If one had to choose a single word to describe veteran actor G.W. Bailey upon meeting the man, it would be “jovial.” Seated at the desk of his character LAPD homicide detective Lt. Louie Provenza, who he’s played for seven years on TNT’S THE CLOSER and now portrays on the first season of that show’s spin-off MAJOR CRIMES, Mondays at 9 PM on TNT, Bailey makes visitors to the set feel welcome.

Fans of THE CLOSER will not that the squad room set for MAJOR CRIMES is pretty much the same as it was. Yes, Kyra Sedgwick’s character, “closer” Brenda Leigh Johnson, has now left, replaced by Mary McDonnell’s Sharon Raydor, formerly of Internal Affairs, which is a big change, but some things remain unaltered.

Bailey, whose initials stand for George William, is a Texasnative who has played plenty of cops before, including parodying the profession in multiple POLICE ACADEMY movies. His career dates back to playing three different characters on the David Janssen starrer HARRY O in the mid-Seventies, with recurring roles on such TV landmarks as M*A*S*H and SAINT ELSEWHERE. However, Provenza is Bailey’s longest-running role to date. The actor talks about what’s new and what’s as usual as he and his character move from one series to another. Bailey is also wearing a yellow sun lapel pin, the symbol of the organization he has founded, Sunshine Kids.

ASSIGNMENT X: Is MAJOR CRIMES more of an ensemble now that it’s not THE CLOSER and no longer titled after a single lead character?

G.W. BAILEY: Oh, I think so. We still have a lead character and her story is still the catalyst, the glue that holds us together, but there certainly is more of a sense of ensemble. With Brenda Leigh Johnson – we’re supposed to be the crème de la crème of the LAPD, but of course, we couldn’t find a clue [laughs]. Only the lead could find clues.

AX: So you now get to look like better detectives?

BAILEY: Yeah. We’re marginally smarter than we were.

AX: Is Provenza in mourning for Brenda’s departure at all, or has he just put that behind him and he’s moving forward?

BAILEY: Well, I think my character never thought in a million years that he would miss Brenda Leigh Johnson, until he had to start working for Raydor. [laughs] And then suddenly he misses Brenda Leigh. We have a pretty rough beginning, Raydor and I, and then it smoothes out eventually, as it does in real life. You either find ways to work with people, or you have to go.

AX: This is a pretty thoroughly-dressed set. Does it get any more cluttered than it is now?

BAILEY: We’re shooting in here. Yeah, this is pretty much it, unless we’re in the middle of a case and they have evidence and boxes all on the set. It all goes back to HILL STREET BLUES and NYPD BLUE. [Steven] Bochco liked to have lots of stuff.

AX: There is a bobble-head figure of your character on your desk …

BAILEY: The set designer and art director for the first season liked the character of Provenza and one day this shows up. She had it made. She thought it would be clever for Provenza to have his own bobble-head. Now why on God’s Earth a cop would have his own bobble-head [laughs] … The justification was that his kids gave it to him, or his grandkids. And then, two years later, they made a whole series for everybody – but they looked terrible. So this is the only one [remaining]. Of course, it looks more like Bill Clinton than it does me, but nonetheless …

AX: You have at least one gunfight in the first season of MAJOR CRIMES. You’ve played a number of people who’ve handled guns before, so did you have to do any sort of preparation for that scene,, or by now is that very familiar for you?

BAILEY: You know, we have our prop people – I don’t know how they become certified, but they’re certified in the use of firearms. They have to be. So we really depend on them, completely and totally [for instruction in the use of firearm props]. And we also have Mike Bertram, who’s our consultant, who was in the LAPD for twenty-eight years, Robbery/Homicide detective. And he’s now a producer and writer on the show. So yeah, we have people around us. I’ve played a thousand cops, but if they had to depend on me, they’d be in bad shape, because I don’t know a damn thing about guns. I’m still, “How do we carry them, when do we pull them out?” Last year, [Provenza] actually shot somebody and killed them, and I had to be coached in how I entered the room, because the last thing you want to do is look silly, and you can very easily. They have very specific procedures on how to do that stuff.

AX: Looking back over the life of THE CLOSER, do you have a favorite episode, favorite scene from your seven seasons on that show?

BAILEY: I have a couple of things. I loved the episode with Jennifer Coolidge [“Dial M for Provenza”], when Jennifer was here. I think on the Facebook Friends [fan site for THE CLOSER], they voted it their favorite episode in seven years. That was a fun episode – you can’t be around Jennifer and not have fun. She’s wonderful. I have a favorite moment – it’s probably with Raymond [Cruz as Detective Julio Sanchez]. His brother was killed and he holds it all in and finally at the end of the episode, he finally breaks and it’s with me. We’ve never been written as particularly close, but it’s because of [Provenza’s] age and experience that he realizes, that’s where he feels comfortable emotionally. And so it’s a very, very nice moment.

AX: Do you have any other projects coming up that we should know about right now?

BAILEY: Only Sunshine Kids Foundation. This is our thirtieth year. I’m the executive director of the foundation. We plan and executive group activities for kids with cancer all over the United States. We do national events, local and regional. We finished our New York trip [in July]. We had thirty kids there for a week. Our next major trip [was] in L.A., Labor Day, for a week. The kids [were] here, on this set. We bring kids together from all over the United States and Canada who are presently fighting cancer, and we plan a week’s activities worth and this show, and these people, and the cast and crew and production have been tremendously supportive over these past eight years. We have kids on the set quite often – we’ve had Sunshine Kids, kids with cancer, as background people.

AX: What would you most like people to know about MAJOR CRIMES right now?

BAILEY: I think that they’re going to see the transition is pretty smooth, and while the absence of Brenda Leigh and Chief Pope [played by J.K. Simmons] is tremendous, it’s a dramatic difference, on the other hand, there’s a new dynamic that I think will be fulfilling and fun and entertaining. Will the audience miss them? Of course they will. I miss them deeply. But I also embrace completely and totally the two new characters that we have, Kierran [Giordano as Detective Amy Sykes] and Graham [Patrick Martin as Rusty Beck]. They’re wonderful, wonderful performers and very interesting characters I think the audience will embrace.


Related: Exclusive Interview with MAJOR CRIMES and THE CLOSER star Tony Denison

Related: Exclusive Interview with MAJOR CRIMES and THE CLOSER creator James Duff

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Article: Exclusive Interview with MAJOR CRIMES and THE CLOSER star G.W. Bailey


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