Beau Bridges

Beau Bridges, who once played a man who decides to have a sex change in the final moments of the Jane Anderson play Looking for Normal, now gets to portray a character who's already made that decision.

On The Closer (Monday at 9/8c on TNT) the veteran actor plays retired Detective George Andrews, the former partner of Detective Provenza (G.W. Bailey). When an old case of theirs is re-opened, George returns to L.A. to help close the case a second time.

Only now, he's a woman named Georgette.

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"I had spent a lot of time looking into the whole subject and meeting people who had gone down that path, and I really ended up having a lot of respect for those folks," Bridges tells TVGuide.com. "It's a real tough journey and it involves a lot of courage. [It's] not an easy path in the world today, so to get in to those type of high heels again was interesting to me."

Although secries creator James Duff promises the episode is one of The Closer's lighter hours, Bridges says it treats the subject matter with respect. "I told them right away I didn't want to make a lot of silly jokes about a situation that I felt was a serious one for people," Bridges said. "I liked the fact that there was humor in the piece, but it came more out of the relationship between these two people who had known each other for so long and had to deal with the difference in coming back into each other's lives."

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Indeed, Provenza is pretty shaken up that his former partner in skirt-chasing is now a skirt wearer. "The idea that people don't change is nonsense," Duff says. "Provenza has changed. He's learned to work with a female authority figure, and now he's going to have to learn to work with a partner who is no longer a police officer and is no longer living the same life he was living before. He's very looking forward to it and is very disappointed by the way that George has changed."

But ultimately, their close friendship — after five seasons, Bridges' character is the one to finally reveal Provenza's first name — wins out. "[Provenza is] a very tough, man's man sort of guy, and this was his best buddy. ... So, he has to come to terms with that and it's very difficult for him. Through the telling of the story he comes to respect his old friend as a professional, and despite the fact that he's gone through his huge change and has become a woman, he still has what it takes to solve a case. I think that's what ultimately brings them together again."

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Bridges, 68, says he enjoyed the extra time in the makeup chair and wardrobe trailer. But the one thing he doesn't miss: high heels.

"They had a scene in the Los Angeles train station where I had to walk away in these extremely high heels," Bridges says with a laugh. "I had been wearing small pumps for most of it because I didn't want to screw my back up, but I had to walk away on this tile floor. I'm never going to tell my wife to hurry up when [she's] going somewhere in high heels. It was painful, man."