Corey Reynolds (The Closer)

Corey Reynolds: The Interview (The Closer)

Corey Reynolds was nominated for a Tony for his performance as "Seaweed" on the broadway production of Hairspray.

Closing in on it's final season, The Closer remains one of the most popular and well-received television shows on air. Shakefire was lucky enough to sit on down with The Closer star Corey Reynolds (Sgt. David Gabriel) in Atlanta to discuss the show, World War II, Kyra Sedgwick and...Steven Spielberg?

SHAKEFIRE: Can you give us a little tease of what's to come in the sixth seasons' final episodes?

COREY REYNOLDS: Sure. I think the thing that's most poignant for my character is for the first time in the series, Brenda's (Kyra Sedgwick) instincts are wrong about a suspect and my characters' instincts are right and he goes over her head to Pope. And she's not too happy about it. But ultimately, Gabriel is right in the end and I think that's pretty big thing to happen to our show. It's not too often that Brenda is wrong and another squad member is right. Mary McDonnell, Captain Raydor, will be making some more appearances and Brenda's parents are going to announce their moving to Los Angeles. So there's some things that are going to take place. They're gonna announce that. 

SF: I know one of the things that separates The Closer from other shows is that this is hugely based on human characteristics and it's really a human show-

CR: Which is risky, for a show.

SF: It is. 

CR: You know, you want audiences to really feel the characters so you really need those actors. I think shows begin to design structurally to remove that element, really. You don't really go home with those characters. You don't see them waking up in their bed, dealing with personal issues on top of the cases. I think that kinda gives us the edge, I think that's why part of the reason we've been successful is that we've given the audience insight, personally, to all these characters and their investments. And that's something cool to identify with. 

SF: Have you found yourself identifying with your character, Sgt. David Gabriel?

CR: Oh, there's a lot of me in Gabriel. I think any actor who tells you there's not part of them in their character is either lying to you or to themselves. I think you have to have an element of yourself there. You know, I worked in private security for a while. My father-in-law is a former Michigan State Trooper, my brother-in-law was a Michigan State Trooper and my former step-father was also an officer, so I've had a long, entrenched realm of cops around me and the only beef they give me is they think I make more pretending to be a cop then they make being real cops. So that's always a fun thing to talk about at family reunions. But, I love it. I think there's a lot of me in this character. 

SF: From the episodes I've seen, the one thing you have down is that stone-cold stare. 

CR: *Laughs* Well, it's funny you say that cause if you don't find a way to say something without saying anything, a lot of times, you won't get a moment. You have to find ways to non-verbally communicate how you feel. And that "cop-stare". *Gets in character, sighs* "My God", you know? Those are the different phases, I think, MY phases for cops are confusion, disgust, and determination. Those determine your emotions. That first, "What happened? Oh, that's disgusting! Now I'm gonna get 'em!", you know? Those are the three phases I think determine a TV cop. 

SF: The history you have with acting is pretty expansive. You didn't start with TV and your first feature film was Steven Spielberg film?

CR: Yeah, that was kinda cool. I was actually in Hairspray on Broadway and I got a note from the stage manager one night saying someone wants to meet me and I came backstage and it's Steven Spielberg. And he's like "How ya' doing? I'm Steven Spielberg." And I'm like "Motherfucker, I know who you are!" *laughs* Then, he told me, "Sometimes I see someone on television, on a commercial or, in your case, on stage, someone who I think has 'it'. And I think you have 'it'. I love what you've done here and I'd like to try to find something for you in one of my projects." I finished up July 13th and on July 14th, Debra Zane, the casting director in L.A called and said "We've got a small part for you in 'The Terminal'. Do you want to come out here and do it?". I packed up everything I had, sold everything I couldn't pack and moved to L.A. 

SF: For a Steven Spielberg film to be your first...

CR: Yeah, it was like a master class. I've been a fan of Tom Hanks my entire life, seriously, since "Bosom Buddies". So, the thing that I think was most valuable about that experience is that they are the bar of excellence. Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg. They are on another level and when I came to the set and I was talking with them, they were so real and so genuine. I mean, Steven first came to the set in a helicopter. It was bad ass. I said "Dude, you have a helicopter!" And he's like "Well, we own an eighth of it, we share it with other people" and I'm all "YOU CAME TO WORK IN A HELICOPTER, SON!". But you know, even with that type of clout, he knew the name of everyone. From the guy who took cars out in the parking lot to craft services to the P.A's to the background people, he was so touchable from an untouchable status. And I really felt like that was something I could learn. Had I moved out to L.A after Hairspray and the Tony nom and not seen [Spielberg treating us that way], it'd be easy to lose your ego. One thing I learned working with Tom and Steven is the two men who could have the ego of Gods if they wanted, don't. And that was a great lesson to learn: That you could be talented, be good at what you do, gifted and respected all at the same time. I like to think that's why they are as successful as they are and their abilities are what their spirit holds. 

SF: Is that the advice you'd take from that or did Tom or Steven have any specific advice to you? 

CR: You know what, I asked him. I was sitting down, reading a newspaper one day and we were in between scenes and out of the corner of my eye, here comes Tom Hanks. Sits down, he brought two hot dogs, handed me one, sat down besides me and said "What are you reading?". So, we sat there and read the paper and I asked him, "Let me ask you something: I've never had a singing, dancing, acting lesson beyond public school. Do you think I should look into something like that?". Without hesitation, Tom says "No. Because if what you're doing now are your instincts, your instincts have brought you here, where you are. You're working with Steven, you're working with me, all based on your instincts. You go into lessons with someone and you could have them second-guess what's, as of now, coming naturally to you. So no, I wouldn't recommend that. Keep doing what you're doing, don't doubt that." And I was like "Alright, Tom Hanks says don't go to acting class, so I'm not going to acting class." It was a great experience, it's really hard to put to words how wonderful of an experience it was. 

SF: And you have some incredible actors with you in The Closer. How do you enjoy working with Kyra Sedgwick and J.K Simmons?

CR: The thing about Kyra is that there is a tremendous amount of art intimidating life. My character is kind of mentored by her, like personally mentored by her. She'll say "It's easy being breezy when things are getting easy". But when things become difficult or the shots aren't working or the days are longer than expected or you aren't getting the performance you want out of someone, that's the time that you see what people are really made of and what I've learned from her is be graceful and kind in moments where you don't feel graceful or kind, where you'd feel frustrated and angry. And J.K is the exact same way. These guys are really, really great at what they do and I just try to suck up as much knowledge from them as I can. 

SF: Aside from the acting, you're a screenwriter as well.

CR: That's what I like to-..For the longest time, I thought of myself as an actor who could write. But what I thing I've discovered in the past two years is that I'm actually a writer who can act. So that's where I put all of my energy when I'm not on the show. A lot people always ask me why they don't see me in more movies or yada, yada, yada. First and foremost, I don't want to just take any part. I got a thing going for me right now and It doesn't put me in a position where I have to do something I don't have to do. But this show has been a gift in the sense. The characters are everything I want them to be. Gabriel is college-educated, he's talented, he's moral and he's a minority which is not...I don't want to say "the norm", but it doesn't happen as frequently as I feel like it should. So I'm trying to do my small part of what's expected from minority actors, writers and directors. I think that it's time to take things to the next level. 

SF: And I heard you were working on a script called...

CR: "Triple Nickels"! "Triple Nickels" is a story about Americas' all black division of paratroopers. It takes place in World War II. Japan, they'd use these miniature hot-air balloons called Fugo's. They'd launch them from Japan and they'd ride the pacific air-current and as the balloons cooled and lowered, a barometric meter which when switched would release a bomb. And when that bomb was released, the weight of the bomb being released allowed the balloon to go back up so when it cooled and sunk again, another bomb would drop, go back up and so on. So when the last bomb dropped, a demolition charge would destroy the balloon. So the United States government didn't even know how these things were happening and how these caused huge forest fires from California up to Oregon up to Washington and as far east as Michigan. And they didn't want Japan to know these bombs were getting here because they were afraid they would dip them with biological weapons. So, they had to find a way to put out these forest fires being created by these bombs and they put the Nickels in service who were trained as paratroopers and train them as Americas' first smoke-jumpers and they would go into these fires, extinguish them, they would disarm the bombs. They played a really integral part during World War II and no one knows this story. The Fugo bomb was the first intercontinental weapon in world history. So there's a lot of precedent that takes place in the story and it was brought to my attention by another writer friend and I fell into it. Hook, line and sinker. I ended up opting the script from him. I basically..Well, he wasn't too happy about it, gutted the script. He sort of portrayed them as "bad news bears"-ish, like they stumbled their way upon the finish line. And I didn't think that was the right tone for a story of this magnitude. I tried to go back into it, redesign the characters, redesign the storytelling to make it more appealing and to make it more honest. So that's what's happening now. 

SF: Are you planning on this being a movie or a series?

CR: I'm doing series, as well! I've actually pitched two shows to networks. And when you say stuff like that, people are like "Oh, you pitched two shows, they must have sucked". Well, that's not necessarily true. Sometimes, you're looking at the lay of the land. Like at this moment, what are other networks doing? How can you keep pace or leap-frog this? In my little toolbox, I have..."The Nickels" complete and about two other scripts that are about 75% complete and four other television shows that are completely developed. So, I'm gonna pretty mobile. You can decide if you want to leave a footprint or leave a legacy. I want to leave a legacy. And I think, given how things have gone so far, life becomes difficult when you don't listen to what it's telling you. And life is telling me to do this, because it's what is in my heart. So all I can try to do is do me. 

SF: What can we expect from Sgt. David Gabriel in the on-coming season of The Closer? 

CR: Well, I'd like to think that we'll continue to see his investigative skills grow, we'll continue to see Brenda trust his instincts more. You know, it's hard to tell, because we have an overall theme for season seven and it's "love". Which isn't necessarily the love of another person, but things that people love which are money, power, prestige, all of those things. Not being in the writers room at the moment, that's all I can say about the next season. What I can say about what I hope to see is to see Gabriel take the lead in some cases a little more. I think it'd be a good way to kind of show fans that he's continued to learn from Brenda. Cause, I think, in the beginning, it was very black and white. There was no grey area. I think that what he's learned from Brenda is that when the endgame is to catch the bad guy, sometimes you have to have a little wiggle-room to do it and I don't think he was open to that in the earlier seasons. Now, I think he understand that, fuck, it's only a foul if the ref throws the flag. *laughs*. Other than that, you gotta do what you gotta do to get the bad guy and I think that's probably a good thing for him to learn. I think he was a little romanticized in the beginning. 

SF: I'm seeing a lot more trust now than in the beginning.

CR: Yeah, and to think of what all these characters have been through. Jesus Christ. They've been shot at, blown up. If you were to have that experience in real-life with someone, it would create a bond that would probably never be severed. And I think that's kind of what we see between these characters. And just like Brenda says to Gabriel when he goes over her head, "I'm always on your side. Always". And I think that's true. I think in this particular instance, when he goes over her head, that he's still on her side in the sense of wanting to get the right person and I think he can sense that, for whatever reason, she was being influenced in a way that was pointing her in the wrong direction.

Ryan Sterritt
Interview by Ryan Sterritt
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