Tonight at 9 pm/ET, TNT's The Closer kicks off a two-part season-ender that pits Brenda against one of her toughest-to-crack cases ever, and in turn a formidable adversary in the form of guest star Steven Culp. TVGuide.com asked the alum of Desperate Housewives to tease the drama ahead. Plus: What happened with ABC's Traveler?
TVGuide.com: Obviously we don't bring in Steven Culp for just anything, so what have we got you doing these two weeks?
Steven Culp: Well, I don't know how much I'm allowed to give away about the plot, but it's a two-parter, and I'm playing Lucas Cordry, a lawyer who's defending the guy accused of murder.
TVGuide.com: So he has to go up against Kyra [Sedgwick as Brenda Leigh]?
He has to go up against Kyra. Yeah, you need somebody strong to go up against Kyra Sedgwick. And one of the things that's fun about it is he's smart and he's strong and he's a good adversary, but Brenda still manages to lure him into making some bonehead plays. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: What can you say about the case without revealing too much?
Culp: It's a murder mystery, that's obvious.
TVGuide.com: What type of person has been murdered that it's a priority homicide?
Culp: He's sort of a high-profile Hollywood character, the murder victim. [My character] has represented a lot of high-profile clients, and the authorities are hot on getting an arrest and a conviction in the works as quickly as possible.
TVGuide.com: Sounds like you're probably wearing a very expensive suit.
Culp: I'm wearing a very expensive suit, yes. It's quite nice.
TVGuide.com: Were you familiar with The Closer at all?
Culp: Oh yeah, I love the show.
TVGuide.com: What do you love most about it, coming from an actor's point of view?
Culp: For me, the real draw of it is Kyra Sedgwick and the cast, the camaraderie between her character and the members of the squad. They're all great, colorful, very individual characters, and I love watching them interact. And I have to say, working on the show, it's obvious to see where that camaraderie comes from. It's one of the loveliest sets I've ever been on, and I've been on a lot of nice sets. Actually, Kyra and I had worked together before — my first job in New York, I was playing a psycho baby-kidnapper on Another World, and Kyra was a young girl who was also on the show. I don't know why — our characters had nothing to do with each other — but for some reason, maybe because they had to pay us for a certain number of episodes per week, they gave us a scene together one time. At the first reading [for The Closer] Kyra came over and I said, "You know, we've actually worked together before," and she said, "Of course, I remember — Another World!" And she remembered details about the scene!
TVGuide.com: Speaking of soaps, an old friend of mine, Sarah Brown [a three-time Emmy winner on General Hospital], is in the episode, too. Do you have any scenes with her?
Culp: I was going to say, I actually got reunited with several people I've worked with. James Patrick Stewart, who plays the DA, and I have worked on several different shows together. And then Sarah Brown and I were husband and wife on an episode of Lyon's Den a number of years ago, and she's great. She's terrific in these episodes. She's really, really good.
TVGuide.com: Playing a defense attorney, is the door left open for you to pop back up every now and then if need be?
Culp: Well, we're assuming that I don't turn out to be the killer, right?
TVGuide.com: Yes, we are.
Culp: Anything's possible. If I'm not the killer, I would love going back. It seemed to go very well, so possibly the door is left open.
TVGuide.com: What do you think about the quality of television that's being put out by cable this summer? It's good news for the scripted format.
Culp: Well, it is. And I was on a very good show that was on broadcast that everybody ignored: Traveler. The well-scripted series aren't just on cable. But I have to say, a lot of my viewing tends to go toward cable these days. Have you seen Big Love this summer?
TVGuide.com: No, but I hear it's been outstanding.
Culp: Oh man, it's so good! But yeah, there are a lot of interesting programs on cable this summer, and it does seem that they are given a little bit more of a chance.
TVGuide.com: Let's talk about Traveler. What happened there?
Culp: Oh, you know, I think part of it's timing. Except for Heroes, every serialized show that was shown this year pretty much tanked quickly. I think that caused whoever makes these decisions to become less interested.
TVGuide.com: [Traveler creator] David DiGilio does a blog for us here at TVGuide.com, and a lot of the fans have expressed how devastated they are that the show wasn't really given a chance and wasn't promoted properly.
And it's funny, because so many actors I've talked to say, "Yeah, I've been there." [The Closer creator] James Duff did The DA, everybody's been through it. But David DiGilio is a great guy. Every roadblock that's thrown in there, he reacts so positively. I am glad that they showed all eight episodes that we filmed, but I don’t think there was a single on-air promotion after we premiered.
TVGuide.com: How far in did you learn your character was going to be a baddie?
Culp: Oh, I knew from the beginning; that's one of the reasons I took the job. When I read the pilot, I thought it was good and was interested in the role and I went in to meet the producers and they said, "OK, here's what you don't know...," and by the time I got out of that meeting, I was thinking, "Now this is a role I really want to play." In retrospect, having watching it play on screen, I'm a little worried that it was more fun to play than to watch. If you're not privy to the secret, is there enough going on here to be interesting? I couldn't tell.
TVGuide.com: DiGilio promised us some closure in his blog once the show was 100 percent dead. Until then, do you know what the Fourth Branch is?
Culp: I have a good idea of what the Fourth Branch is, because that's one of the things that we talk about. We're off the air now, so I don't think I'm giving too much away in saying that my character was a member of the fourth branch, and my family is actually a longstanding member of the Fourth Branch.
TVGuide.com: Did you enjoy your stint narrating Desperate Housewives last season?
Culp: That was so much fun. I was sitting on the set of Traveler last November and my cell phone rang and it was [Housewives boss] Marc Cherry saying, "We wanted to run this idea by you and see if you're interested," and I thought it sounded fabulous. When I showed up for the cast read-through and read the first line, "My name is Rex Van de Kamp," everybody applauded. It was great. They're such great people and so nice to work with.
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