Kitty Gets a Closeup in "The Closer" with Kyra Sedgwick

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Kyra Sedgewick

Photo: TNT

Kyra Sedgwick broke down weeping when she arrived on set to begin filming the fifth season of TNT's hit show "The Closer" and learned that her character, Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, would be grappling in ensuing episodes with the serious illness of Kitty, her pet cat. Unbeknownst to the show's creator and executive producer, James Duff, Sedgwick had just lost her real-life cat.

"We didn't feel like we had a choice," says Duff, explaining why he decided to make Kitty's illness a major storyline. The cat that played Kitty had, in real life, been diagnosed with a serious kidney condition. "We could replace the cat and keep filming, or we could accept the cat was seriously ill and write it into the story." Duff, who had a cat for 14 years and currently has a 12 year-old dog named Henry, chose the latter option.

"Your pets become your family and when a family member becomes extremely ill, it permeates your life," says Duff. He'd also become attached to the cat that played Kitty -- who debuted in a prior season when Brenda (Sedgwick's character) finds the cat while investigating the death of a Russian prostitute -- and didn't want to replace her.

Though Brenda is not a "pet person" she adopts the cat, simply calling it "kitty," and begins to develop a relationship with her. "A pet is usually not a part of the procedural aspects of a crime show, but it is a part of everyday life for a lot of people and we wanted to show Brenda as an ordinary person," says Duff.

American Humane, the organization that ensures "no animals are harmed" during filming, was present on set when any filming with Kitty took place.

In between catching criminals and extracting confessions, fans of "The Closer" this season will watch Brenda struggle with Kitty's illness in a very human (and relatable) way.

The fifth season of the "The Closer" premieres on the TNT network on Monday, June 8 at 9 p.m. (ET/PT)

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