The Closer executive producers Michael Robin & Greer Shephard reveal their favorite moments and experiences during the show’s seven-season run. The final six episodes of The Closer begin Monday, July 9, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT) on TNT.
Q: Where do you go from here?
Michael Robin: Well, the thing that we’re all very fortunate for is that a lot of these characters are going to live on in Major Crimes. That’s very exciting. It makes me happy that it’s not a full closure, but confusing emotionally because you don’t get a full closure on The Closer. Major Crimes is continuing, so that makes you feel really good that you don’t have to say a full goodbye to everybody.
Greer Shephard: What is nice is that the show itself has had a huge impact on the television landscape. When we first started, character dramas and procedural dramas were separate genres. We were able to create a hybrid of the two, and now that’s really all you see. It basically resuscitated the character procedural, and it’s nice to see the influence that we’ve had on television programming since The Closer‘s inception seven years ago.
Michael Robin: And not the least of which is the real inspiration to make it okay to have a 40-year-old female lead on television. That was literally not there seven years ago.
Greer Shephard: It’s very true. That was probably the biggest groundbreaking element to the show. When you did have a 40-year-old woman, she was usually either a literal mother or very maternal by nature of her profession. Brenda Leigh Johnson was a very new type of species of woman – a woman who was unmarried at the time, still had her sexuality and really was married to her career and her ambition. That represented a lot of women out there who were not represented on television. I think the show also, for the first time, represented a part of this country that oftentimes doesn’t get much voice, and that is the South. I think that it proved to a lot of people that you could have a southern accent and a high I.Q., and there were a lot of people who were very appreciative of that.
Q: Is there anything about the evolution of Brenda’s character looking back that has surprised either of you?
Greer Shephard: You know, I enjoyed watching her grapple with whether or not she wanted to be a mother. That was in season three I believe. That’s a very difficult choice. A lot of women will just simply run out the clock, and biology basically makes the decision for you. I think watching her deal with that in the context of her marriage, with a husband who probably did want children… to go through that difficult journey with her and Fritz was something that I never imagined we would be able to explore in the context of a police procedural. The fact that you’re able to dive into a lot of the intimate issues that women deal with while also solving a murder mystery was really gratifying. I was so thrilled that this show had the elasticity to be able to explore issues like that.
Michael Robin: I really enjoyed some of the bigger stories over the last couple of years. The story that threads itself through the last year is what happens to her when she does something questionable, where she has really served as someone’s executioner in what seems like a very righteous situation. We as an audience are cheering for her when she does what she does with Terrell Baylor. But then the comeuppance that she gets through this – being examined as to whether or not that was criminal behavior, or whether that was behavior that she could be sued for and the department could be sued for. Where is that line that you can and cannot cross as a law-enforcement officer? That’s been really interesting to watch and look at. I think we’ve handled that really well.
Greer Shephard: Yeah, it’s been a very rich theme of the law and then a higher law. She has always been really adamant about the idea that one must always follow the law, but she dances in the gray a lot. I love the fact that she was not above reproach, that the group of writers was able to cast the same critical eye on her that she imposed on everybody else. What’s really gratifying is that when we first developed the show, we always had the sense that she would end up losing her job because she had to close a case. Her obsession to get the criminal, that was her virtue throughout almost the entire seven seasons, and it would ultimately be her undoing. That the very thing that defines us, that brings us glory, will also take us down. It’s so gratifying to have been able to deliver on that vision of what we felt the end was going to be.
Q: You have an amazing costume designer, production designer and hundreds of others helping put this show together. How do you make it work so well?
Michael Robin: One of the things that we try to make happen is that every one of the crafts people that we have on the show – whether it’s a production designer, a costume designer, director of photography, hair, makeup, grips, electric, transportation, etc. – can look at a frame and see their work. They’ve made a real impact on the show. Big, huge, giant, vibrant crime scenes require everybody’s skills to make that really come to life. Everybody that worked on the show will be able to watch in perpetuity and look at certain scenes and remember, “Oh yeah. I remember that day when I was there doing that scene.” It’s one of the neat things about working in television or in the film business. You can look at a scene and you can remember what it took to make that scene, which is kind of cool.
Q: Out of 109 episodes, do you have a favorite?
Greer Shephard: I do, and it happens to be one that Mike directed. It’s the episode “Ruby,” about the abduction of that little girl. You’re very clear on who has done it, but it’s about how you break him. Watching what Gabriel does in order to try to extract the confession is truly memorable. Any time the characters behave in such a way that they break the law somehow in trying to get at the truth, and then there are consequences and incrimination, I always find those episodes to be the most compelling. You understand why they have done what they’ve done, and yet it is still inexcusable. The rift that Gabriel’s behavior caused and the pressure that put on Brenda, that she couldn’t actually use the confession because it had been illegally obtained – the sort of legal conundrum was extraordinary. That and the fact that it was so emotionally charged make it my number one episode. Mike just directed the hell out of it.
A: Michael Robin: Thank you. That’s my favorite episode, too. Although we’re on the last day of the final episode of The Closer, “The Last Word,” and this one feels like it’s going to be quite a good one, too.