Interview: Tony Denison (2012)

Tony Denison, Major Crimes, The Closer
Actor Tony Denison

With a filmography that dates all the way back to the early 80’s Tony Denison is the kind of actor that brings finely honed experience and hefty gravitas to whatever project he’s in. Longtime fans will remember him as Ray Luca in Crime Story – a role that awarded him TIME Magazine’s “Best Villain of the Decade”. Contemporary viewers will recognize him as Aldo Burrows on Prison Break, and, more recently, as Lt. Andy Flynn on The Closer. Denison is currently continuing his role as Flynn on the spinoff Major Crimes on TNT. Working Authorcaught up the actor to talk about his upcoming film and what it’s like to start a new show with almost the exact same cast.

“It’s like when they say your life exceeds your dreams,” Denison says, “that’s what’s going on right now for me.” He went on to discuss his character and what Kyra Sedgwick’s leaving means for the show. “You know, I love playing this character. I’ve been fortunate enough to play it for seven years, worked with really good actors and had a really good female lead on the show, Kyra. And now Kyra leaves and we go to a really good female lead in Mary McDonnell. And lest people forget, Mary McDonnell was nominated for Academy Awards twice. And that didn’t happen because people felt sorry for her. They did it because she’s really, really good.”

Denison took a moment to share what McDonnell brings to the show, both personally and professionally. “As an actor,” Denison says, “I’m a fan of this business as well as being a member of it. And I’ve always loved her work…. So as an actor it’s wonderful to work with someone whose work you admire. So there’s an extra thrill to it. Obviously I love working with G.W. (Bailey) and there’s this respect we have for one another, and that’s just amazing. But Mary, she’s come into the mix to take over the show and she’s done it. She’s just so strong and so focused, and she’s great to work with. And great to hang out with.”

Fans of both The Closer and Major Crimes will no doubt find that one of the highlights of the show is the dynamic between Tony Denison and G.W. Bailey. In fact, the TNT website has a Top Ten list of best Flynn and Provenza moments. Those scenes don’t happen without great chemistry, and Denison did his best to explain how that comes about. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “Some things you’re born with. I think what it is with G.W. and I is we’ve known each other quite a few years even before The Closer. But we hadn’t seen each other for a while and when we showed up on The Closer together, it was like the conversation of sever years prior picked up as if it was two weeks ago.”

A long relationship is only half the recipe, however; there’s also smart off-script choices and comedic instincts. “G.W., like myself, loves to improvise and think about different things in the scene,” Denison explains, “and so he comes up with a couple of things and we tried them and James (Duff), executive producer, friend to us both, said, ‘I love that stuff.’ And he started writing specifically for that. And I think that gift G.W. and I have is that we both are blessed with…this gift that he can be Abbott and I can be Costello, and then he can be Costello and I can be Abbott…. How rare is that?”

Denison is also in an upcoming film titled Trattoria. While details about how and when the film would release were scarce, Denison was happy to talk about the story and his role. “I play the owner of a restaurant in San Francisco, who’s obsessively married to his restaurant, and he’s already wrecked one marriage, has an estranged son who comes back to visit. And the marriage he has now is good. It’s a very steady, good marriage, but when the son comes in…he gets combative….” Denison expounded more on the bigger picture and what audiences should really take away from the film. “When [people] get caught up in the what they are, everything in their life can suffer, including their health. So it’s really important, I think, as you travel through life, just remember the important thing in life is who you are and not what you are.”