episode 507 - July 20, 2009
I have waited almost 5 years to see Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson in uniform! I bought her uniform at the end of Season One...and now four years later we had the big pay off. Not only Brenda Leigh in uniform, but the entire squad and what a powerful way to end the episode, the editing, the men exiting the building, respectfully placing their hats upon their heads as they exit Parker Center and then in slow motion Brenda exits, in a perfectly fit polyester and wool uniform, lined in silk, thank you very much and in a stoic moment she strides to her car and places her hat on her perfectly coifed head. I know there was silence in the screening room when we all watched the episode at lunch Monday...and I remember exactly where I was when we shot that scene.
In fact, pick any episode from the last 5 seasons and I can certainly tell you what I was feeling or where I was or what emotions, worries or ecstasy I might have been dealing with. In the pilot episode for example we shot at what would become Brad Pitts house where the crime scene took place and there was a gorgeous sunset in Malibu while I sipped a Starbucks latte watching the ocean lap at the hillside. Season One, talking to Kyra about the horrible decor in a house as a swat team broke into a home across the street. Season 2, where a truck full of illegals were found dead, out in Santa Clarita on a beautiful summer night sitting on a grassy knoll with a former crew member, solving life’s problems, getting ready to go home at midnight and having my car deader than a doornail. And on and on.
With Strike Three, this was the first episode that I had been AWOL for most of the shooting schedule, that does not mean that I was not in contact or left my distinctive imprint on the costumes, but my mother, Evelyn, was dying in a hospital bed and I had not one ounce of control over the situation and I am the consummate control freak. My crew had stepped up to a very high plate and was taking my place. Eric Van Wagoner had to attend and convene meetings without me. Emilio Anorve had to make sure Kyra's costume changes were perfect without me to answer any last minute questions or concerns from Kyra, and of course there has never been any, but that's why I had, up until now, never missed an establishing of one of her costumes. Kyra was texting me her love and concerns several times a day, which with her unbelievably all consuming dialogue life was so welcome and heart felt and my Closer family was supporting me spiritually in my absence. Not 5 minutes after my mother slept away, I received a phone call from our producing team of Michael Robin, Greer Shephard, Rick Wallace and James Duff, while I stood at her bed holding her hand. Head Hair Stylist Stacey K. Black had left the set and her responsibilities to bring me lunch and be with me not knowing that the end was so near and when she walked into the room she was the most welcome sight I possibly could have seen as she sat with me and my mother now in repose, and we said nothing and there was a power in that silence. It was a surreal scene in the drama of my life. I adore being on set and seeing the incredible acting that transforms words into reality and I was able to only witness 2 of the maybe 45 scenes during this time. The uniform ensemble was one of them. My mom had died on a Wednesday and the en masse uniform scene was the next day. No one really expected me to show up, but I did and it felt good to be around my extended "family". I was extremely touched by a sympathy card signed by all of the regular background artists, featured so prominently in this episode and when each of the cast members, resplendent in their pressed polyester saw me there were hugs and tears and love. Our director, the incredible Nelson McCormick said to me, "you have waited 5 seasons for this, sit in my chair and watch the monitor", as he stood to my side directing. And my squad came out of the building in the glow of magic hour light in all the glory of a uniform and in the somber situation of a funeral for fallen fellow officers and their friends. How parallel was this surreal reality? I left after the first take and didn't return till we shot the crime scene, but I shall never forget that particular Thursday for my men and women in blue, and for my mom, now resting high above me hopefully happy to see me among "family".
This episode was another all-nighter for our cast and when Brenda arrived at the crime scene she wore a vintage cream and taupe cotton coat from Neusteters. The coat was a Bonnie Cashin knockoff from Belgium and was actually made to be worn backwards, how '60's, but I had the tailor shop switch it all around so that the buttons were in front, meaning that the sleeves had to be reversed and the neckline scooped out! All for the art of a coat. Underneath the vintage cover-up I chose a jersey wrap dress in a frenetic blue, cream and brown print, since the shooting of the cops was confusing and frustrating for Brenda, especially with Raydor showing up at the crime scene. There was a great shoe shot of the Christian Louboutin blue linen and tan cork platform heels that made Brenda's leg line sooooo long and shapely! When Brenda finally got back to the murder room she donned a baby blue short cashmere Pure cardigan and then later switched to a vintage Lilli Ann jacket that was affectionately named the backgammon jacket for it's tri-colored triangular stripes.
Raydor was head to toe Armani from her closet. The juxtaposition of Brenda in her short flowing dress and Raydor in her uptight pants suit was just a great dichotomy of character costume. The dead boys mom, played expertly by Lori Allen, who I had last costumed in 1992, was near perfection in it's tone of a faded tank top sporting sea horses with her black bra straps exposed. Stomper and Teddy were put together by Eric and were pitch perfect down to the cut off sleeves on Teddy's sweat stained thermal, he was almost Linda Blair-Exorcist-possessed with Raydor during her interrogation, disgustingly good.
And when Brenda and Provenza shared their special moment, in uniform, Brenda reassuring her Lt., "It's just the 6 of us again"..."for now" he replies. And that's a "for now" for all of us, whether it's a recent loss, a long ago passing or the mere fact that our time on this beautiful earth is limited by the whim of the hand of God. For now.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer/speaker and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc.