Brenda Leigh Johnson

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Brenda Leigh Johnson
First appearance Pilot episode
Last appearance The Last Word
Created by James Duff
Portrayed by Kyra Sedgwick
Gender Female
Occupation LAPD Deputy Chief
Family Willie Rae Johnson (mother); deceased
Clay Johnson (father)
Spouse(s) Unnamed husband (divorced)
Fritz Howard (2009–)
Relatives Charlene "Charlie" Johnson (niece)

Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (portrayed by Kyra Sedgwick) is a fictional character featured in TNT's The Closer. The character heads the Major Crimes Division (formerly the Priority Homicide Division) of the Los Angeles Police Department. She is portrayed in the series as an intelligent, determined, and exacting woman. The character has a tendency to offend people involved in her cases and coworkers, but is given powerful skills to determine the facts of a crime, compel confessions and close cases. Thus, she is "a closer".

The character is critically acclaimed. She earned seven consecutive nominations for Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama (winning once), five consecutive nominations for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (winning once) and seven consecutive nominations for Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series.


In the series, Brenda's parents are Clay and Willie Rae Johnson. Her father was a career officer in the U.S. Air Force,[1] now retired. She graduated from Georgetown University.

The character spent seven years with the Central Intelligence Agency, four years with the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPD), and three-and-a-half years with the Atlanta Police Department before moving to the LAPD.[2] She grew up traveling from base to base with her father. Her parents were both Southerners, who retired to Atlanta.

During season two, Johnson celebrated her 40th birthday.

Washington, D.C.[edit]

While living in Washington, D. C., Brenda was trained as an interrogator by the CIA. After joining the MPD, she became involved with her married boss, Will Pope.[3] After refusing to leave his wife, Pope broke up with Brenda. However, he later divorced that wife to marry his next wife, Estelle.[4] During this time, Brenda also met Fritz Howard, an FBI agent then working in D.C. who transferred to Los Angeles 3½ years before the show begins. Thus, Fritz left D.C. for L.A. slightly before Brenda left D.C. for Atlanta. Fritz knew about Brenda and Pope's relationship in D.C.[3]

Atlanta, Georgia[edit]

Next, Brenda was a captain with the Atlanta Police Department.[3] Her then-husband made false allegations of her having had an affair with a younger police officer, which resulted in an ethics investigation while she was a member of the APD. Brenda believed that her husband did this because he was jealous of the time she dedicated to her work. The marriage was a difficult one and they divorced soon afterward.:[3]

After being cleared of the ethics violation, Brenda decided to seek a new job. She was offered a job with Homeland Security, but decided to decline the offer so that she could head the LAPD's new Priority Homicide Division.

Los Angeles, California[edit]

Brenda's friend (and former lover) Assistant Chief Will Pope was responsible for Brenda's coming to the LAPD and is again her boss. His motivation in wanting her for the job was because the squad's failure to provide cases the prosecutors could win.[3]

During her first case, Brenda is told she will not be able to obtain DNA results from the LAPD for many weeks, so she contacts associates at the FBI. Fritz notices that the results are for Brenda and personally delivers them.[3] Brenda and Fritz later become involved and eventually marry.[5]

The renaming of the Priority Homicide Division as the Major Crimes Division in the middle of Season Four coincides with an expansion of the types of crime investigated by the division, from only sensitive, high-publicity murder cases, to those including also rapes and robberies (and potentially other types of crime).

In 2012, Deputy Chief Johnson retired from the LAPD and took a job as Chief of the Los Angeles County District Attorney Bureau of Investigation.[6]

Work life[edit]


Brenda's character's trademark is her "honeyed Georgia cadence", and her catch phrase is "Thank you; thank you so much." (Her "Thank you" is pronounced approximately, "Thank yew!".)

In the pursuit of justice, the character is willing to use the Russian mob or the Mexican prison system to stop criminals she cannot capture.[7][8]

Brenda is portrayed as a severe workaholic, who routinely focuses on her cases to the exclusion of everything else around her, a habit that frequently clashes with both her professional and personal lives, and relationships. She tends to micromanage her investigations and closely examine details. Her character has a love of junk food and sweets, especially Ding Dongs, but is seen trying to reduce that dependency. She usually hides all types of junk food in drawers, purses, and other places. She is also known to be a "bit of a slob", commenting in one episode that she does not get around to housework every day; and in another episode, during a small argument with Fritz over where her mail is, Fritz comments that "if she looked at her mail daily instead of once a week, she would know where they keep it".

Brenda's character also seems to be shy of change, perhaps due to her previous bad relationships. She is initially wary of Fritz's moving in with her and even more reticent when they talk of buying a house together, but Fritz uses desperate measures to convince her otherwise. She is also seen to often adhere to traditional values, and is overwhelmed when Fritz talks of having children after her pregnancy scare in season 2, because "they aren't married yet, and there's a certain order to things." She speaks of wanting to protect against future unplanned pregnancies for the same reasons. When Fritz's character proposes she accepts with no hesitation.

Problems (Professional, Personal, and Health)[edit]

When Brenda first starts leading the Priority Homicide Division, the squad give her a cold reception. En masse they apply for a transfer in support of the former head of the division, then-Captain, now-Commander Taylor. She dismisses the lack of acceptance and literally throws their applications into the trash can right in front of them. Her peers in the department are also resentful of the rank she was given when she joined the LAPD.[3] Compounding this, her character manages to alienate the FBI and the L.A. District Attorney's office. However, she eventually earns Taylor's respect by solving the murder of his family friend's son.[7]

Brenda is attacked in an early episode in Season One, while investigating a victim's house. The principal suspect attacked Brenda, whom he mistook for the victim, who had supposedly posted a message online saying that she wanted to be raped. Fortunately, Brenda was able to get to her gun in time and avoided the sexual assault, though she suffered some physical injury and was badly shaken by the experience. Following a call from Fritz, during which she struggles to disguise how much the incident has upset her, Fritz shows up at Parker Center to take Brenda home and take care of her for the night, an early sign of his strong feelings for her.

Pope divorce proceedings[edit]

Chief Pope and his estranged wife, Estelle, eventually divorce. While undergoing divorce proceedings, Pope asks Brenda to go through a deposition at his custody hearing. She agrees to do so.[9] Pope gains custody of his children and Estelle, furious at Brenda for her deposition, forces her way up to the Squad Room and yells at Brenda, in front of everyone, that "she better not find out that she is sleeping with Pope again". As a result of this, everyone present in the squad room, including Commander Taylor, learn that Brenda's character had previously had an affair with Pope. They all begin to ask themselves the inevitable question, "was she transferred here and given such a high rank due to her relationship with Pope?"[10] Brenda is embarrassed by what happened and refuses to talk about the subject. Commander Taylor later makes a statement in front of the entire squad about what had just taken place. He discredits what Estelle had said and states that Brenda was falsely accused. Brenda later gathers all the pictures and memories of her past relationship with Pope and throws them out in the office trash.[10]

Parker Center shooting and administrative leave[edit]

Near the end of season two, Brenda's character is put on administrative leave (with pay) because of a shooting that occurred in Parker Center. While investigating the death of a former mob hitman's wife and an FBI agent, Brenda realizes that it was the hitman himself (a mob informant for the FBI) who killed his wife when he learned she had had an abortion. The hitman and his wife had been in FBI protective custody at the time. However, unknown to him, another FBI agent had helped the hitman's wife go to a doctor to have an abortion. When the hitman discovers this, he fatally shoots the FBI agent in question in the murder room by grabbing detective Lt. Provenza's gun out of his desk, and taking him hostage. During the resulting standoff, Det. Sanchez shoots the mob informant four times, fatally wounding him.

While Johnson is on administrative leave, her squad is taken over (and basically dismantled) by Commander Taylor, a character with whom she has had a difficult and quarrelsome relationship. She is contacted by an old CIA friend to investigate (secretly) the death of an Arab teenager, due to potential links to terrorism and a possible traitor within the CIA. She solves the case (her way), and recovers her squad.

Brenda's character is wary of her very Southern and traditional parents finding out about her living with Fritz. One way that this is shown is by her and Fritz maintaining separate phone lines. In season 2, when Brenda's mother comes to visit, Fritz is forced to wait until her mother leaves before he can move in with Brenda and both have to constantly hide their relationship. Finally, as Brenda's mom is about to leave, she reveals that she knows of the relationship and approves, but won't reveal it to Brenda's father. In season 3, Fritz accidentally picks up the wrong phone and ends up talking to Brenda's father. Brenda is furious and fearful of her dad's reaction, especially because he will not talk to her and says that he sent a letter. Brenda mentions that the last time she got a letter from her father was when she got a B in college. Her character responds emotionally when she finds out that her dad's letter is of forgiveness and happiness for her, and not anger.

Medical history[edit]

In the third season, it is revealed that Brenda is ill, which increasingly alarms her squad and Fritz. Her symptoms include hot flashes, mood swings, nausea, cramps, and dizziness. Her cases and her own reluctance keep her from seeing a doctor immediately, despite Fritz's attempts to make her go. Finally seeing a doctor, she is given a preliminary diagnosis of menopause. In the emotional upheaval that follows, Fritz proposes marriage. The following episode reveals that she actually suffers from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, so she undergoes more tests to ensure that it is not cancer. Finally, she is told that her condition is reversible by means of ovarian drilling, and that she will be able to have children, much to the excitement of her parents, and her mother in particular.

Brenda's character is also attacked with a cattle prod in the third season and held captive, escaping after she shoots the suspect. In the next episode, the department psychologist deems her unfit for active duty after Brenda shows no concern about her attack, her parents' impending visit, her and Fritz's recent engagement, their search for a house, and her medical problems. In that same episode, she is caught in the crossfire of an assassination of an investigative journalist. The journalist is killed and his cameraman badly injured, but Brenda and Sgt. Gabriel escape relatively unscathed.

Stroh Case: Brenda's unclosed investigation[edit]

By the end of season four (episode 4.13: "Power of Attorney"), Major Crimes Division is investigating a murder linked to six counts of rape. On their hands, they have Chris Dunlap, a thirty-something year old who was found hiding in a tree the night of the murder. When Brenda nearly gets a confession, she is interrupted by the arrival of Dunlap's attorney, Phillip Stroh (Billy Burke). After having been caught in several of Stroh's tricks, such as being forced to open up her case to him by Deputy District Attorney Martin Garnett, Brenda gets Dunlap to confess to being the accomplice in the rapes. When she learns that Dunlap never participated in the crime, and asks him who was committing the crimes, she is shocked that he accuses his lawyer, Phillip Stroh. Brenda, however, is outsmarted by the clever attorney, and doesn't get a confession from him; moreover, the warrant put on Stroh's home serves no good leads, leaving the case open.

When Brenda becomes overly obsessed with her only unclosed investigation, she starts to have terrifying nightmares of Stroh's breaking into her apartment and attacking her, (episode 5.8: "Elysian Fields"). Brenda's free time is committed to solving the case on her own, which crosses over into the time that Fritz would like to spend with her.

In the series finale, episode 7.21 titled "The Last Word" (2012), two men trysting in a secluded park witness a masked man carrying a naked woman's body and flee the scene. The culprit chases and struggles with one of them (teenaged survival sex prostitute Rusty Beck), who pulls off the culprit's mask and uses his john's cellphone to dial 911 to report the crime. Brenda and her team find the body and use the clues found at the serial killer's burial ground and through the phone call to track down the two witnesses and tentatively identify the culprit as Stroh. To positively identify Stroh and close her final case, however, she must employ nontraditional means that ultimately cost Brenda her job and come close to costing Beck and Brenda their lives. Brenda lures Stroh to reveal himself by publicizing in the media pictures of Beck wearing the serial killer's mask as a hat and phoning 911, along with the audio and transcripts of that call. Stroh takes the bait, approaching Beck on the street, and is hauled into an investigation with MCD. There, Brenda threatens that she has his DNA, and Stroh, revealing he closely follows every detail of her life, taunts Brenda about her mother's recent death. Brenda takes advantage of that opportunity to attack him, drawing blood and skin fragments, that she and her friend at the DA's office convince the crime lab to match against DNA taken from Stroh's mask. That evening, when Fritz has left for Washington, D.C. to expedite the case, Stroh breaks into Brenda's house, holds Beck at knifepoint, and attacks Brenda. Brenda shoots him, but - although tempted as well as urged by Beck to kill Stroh - her character is haunted by memories of the Turrell Baylor case and her own conscience and calls an ambulance, instead. Stroh offers a confession, but Brenda uncharacteristically does not want to hear it. This reflects a new kind of "closer", reflecting that she has learned from her mother's death and from Beck's comments and life story and must instead focus on the living, not the dead.[11]

Personality and idiosyncrasies[edit]

  • Brenda's favorite drink is a "big glass of Merlot".(Episode 1:2: "About Face")
  • Brenda got her house, and her cat, from a murder victim whose case she solved.[7] The cat is female and named "Kitty", though, comically, she always refers to Kitty with male pronouns (he, him, etc.) because she thought that the cat was male until she gave birth to kittens. Kitty has to be put to sleep in the third episode of Season 5 because of old age and health problems, and Brenda is very upset over the loss of the cat. Fritz gets Brenda a kitten named "Joel" at the end of Season 5; ironically, now that she actually has a male cat, Brenda occasionally refers to Joel as "she".
  • Brenda speaks "German, Russian, and [is] fully conversant in Czech"; however, she does not speak Spanish. Thus she feels somewhat at a disadvantage in Los Angeles.[12]
  • Brenda loves junk food and sweets and hides all types of junk food in drawers, purses, and other places. One of her favorite sweets are the old fashioned tin foil wrapped Ding Dongs by Hostess.

Awards and decorations[edit]

The following are the medals and service awards fictionally worn by Deputy Chief Johnson.

Policemedal.JPG LAPD Police Medal for Heroism
Lifesavingmedal.JPG LAPD Police Life-Saving Medal
PMAM.JPG LAPD Police Meritorious Achievement Medal
LAPD Sharpshooter Medal


  1. ^ Brenda, in dialogue, Ep. 608. "War Zone," which first aired August 30, 2010.
  2. ^ "Ep. 104, Show Yourself"
  3. ^ a b c d e f g 1:1, "Pilot"
  4. ^ 1:2, "About Face"
  5. ^ 4:15, "Double Blind"
  6. ^ 7:21, "The Last Word"
  7. ^ a b c 1:3, "The Big Picture"
  8. ^ 1:9, "Good Housekeeping"
  9. ^ 2:10 "The Other Woman"
  10. ^ a b 2:12 "No good deed"
  11. ^ "On TV: THE CLOSER series finale recap (Thank yew!)". Lisa Tolliver On Air and Online. 14 August 2012. 
  12. ^ 1:13, "Standards & Practices"

External links[edit]