THE CLOSER. 9 p.m. Monday, TNT.

KYRA SEDGWICK'S never lived with one character as long as she's lived with Brenda Leigh Johnson, the endearingly driven cop at the center of TNT's "The Closer."

And as the pair enter their fifth season together on Monday, with Brenda newly married to Fritz (Jon Tenney), the actress, who's been married to Philadelphia's Kevin Bacon since 1988 but who once worried she'd eventually be bored playing Brenda, finds she's anything but.

"Surprisingly, it's been exciting and wonderful and really nice to get deeper into a character," Sedgwick, 43, said in a phone interview last month.

"I think aging with a character and growing with a character, and seeing a character through life changes and, you know, relationship changes is actually a really fascinating thing to do," she said.

"But I must say that on my hiatuses, I really do like to do something else. And I have been able to," thanks to "The Closer's" six-month shooting schedule and 15-episode seasons.

"It's a tremendous amount of work in that six months, but it's definitely a lot better than [a network drama] schedule," she said.

That's something more and more actors who've primarily worked in movies seem to be finding out.

On June 16, Jada Pinkett Smith, who hasn't done series TV since "A Different World," launches her own TNT drama, "Hawthorne," the same night that Oscar-winner Holly Hunter returns for a third season of TNT's "Saving Grace."

In the most recent season of FX's "Damages," Glenn Close was joined by Oscar winners William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden, and another Oscar winner, Hunter's young co-star from "The Piano," Anna Paquin, returns for a second season of HBO's "True Blood" on June 14.

It's Sedgwick, along with Close, whose one-season stint on FX's "The Shield" began just a few months before "The Closer" launched on TNT in June 2005, whose name is often mentioned when actors talk about crossing over from film to cable TV. But Sedgwick seems surprised to hear it.

"That makes me feel really good, because I do think you can do really excellent work on television, and especially on cable," where "the standards and practices [people] aren't all over you," she said.

But it's not as if she's been talking it up with her fellow actors.

"You know, they don't call me. They should call me!" she said.

"Sometimes [someone will] say, 'Can so-and-so call you?' and I go, 'Sure, absolutely,' and then they don't end up calling me, but maybe they just watch the show and make a decision based on that," she said.

Like some of her counterparts, Sedgwick plays a role behind the scenes as well. This year, she's an executive producer, a role she describes as more about "consulting" than anything else.

"You know, honestly, it's always been a really collaborative group. I've been really lucky that way, everybody's been very inclusive from the get-go. It's just now that I can be maybe a little bit more vocal about some things that I might have sort of been vocal about, but a little more tiptoeing around," she said.

"I can't get involved in casting on a week-to-week basis, because that's something that I would never have time to do," she said.

Casting for this season includes a multi-episode appearance by the "wonderful" Mary McDonnell ("Battlestar Galactica"), Sedgwick said.

"She comes in as an internal affairs officer who's my opposite in every way, and we're sort of antagonists, and I think it's nice, and different, for Brenda to have a female antagonist," she said.

"This year's about change, and you know change is not something that Brenda deals with very well. Obviously, the most obvious change is that she's married, and how do you go through life as a married person, rather than a single person? There's change in the squad. Provenza [G.W. Bailey] has a girlfriend, so that's new and different," she said.

Television's generally more concerned with courtship than with its aftermath, but no one who's seen Brenda and Fritz up to now will be expecting quiet on the homefront.

"I think that her first marriage will always be to her work, and I think that that's just part of the gig with her," Sedgwick said.

"But there is a time sort of in the middle of the season where [Fritz is] going to start hammering home the idea of children, you know, his need, his desire to have children. And I'm not quite sure how that will resolve itself, but I do know it's something he very much wants," she said.

Children are also on Sedgwick's mind as she ponders her own future with Brenda. "The Closer" is filmed in Los Angeles, but Sedgwick and Bacon have long made their home in New York.

"I have one [a son] in college, which is less of an issue, but my daughter's still at home, and that continues to be an issue for me, and one that I might need to deal with, sooner rather than later in terms of the show," she said.

"Next year's her last year at home, and, you know, it's very challenging. I miss her terribly, and she's in school 3,000 miles away and I'm here for some of her school year, and that continues to be challenging for me," she said.

At the time that Close left "The Shield," she cited similar concerns about her own daughter's final year of high school, returning to FX to star in "Damages" only after her daughter had left for college.

But given the seeming flexibility of most cable TV seasons, couldn't "The Closer" accommodate Sedgwick with a shorter season for a year or two?

"You read my mind," she said, laughing. "That sounds really good to me." *

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