August 13th, 2009 by thetvchick
I am always talking up The Closer. I think it is one of the most brilliant shows on television. Unlike many other detective and crime shows on television, The Closer stays incredibly grounded. The story lines are fresh, captivating, full of twists…and even funny at times. I recently got a chance to chat with Corey Reynolds, who plays Sergeant Gabriel, about his character, his favorite episodes, and what we can expect for the finale to this fantastic season.
I think the thing I find the most appealing about playing Sergeant Gabriel is – officially the character wasn’t written with a minority actor in mind. I think that was something that they decided at the last minute, and I think that one thing that that did for the character is the writing for him and the creation of the character wasn’t confined or defined by his ethnicity. And I really love the idea of playing the good guy and being a young, minority male on television playing a positive role model. And that’s something that I really find the most appealing about it.
You started your career on Broadway in musical theater. What made you change your path and get into film and tv acting?
I got a note from the stage manager one night after a performance of Hairspray, saying that someone wanted to meet me and I came backstage and it was Steven Spielberg.
Yeah, it was pretty cool. And he sat me down and he told me that he enjoyed my performance and he thought that I had “it” and when I was done with the musical, he would find a spot for me in one of his features. So I finished the show July 13th, and the morning of July 14th, a casting director out here in LA called and told me that he (Spielberg) had a small part for me in one of his films—The Terminal starring Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones. And I packed up everything I knew and came out to LA and started all over again.
Wow, that’s impressive.
That’s how it happened.
A big storyline at the end of last season was your relationship with Detective Daniels (Gina Ravera). Is there a big absence without her? Do you think we can see her back in the future?
So far as expecting her back, I am not really sure about that. I don’t really have that much input on the creative aspect of things. But to be honest with you, I felt like it freed up a little bit of the storytelling. I thought that the storyline between she and I wasn’t as clear to viewers. Maybe it wasn’t as explored as it maybe could have been. And for myself as an actor, it really – actually, it made me kind of feel free a little bit when our relationship dissolved. Because some of my choices that I made were based upon the storyline that she and I were together. So now I can make different choices and different performance choices. But she’s very much missed and I think that you do something long enough and somewhere along the way something inside you makes you decide that it’s time to do something else.
One thing I think The Closer is so great at doing is keeping the story lines new and creative. How do you think the show stays fresh while dealing with such serious issues?
Well I think one thing that’s really cool about having the opportunity to be on a show this long is that people evolve. It’s very rare that you’ll find someone who says they’re the exact same person that they were five years ago. So the characters on the show get to evolve. Although some people would consider it kind of business dangerous to have a procedural show be based so much on the characters versus the procedure. So that’s a bit of a risk when it comes to the networks and such because people get attached to the cast and it’s a lot harder to make changes if changes are needed to be made. But I think that’s given us the edge—the fact that the viewers have invested so much in the characters. They’ve gotten to know us so well. I think that’s one of the really unique, special parts of this production is being able to evolve as people. Because in the theater world, I never got to do that. With a Broadway show, you learn the show, and the respect that you pay to the show is performing the same thing every night. Because people who bought those tickets deserve to see that show. But the cool thing about television is that characters change. I can’t imagine what the character Seaweed from Hairspray would be like 5 year later. That would be an interesting character study.
As you were saying, people get attached to this cast—it’s a great cast. And you keep it funny too. That must be hard doing that as well as keeping it serious.
Well, you know the interesting aspect of that is a lot of what’s on the show–[they] really put a lot of time and effort into research. And one of the things that one of the consultants that’s on the show (a Hollywood Homicide Detective) tells us is they have to find humor in things sometimes that other people might not find funny. They live in a very dark world, and one of the things they use to balance themselves, and to keep themselves from succumbing to all the darkness that surrounds them, is finding humor—I mean in everyday moments. I think that’s the really cool aspect of some of the humor that happens on the show. A lot of times—often it’s scripted, but just as often, it’s an ad lib or something that someone does that starts a snowball effect and everyone else feeds off of it. That’s the really beautiful part about acting.
Is it correct that you had a background in security and law enforcement before acting and musical theater?
I did! My very first job that I ever had, I worked at a theme park. I was singing and dancing in the show and then a couple years after working there, the show closed and I needed work, and I ended up working at the park as a park security officer. And I won Officer of the Year (laughs) my first year working there which was kind of cool. And then I worked private security at casinos and at a rehab hospital in Reno, and my stepfather’s a police officer, my father in law is a police officer, my brother in law is a police officer, my wife’s a lawyer. We got a lot of law in the family.
(laughs) Have some of those experiences influenced how you play Sgt. Gabriel?
Oh absolutely. One of my things that I really enjoy is when I meet actually police officers and they say to me “You guys do it like we do it.” You know, there are some shows that I’ll leave unnamed that really blur the line between fantasy and reality. And you know, people who work in this field really know the difference. And they applaud us for what we do. We actually got awarded by the City of Los Angeles for—I think it was for our accurate and honorable portrayal of Los Angeles City Police Officers.
Yeah, it was with Chief Bratton and everybody. I was trying to figure out a way I could put that plaque in my car (laughs) but it just won’t fit in there anywhere.
So if yo
u ever get pulled over, you can say “look I have a plaque!”
If I ever get pulled over, I can be like “dude, I’m down with the Chief!” Doesn’t that count for anything?
(laughs) Yeah you should maybe shrink that plaque somehow and get it in your car.
Yeah, maybe I can find some way to get it on the dashboard.
Speaking of LA, you film a ton on location. What is that like?
I got to tell you, that’s one of the really neat aspects of the show as well because it gives you a chance to see all of the different parts of Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. I mean we’ve filmed everywhere from San Pedro to Palmdale to Akton to Ontario to Santa Clarita to Valencia to East LA, North LA, West Hollywood. I mean it’s really cool because LA’s a big city. And moving here from New York, you know New York is pretty cut and dry. Manhattan is Manhattan—you get your subway map and you can survive there just fine being on the train. But out here it’s a whole different thing so it’s really cool to be able to see different aspects of the city and see all the different communities—it’s really cool. It’s almost like the little communities are like boroughs (in New York).
Do you have any stories of anyone ever stumbling upon a filming a fake murder case or something like that?
A lot of times when we do the night shoots, because there’s all sorts of cop cars, and lights and sirens—a lot of times we’ll get the LAPD helicopter that comes over us and a couple times they have shone down their spotlight to see what the heck is going on and I think what happens is they probably contact dispatch, give them the address, and then they’ll find out there’s production being done there and they circle for a minute and then they fly away. But it’s always the game of “No, it’s okay! There’s no real murder here!” (laughs)
No one really died! It’s all—no trust me this body is going to get up in just a few minutes! He’s just got to take his makeup off and everybody’s fine!
You know one thing I think would be interesting—I’ve noticed in the seasons we’ve been on the show—we’ve never revisited a case from Gabriel’s past. I think that that would be interesting to find out what type of cop he was when he was in Robbery Homicide before he came over to Major Crimes. I think we’ve gone into the back stories of a lot of the other officers as far as some of their previous cases, it would be interesting to me to re-visit one of Gabriel’s old cases and see like for instance, the difference between how he investigated it then and how he would investigate it now.
I would have to say my favorite episode of all time…I don’t know—there’s two of them. We had a really good one this season for me—Episode #3 this season called Red Tape, where my character shoots a suspect and it creates a – I guess I can say this because you’ll just edit it out—but creates a sh**storm (laughs) within the cast. That one was really exciting but I have to go back to Season 3, Episode 4 called Ruby. That one was pretty intense. It dealt with the abduction, rape and murder of an eight year old girl. And my character really took the case personally and actually ended up beating the suspect into confession. And although he got the confession, and they found the body, it threw a monkey wrench in the investigation because it was obtained illegally so you can’t use the information you got from him. It was a pretty intense read. I remember the guy—Keith was his name—he came and was the guest star in the show. And we were at the table read, and I told him at the table read “don’t expect you and I to be too friendly this week.” And of course by the end of the week, it’s impossible to do so, because he’s like one of the coolest people I’ve ever met, and he’s playing just a horrible character. But, that was pretty intense, pretty emotional—it actually turns out he lives right down the street from me, we’ve had dinner several times, he’s a really cool guy. But that week, I couldn’t really have too much to do with him. I could see him as that character and not too warm and friendly and fuzzy.
There’s definitely some intense moments on the show.
We have some intense moments. I guess you could file them under intense for sure.
Without giving away too much obviously, what can viewers expect to see in the rest of the season or is there a big season finale coming up?
Without giving away too much obviously, let me just tell you that the season finale, episode 12…Episode 12 is our season finale, but then we have 3 episodes that will air in the off-season. Episode 12 is directed by Kyra Sedgwick’s husband Kevin Bacon, and it is by far, the biggest stunt episode we’ve done in 5 years. As a matter of fact, probably if you were to add up all of the stunts that we’ve done in 5 years, there’s about as many of them in Episode 12. This is a big, big episode. We were shooting on the weekends which (laughs) is a huge Hollywood no-no but we had to do it, and I think it’s going to pay off big time. Kevin’s a superb director. What’s really cool about him is you can see the mechanics working in his mind as an actor, and then see those ideas get transferred to notes that you can convey through your performance. And as someone who grew up a huge fan of Kevin’s, and Kyra’s for that matter, it just blows my mind sometimes when I’m looking around set, thinking to myself I cannot believe I am sitting here, with these two people, working with them. I mean, Episode 12 is going to rock your world.
(laughs) I hope so!
It’s going to rock your world, I’m just going to put it out there, it’s a world rocker.
Awesome. What is it like working with your ensemble—with Kyra and with JK Simmons and with everyone else?
Well a really cool aspect of it for me is I think something that is kind of unique to me, and not so much with the rest of the cast, is this is my first television show. As a matter of fact, t his is the first pilot I booked. And so I didn’t go to college for this, I’ve never actually taken a singing, acting or dancing lesson in my life. So working with them is kind of like a master class. It’s almost like I’m going to college now and they’re my professors. So you know I can learn, not just stuff from them via their performance but you know, there’s a gracefulness that takes place with this craft. And if you’re lucky, you have someone to show you examples of that. And I’ve been very lucky that –what you learn from people is how to handle yourself when the days get long and how to handle yourself when stuff doesn’t work, how to handle yourself when you can’t remember your lines or something about the story not clicking. The biggest lesson that I’ve taken is just keep watching people like Kyra and GW and Tony and JK and watching guys like that deal with those situations and how they handle them. The acting part is kind of on yourself and the director, but how you carry yourself is something you can learn a lot by watching others. And Kyra’s probably – she’s probably the most graceful spirit I’ve ever worked beside. She’s giving, she’s loving, she honest, and she’s the type of star that when you walk onto the set and you’re ready to do a scene with her, she’s ju
st as eager to see what you bring to the scene, as you are to see what she brings to the scene. And being someone whose guest starred on a couple of other shows out here in Hollywood, I can tell you it’s not always like that. It is not always like that. I think the thing that really works for us if I were to try to sum it up into a sentence is when you walk on the set of The Closer, you walk onto an ego-free zone. We’re all committed to the storytelling and we’re all subservient to the storyline so that’s where we keep our focus. I think it’s one of the little known aspects of why we’ve been so successful. It’s because we like each other and treat each other with respect, and we give all final say to storytelling.
And I think that really shows. You can tell how close the cast is in real life seeing in on the screen.
I think we all share the mentality of—we’re not there to film a television show, we’re not there to live some sort of fantasy. We’re there to create moments and try to make them feel real and genuine, and the cameras are just there to capture it. I think that’s our philosophy.