belle accent, as well as a no-nonsense approach to police work and a frazzled personal life. Sedgwick's colorful portrayal won her an Emmy last fall.
"When I first read the pilot script, I felt like I knew her," Sedgwick recalls. "I understood her struggle to see clearly the difference between right and wrong, and her unending desire for justice. I feel that way as a person: I get righteously indignant about stuff. But I can't do anything about it.
"It's been great to be Brenda saying, '(Jerk), you're going down!'" she laughs.
Though never a big box-office draw before "The Closer" premiered in 2005, Sedgwick had accumulated many solid credits, including the drama "Loverboy" (co-starring and co-producing with Bacon, who directed), as well as the HBO film "Something the Lord Made" and TNT's "Door to Door." And she's proud of her performances in the films "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge" (1990), "Singles" (1992), "Something to Talk About" (1995) and "The Woodsman" (2004), in which she co-starred with Bacon.
While most of her films have been dramas, the comedic chops she evidenced as quirky Brenda Leigh have inspired her to include some "lighter fare, more fun stuff" among her post-"Closer" endeavors. But currently awaiting release, she has two features: a horror film currently titled "The Dibbuk Box" (a title Sedgwick is sure will be changed to something less obscure) and "Man on a Ledge," an all-star thriller.
Sedgwick is a fourth-generation New Yorker who landed her first professional acting role as a teen on the NBC daytime drama "Another World." She met Bacon while they were co-starring in a TV version of Lanford Wilson's play, "Lemon Sky." They wed 10 months later, and a few weeks after that she found she was expecting their first child. She was just 23, as motherhood intruded on her thriving career.
"But I always wanted to marry and have kids," Sedgwick says, "so I think I wanted a healthy balance of work and family life."
That marks a striking difference between her and Brenda, "someone who was married to her work, and put that first, all along," Sedgwick points out.
Jon Tenney plays FBI Special Agent Fritz Howard, Brenda's devoted beau-turned-husband, who rightly feels as if their relationship takes a back seat to her cases.
But maybe that's about to change — at least, a little. As the seventh season starts, the LAPD is being reorganized, which could mean the end of Brenda's Major Crimes unit. Meanwhile, Brenda becomes the scapegoat as a lawsuit is filed against the police department. Tough times lie ahead.
"Maybe in the middle of this year," Sedgwick hints, "she will realize that the thing that has always brought her solace and fulfillment — her job — has become a toxic, unsafe place for her, and so she clings to her husband, cleaves to him in a way that she never has before.
"I think that's a good thing," Sedgwick beams approvingly. "By now, everyone is saying, 'Why are they together?' Including me!"
TNT is owned by Time Warner Inc.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier