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November 23, 2014

Beau Bridges on His Guest Role as a Transsexual Cop on 'The Closer'

by Leonard Jacobs, posted Dec 11th 2009 5:50PM
Beau Bridges' upcoming guest spot on 'The Closer,' airing Mon., Dec. 14, 9PM on TNT, will fascinate fans of the longtime actor. He plays Det. George Andrews, former partner of G.W. Bailey's crusty and hard-edged Lt. Provenza. About a decade has gone by since they last saw each other and much has changed -- including Det. Andrews' sex change.

The context for the episode involves the Major Crimes Unit reopening an old case in which Det. Andrews figured in prominently. That means Provenza isn't just dealing with Andrews' news but doing so publicly -- to the delight, maybe, of Kyra Sedgwick's Brenda, who is only too happy to forget her own low-simmer turmoil with Jon Tenney's Fritz.Beau Bridges' upcoming guest spot on 'The Closer,' airing Mon., Dec. 14, at 9PM on TNT, will fascinate fans of the longtime actor. He plays Det. George Andrews, former partner of G.W. Bailey's crusty and hard-edged Lt. Provenza. About a decade has gone by since they last saw each other, and much has changed -- including Det. Andrews' sex change.

The context for the episode involves the Major Crimes Unit reopening an old case in which Det. Andrews figured in prominently. That means Provenza isn't just dealing with Andrews' news but doing so publicly -- to the delight, maybe, of Kyra Sedgwick's Brenda, who is only too happy to forget her own low-simmer turmoil with Jon Tenney's Fritz.

How did the opportunity to play this character come to you?
Basically I was sent the script and I read it. I knew Kyra Sedgwick because I worked on a movie with her, 'Losing Chase,' directed by Kevin Bacon. I respect her a lot -- she's a great lady. And I'd seen 'The Closer' and I liked it. And I was intrigued by the script.

This a pretty phenomenal stretch for any actor, I'd think.
There's the uniqueness of the role, absolutely. But I'd also initiated the role of a man who undergoes a sex change in a play by Jane Anderson, 'Looking for Normal,' at the Geffen Playhouse a few years ago. It ended with him being wheeled into the operating room. It's a profound experience to go through. I spoke to people who have taken that path and I have real respect for them. It's a courageous decision.

How much makeup, styling or wardrobe was there to deal with before filming?
There's a closed read-through of each episode before filming starts. So I made a decision to get totally decked out for that because I wanted to get past it for everyone, myself included. I found a dress that was too big on my wife and put it on. I put her high heels on and my wife coiffed my hair, so I went in there like that. When we filmed, I had long hair initially, so we added extensions and the craftspeople, you know, just kind of did me.

The fact that your character is Provenza's former partner raises the stakes, too.
The episode reveals things about his character that fans of the show may be surprised about. In the end, this isn't a story that exists on its own but an episode of 'The Closer' -- meaning there's a history, and we all wanted to be respectful of that.

So what did you think when you saw yourself as a woman?
I've been told I have great legs, for one thing. Although shaving them was kind of weird. It was a bit disconcerting in the beginning to look at myself. I always feel that for any part, that's a magical time -- when you look in the mirror as the character.

Did it inform your acting choices? Did you learn to walk or talk differently?
I knew I didn't want it to be a caricature of everyone who undergoes a sex change. And I didn't want to have laughs at my character's expense. I love humor when I'm in an audience -- I love to laugh -- and the script wasn't afraid to go there. But the humor came out of the relationship of my character with the others in the detective station, especially with G.W. Bailey's character. They were buddies when my character was a man. Now, 10 years later, he's a woman, so some of it is kind of funny.

Was it tough figuring out how not to overplay or underplay?
I think men and women beat with the same heart, so I looked at it as a human experience. At the same time, I recognize that when a person goes through the physical phenomenon of changing their sex, their way of speaking, their hormones -- a lot of changes go on. So I wanted to reflect that to be personal to me, not a general characterization. I consciously raised my voice because that's what happens. Mostly, though, when you take a role that's a bit of a departure, it becomes a leap of faith. Fortunately it isn't something you do alone but with your fellow actors, and here they were very accommodating.

Did you research?
Yes. And one thing that really became true for me is the realization they're like any other niche of people. You can look at all race car drivers, all mountain climbers -- there's a wide spectrum of individuals who fill that niche. It's the same with those who have sex operations. I once met a person who was very feminine, quite beautiful in an almost Hugh Hefner-type way, all coiffed, heavily made up. Then I met a person who had been a fire chief: really long hair, very much a woman, but with firm handshake. It eased my mind about this. I also believe men have a feminine side and women have a masculine side. I pick out all my wife's clothes. I hate men's clothes and never shop for myself. And high heels are brutal. I told my wife I'm never going to complain again that she has to hurry up.

Last question: What is Provenza's first name? We hear you call him by it on the episode.
You'll have to watch to find that out.

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