Kyra Sedgwick, Frances Sternhagen, Barry Corbin

One of the greatest side benefits of my work on The Closer has been the time I get to spend thinking about our themes. This last season, which revolves around love, has provided me countless hours of reflection, examining the best of all human emotions and, to my mind, the most powerful. When you have a choice, and love is one of the options, the decision usually becomes obvious.

For me, life is broken down into a series of families, starting with my own spouse, mother, father and sister. The Duffs are a close-knit clan, and there's not much air between us. My long-suffering friends in Los Angeles also form a family of sorts, and I love them all the more for putting up with my frequent absences: whole months during which I might as well be living in Toronto or Bucharest. Lately, however, I have been thinking about my family at The Closer, represented by an entire crew of people you never see, and the actors who form our ensemble of series regulars. And, like all other families, The Closer has its own relatives: the recurring characters who visit us on an occasional, sometimes semi-permanent basis, and bring with them enormous talent, skill and good will.

For example, there's Ransford Doherty, who plays our Coroner's Investigator, a harried Angel of Death who's constantly running behind; Ransford, also spends time as a substitute school teacher; his flawless performance — I don't think he's ever blown a take - brings good cheer and gratitude from our entire company. Then there's Jonathan Del Arco, the morgue's Dr. Morales, the gay pathologist who helps the police while reminding them he is not in their employ. Jonathan's brilliance, wit and natural charm are complimented by his tireless fundraising for good causes, like GLSEN, which promotes anti-violence and safe zones in American public schools. Barry Corbin, who plays Brenda's father, Clay, brings with him some serious emotional ties; he, G.W. Bailey and I all went to Texas Tech (though not exactly at the same time) and when we are all on the set together, its pretty extraordinary to think that three people from Lubbock ("Hub of the South Plains") are all so deeply involved in the same show; Barry's resume would make this little column look more like an entry in an encyclopedia; films like War Games and No Country for Old Men showcase his range, while the series Northern Exposure displayed his staying power as a creative force of nature. Frances Sternhagen and I have been working together since my first days as a professional writer; she brilliantly played the lead in a play I wrote during its London and New York productions and also gave me the best advice I ever had, which was to move to California and try to break into movies and television; someday, I will follow through on that. Frannie and I have been friends for so long that she usually stays with me when she travels to L.A. from her home in New York (where you will find two Tony awards celebrating her life-long career as one of America's greatest stage actors).

I mention these performers as they all make appearances in tonight's episode, which features familial love in some unusual ways. Brenda Leigh Johnson gets some upsetting news from her mom and dad, while her team at work closes in on a potentially murderous family from oblique angles involving their in-laws at the FBI.

Last week I finished writing the finale; tomorrow we start shooting it. From the end, I glance back at the middle, and think of all the great, talented people who helped us reach the finish line. Frances Sternhagen, Barry Corbin, Ransford Doherty and Jonathan Del Arco may not be exactly series regulars, but they are family.

Until next week.

— James Duff