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A Word About ''The Closer''

By RD Heldenfels Published: July 17, 2005

Actors take parts for a variety of reasons. If you ask them, more often than not they'll say they've been attracted by the script, but there's more to it than that.

Actor-writer-director-producer-charades-player Bob Balaban said -- not entirely joking -- that he likes to work with people whose home phone numbers he has; that way, he not only knows them, he doesn't have to go through the many filters of an entourage. Barry Shabaka Henley  has talked more seriously about the importance of working with people he trusts, hence his frequent appearances in the movies of Michael Mann.

Then there's actor G.W. Bailey. You might remember him from ''M*A*S*H.'' Lately he has been playing the grumpy but smart detective Provenza on ''The Closer,'' the fine new drama on TNT. He said he decided to play the role based not on the pilot script, but on one word in it..

''I have never had a one-word line, a one-word response that told so much about a character,'' he told me at a ''Closer'' press conference Sunday.

He was talking about the scene in the pilot when he referred to a character as ''a murderer and a lesbo.'' But that's not the word. He then recalled how Brenda -- Provenza's boss, and the closer of the show's title, played by Kyra Sedgwick -- warned Provenza that such language meant Provenza might have to take two weeks of sensitivity training.

''And I had a one-word response,'' Bailey said. ''I said, 'Again?'  ...

''It all became clear to me,'' he said. ''I said, if this is picked up (as a series), this is going to be a great guy to play. ... And I knew from that one-word response.''

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