On Monday, “Major Crimes” begins the second half of its second season. The division continues to be under the watchful eye of Captain Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell), a strict rule follower since the more flamboyant Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) was forced to move on because of her flagrant disregard for the letter of the law.
In the first of eight episodes, Lieutenant Provenza (G.W. Bailey) and the rest of the squad are on the case when a bad batch of drugs claims the lives of two brothers, and the race is on to try to unearth the perp to prevent the deaths of other high school students, who may have purchased drugs from the same dealer.
Then, Rusty (Graham Patrick Martin) has a big decision to make. With the exception of school, he has been under house arrest ever since his girlfriend revealed to Sharon that he was still receiving threatening letters. Now, he has to decide whether or not he can continue to live his life that way.
xfinityTV caught up with G.W. Bailey, who was hosting a fundraising event for the Sunshine Kids in Florida, to get the scoop on the upcoming eight episodes of “Major Crimes,” what it is like to work with both Sedgwick and McDonnell, how TV has changed since his days on “M*A*S*H,” and more.
What can you tease about the second half of the season?
A lot of people get killed, and we solve a lot of crimes. The procedural portion, of course, is someone is killed and we find out whom. Those continue to be fascinating stories; some are loosely based on things that have happened.
Then, the through story is Rusty and the serial killer Stroh [Billy Burke], and whether or not Stroh is connected to the threatening letters, and how the [identity of the person sending the] threatening letters is eventually resolved.
I don’t have any doubts whatsoever that it will hold our audience very rapt. I think they will really get into this storyline, what’s happening to this young man, and what’s happening to all of us as a result of his life experience, the people we come into contact with, and the other mysteries that take place. It just has “this is what people will appreciate” written all over it.
On “The Closer,” Provenza was the comedy relief, but on “Major Crimes,” he’s more curmudgeonly. Do you think he’s been written differently for the new show?
Well, the situation changed. I still get a few humorous things to say and do, not as much as I used to, but it’s still there. The humor still exists. We have a couple of episodes in this group of eight, where Flynn and I are down on the beach, shopping for kites for his daughter, and I take him to a great kite shop, but it also happens to be a bong shop. That’s as much as they’ll let me say, but it’s pretty funny stuff.
What happened was, Provenza never wanted to be in charge; he had no desire to be in charge. He was perfectly happy being the curmudgeonly, occasionally humorous old guy, just biding his time. Then when Brenda left, he, with seniority, was next in line, so for a very brief period, he was the head of the squad. For the first time in his life, he experienced what it was to be king, and he liked it. He never thought he would, but he did, and he also thought that he was good at it.
So, when they unceremoniously dumped him for Captain Raydor, he was not happy about it, at all. His taste of being in charge really brought some profound changes in him. He still exercises more authority than he did before, and that was her request. She said, “If you just won’t work against me, just work with me, you don’t have to work for me.” And he has done that. He has begrudging respect for her, and, I think, he takes it all a bit more seriously now that he has had a little taste of what it is to have to be in charge.
In this season, he’s also facing his age. He’s the last person of his academy class still standing, and he faces that now on a daily basis. There are situations again that come up in these next eight episodes, where he’s in jeopardy again of being moved out. He has some things that happen, and so he’s more serious about it, there’s no question about that.
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The interesting thing about “The Closer” and “Major Crimes,” is that in both, the division is led by a woman. Can you talk a little bit about the difference between working with Kyra Sedwick as your boss and Mary McDonnell?
As actresses, they’re both wonderful, very proficient and successful in their world and in their careers as actors. And then as people, they’re both just splendid people. They’re very different people. They work differently and do things differently, as people do. But in terms of their work ethic, they both believe in showing up prepared, they work hard before they get there. As characters, they’re very different.
You know, Brenda never saw a rule she didn’t want to break. And, of course, Captain Raydor is the opposite. She embraces the idea: We cannot function without the rules. The rules are the guidelines of life, so those are two very, very strong and different character traits.
It’s interesting to watch Captain Raydor, as Mary portrays her, sometime come up against … they throw her these moral dilemmas: Follow the rule to the letter, and you’re going to find it is not always as successful as breaking the rules a little bit. So they give her these moral dilemmas to wrestle with, but they’re two very, very different people. Both in life and in character.
Are you more recognized for this role, which you have now played on two series, or for the “Police Academy” movie franchise, which had a huge audience?
It varies. Right now, I’m at Talis Park, in Naples, Florida, and I was with four guys I didn’t know at this charity event. They’re all from Indianapolis and one of them is a “M*A*S*H” fanatic. I played a character named Rizzo for the last three and a half years, a recurring character, but he had a big following. That guy wanted to talk about “M*A*S*H” the whole time. Another one wanted pictures for his wife because she was a “Police Academy” fan. She loved “Police Academy” when she was a little girl and those two guys had never seen “The Closer” or “Major Crimes.” They don’t watch television at all.
The other two were big “Major Crimes” fans, and wanted to know all about my bucket hat, where did I get that hat, and how did that come about and blah blah blah. They know the show extremely well. So, it really is a cross section of all of those, but I would say probably, it is mostly “The Closer” and “Major Crimes.”
You have an impressive acting resumé. Can you talk about how television has changed over the years?
Take our show as an example of what has happened in the explosion of cable and other venues. I think it’s probably the greatest thing that I have seen in terms of content. When I started in this business, there were three networks, and then FOX emerged as a network.
I remember when it was a huge thing if someone in the neighborhood got cable. And, of course, now I have worked in cable for the last ten years. The explosion of venues is really the big difference that I’ve seen. Other than reality shows, I really have seen content go up and down. The TV movie was pronounced dead a few years ago. Well, lo and behold, guess what’s back? “Hatfields and McCoys” swept the board, received all kinds of Emmys, did all kinds of numbers, so now you see scripts that are mini-series, movies of the week — not a lot, but it will come back.
I think content has gotten better. The cable world has made it better, there is no question about it. “Game of Thrones” was not possible when I started in this business, you just wouldn’t have it. And now you have these extraordinary shows that are on cable. The other thing is, there’s women in television and, I think, that’s a big thing.
“Major Crimes” returns on Monday, Nov. 25 at 9/8c on TNT.