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Drama Actresses Going for Matching Statuettes

Twice-Nominated Sedgwick, Newcomer Driver Join 2006, '05, '04 Series Winners

Six women of distinction are competing for the lead actress in a drama series Emmy. Last year's winner, "Law & Order: SVU's" Mariska Hargitay, faces off against 2005 winner Patricia Arquette, a contender again for "Medium." Two-time Oscar winner and double Emmy winner Sally Field ("Brothers and Sisters") joins triple Emmy winner Edie Falco ("The Sopranos"). Kyra Sedgwick has won a Golden Globe for "The Closer" and now has back-to-back Emmy nominations for the show. Oscar nominee Minnie Driver is the newcomer, garnering her first Emmy nomination for "The Riches." Whoever wins the Emmy will know that she has bested formidable opposition.

On July 19, when the Emmy nominations were announced live on TV, Ms. Sedgwick was one of the actors chosen to reveal the main categories, and she was grateful to hear her name read. "It could have been a total disaster. But it was great. I was a little self-conscious because I knew everyone was watching and that was nerve-wracking. But I'm really thrilled," said Ms. Sedgwick.

"It sure was different than if I had been lying in bed and got a phone call. It was a little strange, the whole setup. Nauseating, actually. You know, I've been doing this a really long time and I don't think this stuff will ever, ever get old for me," she added. "The whole show and the nominations and everything like the Golden Globes are just beyond my wildest dreams. It's been a great ride."

As Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson on TNT's "The Closer," Ms. Sedgwick gets to play a compelling, complicated character. "I like to play her contradictions. I like that on the one hand she's so incredibly able in her work life, brilliantly so, and then in her personal life, she's so unaware of herself and she's so unreflective," she said. "She's not at all self-analytical and yet she's analytical of everybody else. She can figure out how people tick and read people quickly, yet she hasn't a clue about herself. I love that about her."

Now in its third year, "The Closer" is the highest-rated original series on basic cable, as audiences have responded positively to the TNT drama. "What I like so much about her, and what I think makes everyone respond to her, is her flaws and her struggles and her trying to manage her life," said Ms. Sedgwick. "You know, her personal life and little things like trying to find her car keys, navigating Los Angeles, putting together a decent outfit, having to deal with food and getting older, her body changing -- all these things make her human."

Ms. Sedgwick is most appreciative of her supporting cast, including J.K. Simmons, Jon Tenney, Anthony John Denison and Robert Gossett. "In some ways, they're the reason I enjoy so much going to work. ... They're all so brilliant and bring so much to the table," she said. "Everybody has something really special to give to the show, and after three years the writers are really writing to everyone's character in such a brilliant way that it's making it even more fun to watch. ... In some ways, I feel that we have the audience that we do because people have stuck with us and they've grown with us. We've grown and made everything richer and better."

"The Closer" is different from other police dramas, not only because of its reliance on character over plot, but for its ability to switch effortlessly from comical episodes to dramatic ones.

"It's all about the characters," said Ms. Sedgwick. "This show is character-driven, absolutely, 100 percent. While I think those other shows are fantastic, they are procedural-driven. They're sometimes about the character, but they're not driven by character. They're driven by the story."

Ms. Sedgwick enjoys the comic and serious shows equally, "although in some ways the dramatic ones are exciting. You pick up the script and go, 'This is going to be important.'

"We did a really amazing one recently called 'Ruby,' about a little girl who was missing. They gave us extra time on TNT because they thought it was so special. But sometimes I pick up the comedy ones and I think, 'Can we pull this off'?

"What I think is so amazing," she continued, "is that we're able to go there. And people like it and we're able to keep it grounded. The fact of the matter is, if you talk to these cops, there are a lot of laughs. I mean, you got to laugh or your soul would just shrivel up."

Ms. Sedgwick submitted an episode called "Slippin'," in which Brenda and her squad investigate the murder of two USC students in an apparent gang shooting at the same time that Brenda's struggling to keep her mother, visiting from Atlanta, entertained.

"It was a really good episode, and it was more of a personal story than a gang drive-by," said Ms. Sedgwick. "My mom was in it, too, so there was drama and some comedy in it. I tried to submit something that had both. Next year, for sure, I'd submit 'Ruby.'"

If Ms. Sedgwick wins the Emmy this year, she'll be prepared. "I'll have to have something ready, because last year when I won the Golden Globe, it was the one time I really hadn't brought a speech," she said. "I forgot to thank my cast, and I forgot to thank my unforgettable crew. That can't happen again. I will for sure bring something written."

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