James Duff is an American television writer, producer and director. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and has written plays and television screenplays. He is credited as the creator of the TV series The Closer and Major Crimes. He is married to Phillip P. Keene, who plays Buzz Watson on The Closer and Major Crimes.
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Hi reddit, I am James Duff and I am a writer. I have created the television shows Major Crimes, The Closer and The D.A. plus written television movies and Broadway and off-Broadway plays. Before I was a writer, I was a stage actor in New York and Texas and G.W. Bailey (Lieutenant Provenza on Major Crimes and The Closer) was my acting teacher!
Be sure to check out the season three finale of Major Crimes on TNT tonight. It is a two-hour finale beginning at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Victoria's helping me out via phone tonight. AMA!
UPDATE: Thank you very much to everyone for taking the time to spend with me today, and for your continued interest and attention to our show. From everyone at MAJOR CRIMES, I express our gratitude. And don't forget to watch us tonight as we say farewell 'til the summer!
In the Christmas episode there was a gift for Sharon hidden in the Christmas village. We were sad that we only saw the gift box and not its contents. Could you please tell us who got this gift for Sharon and what was the gift itself?
Yes. The gift was given to Sharon by Lt. Andy Flynn, and it was a little angel ornament for her tree.
The scene was cut for time.
Hi James thanks for this AMA! Is it random or wanted the parallelism between Andy and Jack lifes? Like Sharon and Andy have lived two similar life, from two different point of view and now they have a second chance?
Yes, all of that is pretty much on purpose. I wanted to give Jack some of the flaws that I felt like Andy had overcome.
Why and how did you choose Mary McDonnell for the role of Sharon? I love her so much and she is just perfect for Sharon, you did a great job casting her and Major Crimes made me a BIG fan of hers, thank you for that too.
It's an interesting story.
I was a big fan of Mary's from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and before, and when it went off the air, Kyra ran into her at an awards banquet, and Mary said she liked the Closer, and Kyra suggested I write a role for her.
So I reached out to her, and worked very hard to create the right part for her. And after a lot of collaboration, we came up with the part of Sharon.
It was partly happenstance. But also, great good fortune. That our first meeting, in the writer's room, I set it up a little like the conference room in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA - where the delegates from all the planets met.
And I kept her title as "President of the Colonies" for her.
I still think that BATTLESTAR GALACTICA Is one of the best shows ever made for television.
Hi James, great to see you here. I usually attend your FB chats under name of Evelyn David. Are we going to see any movement in the Shady storyline tonight or will we have to wait until next season?
Hi Evelyn! Glad to see you here. There will be movement at the end of the episode tonight. It's a grace note. But one worth watching.
Do you and the writers decided the theme for upcoming season 4?
Yes. Next season we're going to be studying the concept of courage, and how that affects our daily lives.
There's not enough bravery in the world today, and we'd like to know why.
Hello from Israel, James!
Thank you for doing an IAMA.
I wonder, are Sharon's parents still alive? And does she have any siblings?
I can't answer the question just yet about whether Sharon's parents are still alive, but she does have siblings. We have not yet seen them.
Tom Berrenger brought something special to Internal Affairs. Will "Jack" continue to be a reoccurring character next season?
Yes. Tom Derringer is Sharon's ex-husband, and I can't see writing him off the series, especially since he's SUCH an amazing actor. He fits in with our company as if he were in every episode. We can't wait to work with Tom again!
Does Sharon have any friends outside of the LAPD?
Also, are Gavin and Sharon friends or is it just an interpretation made by the fans?
Like a lot of single mothers with full-time jobs and 60-hour-a-week responsibilities, Sharon is fairly tied to the department and her family. Naturally, she will have friends at her church, and from schools where her children went... but our storytelling obligates us to find a killer every week... and so sometimes there's a limit to how much of her personal story we can share.
Gavin & Sharon are friends and we hope to see Gavin again someday.
How about making DDA Hobbs a permanent cast member? Fans love her, she is wonderful addition to the team and Kathe is amazing to watch, will be that possible?
Kathe is a brilliant actor and a really good friend. I love her work as much as any fan ever could. She constantly impresses all of us with her skill & professionalism. And nothing would make me happier than seeing her name appear in the dips to black.
How many kid Tao has? We only know about Kevin but often we can see at his desk pictures of two little girls, are they his nieces or daughters?
The pictures of 2 little girls you see on his desk are his nieces. He has 3 sons, all of whom are in college.
I loved it when Mary/Sharon sang The Nutcracker to Rusty. Mary has an incredible voice! Will we hear her singing again in the future?
I don't know if you will hear Sharon singing in the future, but it was fantastic to hear her humming THE NUTCRACKER. And she definitely has a great singing voice. Mary - as probably many people know - can do practically anything, and has been nominated for 2 Academy Awards. So singing should be a breeze. I just don't know how many police captains do it on a daily basis.
Dear James, thank you for taking your time and doing this for the fans of the show! I have few questions. What was your favorite episode this season?
My favorite episode this season for various reasons was the Christmas episode, because I always love the Christmas episodes. From an artistic point of view, I would probably say our episode with Raymond Cruz that we did last week.
Uh that would be the Shandy storyline. Any movement in the Shandy storyline?
Yes, you will see movement tonight near the end of the 2 hour finale in the Shandy relationship.
Hi James - I love Major Crimes and am looking forward to watching the episode tonight! Do you have a favorite character you like writing for best? I love Provenza!
I love Provenza too! And the actor who plays him was my acting teacher in high school, so it's especially fun to write for him. But I also love writing for Rusty, and Sharon, and all the other characters on the show. Probably Rusty is the character who speaks most often in my own voice.
Are we going to see more of Flynn's family? Nicole was a force of Nature even for such a small amount of time as she was on screen, she was able to give some substance to Flynn's family. I wish we could learn his son's name.
We hope very much to have more of Flynn's family next year as we go deeper into all the characters of MAJOR CRIMES and get more personal in relating their pasts.
Is there a chance that Rusty's biological family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousin etc) will surface next season? If they do, will Sharon encourage Rusty to develop relationships with them or not?
Rusty has already met his biological father & his biological mother he knows very well. He will hopefully continue to visit his mother in county jail until she is released. More on this matter... but you're on the right track!
Hi James, thank you for being here. I was very concerned since the first time we hear about a SOB spin-off. If this come true, what about Major Crimes? Will you need to leave one project to devote to another? Love Major Crimes so much so that's really made me feel worried. Thank you so much again... hugs from Brazil.
Please don't worry about an SOB-spin-off as I feel very strongly that my first loyalty would always be to MAJOR CRIMES.
Besides, the further away we get from the SOB storyline, the less likely it seems that we would spin it off.
First of all James, thank you for such an amazing show with quality talent and storyline. My question is do you plan to have Daniel return? I read at one time it was a possibility.
Still a big possibility. But I can say no more.
What does Rusty want to do when he "grows up"?
I think that Rusty wants to be a journalist when he grows up, because I see him writing all the time. We'll see!
Looking forward to the Annie Potts guest appearance. Should be fun? Is she supposed to be a psychic or something else?
Annie Pott's character, Clarissa, would tell you she is NOT a psychic.
I can't tell you anything else because it would give away the plot, except that she was brilliant and fun to work with.
I know it's the show's best kept secret, but can you tell us what is Dr. Morales's first name???
James - can you tell us a little bit about your career before you created The Closer?
Before I created THE CLOSER, I started as an actor, working in the regional theater system in Texas. I did a couple of off-off-broadway plays, and then I segued into writing. My first play for adults was produced on broadway, and pretty much around the world, and though I wrote more theater, I found myself drawn to television. A TV movie I wrote called "Doing Time on Maple Drive" got me an Emmy nomination, and my career in television seemed pretty well begun.
James, why we have not seen Sharon and Tony matching the colors of the clothes so much in winter episode? Hahaha, it is so awesome and cute ♥. Oh, and another thing about Major Crimes DVDs, Season 2 brought no gag reel and it is so good... please, give us some on season 3 DVD and also the deleted Shandy scene on Christmas :(, PLEASE. Thank you very much!!!
I know that everyone wants to see that deleted scene between Andy & Sharon. I hated to cut it because of time. Unfortunately, I have very little to say about what goes on the MAJOR CRIMES DVDs. You'd be surprised at how little executive producers have to do with what happens to their shows after their initial airdate. I wish I could order a gag reel, because they really are very very funny!
How old is Sharon supposed to be?
Sharon is supposed to be in her late 50's.
Who would you like to see on the show as a guest star for Major Crimes?
Of course, we'd love to see Eddie Redmayne and Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep ... but we are mostly happy just to find the best actors working in Los Angeles and give them an opportunity to show their stuff. You'd be surprised at all the talent available here that goes untapped. We make a point of searching out and looking for great & under-used actors.
In season 4 will we learn something more about Amy? For now we know very little about her character. Would you mind saying something about her in here?
Amy was in the military police in Afghanistan. And has a degree in criminal justice. She is probably the smartest person in the division, and very often has to hide a little bit of her intelligence in order not to seem like a smarty-pants. She is played by a gifted & beautiful actor whom i love and adore. And you will be seeing a good deal more of Amy in our next season.
Will we ever see more details on the DVDs of how you do the action sequences on the show, and stunts? They are very involved and well-done.
Thank you for complimenting our stunts & our action. Several times, our stunt coordinator has been nominated for SAG awards for the job he does making us look real and genuine. Our stunts are planned out with the cooperation of real LAPD officers, so we are trying very hard to make them look as authentic as possible. If you knew how many meetings went into getting a single stunt right, you'd probably be shocked by the sheer volume of it all!
Unfortunately, putting more about stunts on the DVDs is not up to me. But I agree with you - they deserve a featurette.
What was Jack's motive in wanting to split the money he won with Sharon?
Jack is trying to get back into his ex-wife's good graces. And knows he's screwed up his life. And is hunting for a way to make things better. Difficult to find after 30+ years of bad behavior. But you have to give the guy credit for trying!
If you could have written any script / created any TV show what would it be and why? I'm a huge Major Crime fan, thanks for such a wonderful show :-)
Of the shows airing right now, I would love an opportunity to write for GAME OF THRONES or DOWNTON ABBEY or in the recent past, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. But I think I more enjoy watching these shows than I would enjoy creating a script for one!
Is there a chance we'll ever see Edward James Olmos, Jamie Bamber and/or Richard Hatch in Major Crimes?
All 3 of these gentlemen are fantastic actors and great & worthy performers whom I admire. I would never say never to any one of them.
What goes in to creating a TV show from the very ground floor of the project?
Briefly, since i want to keep it short: a great concept with great collaborators and a LOT of hard work, joyfully done! I pitch a story and the characters to a network, and a network pitches it back to me, and then I pitch them a story, and then I pitch them how that story morphs into a series, and then I write a script. And then they either pick it up, or they don't.
I wonder, was Sharon written as straight or is there a chance that she is in fact bisexual?
Sharon is absolutely a straight woman. But she has nothing but respect for the LGBT community.
What do you do to get inspired or get ideas for the next project you want to work on? Anything specific?
Thanks for being here today!
I can't wait to be inspired. I write for a living. But I will say that I do find inspiration in the justice system, and how complex and simple it is at the same time. And I have several projects I'm working on but i don't like to talk about them until production begins, because so many things can happen between inception and filming that I hate to promote something if it doesn't happen. And that's due to experiences early in my career, where I was told productions were going forward and then for one reason or another, they did not.
Do you read fanfiction or view any fan-art? If you do, does it inspire you in writing the show?
For legal reasons, I'm not allowed to read fan fiction or spec scripts or any material related to the storytelling of MAJOR CRIMES. But I am thrilled to know that people like the show so much that they commit themselves to this new art form.
We are very flattered by it.
Hi James! Thank you for doing this. I just wanted to ask, Sharon and Andy's relationship started out with dislike and hostility. At what point during The Closer or Major Crimes did you decide or realize that these 2 characters will develop a friendship that could potentially blossom into a special relationship? By the way, the slow burn is both exciting and torturous for us fans. All the best from the Philippines! :)
We always felt like this was a possibility, Sharon and Andy together. And that we always feel like it's a problem - Sharon & Andy together. But we feel determined to explore the nature of romance in middle age. And Tony and Mary are with us 100%.
Could you tell us about Graham Patrick Harris' audition, and how did he stand out among the others? His performances are excellent.
Graham was the last person to audition for the part. And he was the only actor who completely understood it - from the top down. I never intended for the Rusty character to transit from THE CLOSER to MAJOR CRIMES. This is a case of an actor being so brilliant that I could not let go of him - from a writer standpoint, you do not find performers like this often enough to let them slip through your fingers.
In the preview for the season finale, you said that the theme for next season is going to be courage. Can you expose some of the conflicts that the characters will be dealing with in terms of courage?
I think, most importantly, the courage to change.
And the courage to face new challenges.
And to let go of the safety (which is really a mirage) of the status quo is how we are thinking of it.
What can we expect from season 4? Can you give us a little tease?
You can expect a lot of murders! And you can expect to know a great deal more about the character's personal lives, as each of them faces their own demons.
Given his experience with his mother's boyfriends, if Sharon and Andy decide to enter a romantic relationship, will Rusty be supportive of them or will he object?
I think Rusty would be neither supportive nor in opposition to a relationship between Sharon and Andy. I think that Rusty believes such a relationship already exists and they aren't as aware of it as he is.
I really LOVED the gag between Tao and Howard, is Tao now suffering PTSD from ER ride? Are we going to see more of it tonight since Howard will be back? :)
There will be a moment when you see Deputy Chief Howard worry about his heart, and moments when we worry about his heart. The Tao / Howard dynamic is hilarious to me. I also like that Tao is a consultant on a tv show, so very much like Detective Mike who works with me on MAJOR CRIMES.
Will we get to meet Andy's son? Will we see Nicole again?
Of course we want to meet Andy's son & to see Nicole again! this will depend on their schedules, and on our breaking of the stories. But yes, we hope so.
Are we going to see Pope again? I could picture him marching to murder room for maybe a massive Flynn and Provenza shenanigans episode. haha
We would love to see JK Simmons back as Chief of Police Pope. Unfortunately, though, you probably won't be seeing him on MAJOR CRIMES. You will be seeing him on big screens and maybe seeing him win an Oscar for WHIPLASH in which he gives the performance of a lifetime. The only proper response to hearing "JK Simmons wants to work with you" is to say "thank you."
Hi James! Im a big Buzz fan I feel like he totally has a interesting backstory, like maybe a sleeper CIA spy type. When will we see his story? Seriously and yeah I think Josh Lucas would make a new hot detective as well..just sayin'
I agree with you on both points.
We will see a Buzz-centric story next season as he rises up in the ranks of Reserve Police Officers.
Will we see Patrice again? Is it possible that Provenza will get married again?
It is always possible that Provenza will get married again, because he's already been married 5 Times! Sometimes people keep doing something until they get it right. Maybe Patrice is his opportunity to get it right.
We will see.
Hi James, how does it feel to be the creator of such an amazing show? :D
Haha! The truth is - I always feel like it takes about 250 people to create a successful show. And that the real joy I feel comes from my participation in this community.
Hi James - loved The Closer and love Major Crimes. I like that the cast has been able to spread their wings a bit more on Major Crimes. Was it your plan to have the show to be more of an ensemble?
Yes, the plan was to always have the show be more of an ensemble, and to let individual characters rise & fall inside the storytelling from week to week. We are always shifting points of view inside MAJOR CRIMES. During THE CLOSER, the story was always told from Brenda's perspective. Now, in MAJOR CRIMES, the plot can unfold from literally anyone's point of view.
I like this idea. Maybe he should write an autobiography. He has an incredible story to tell. He could ask Sharon to write the intro... :)
Normally, a person has a little bit more life experience before they pen their autobiography. I like where Rusty's story has gone so far, and I hope to continue telling it for a few more years.
In a way, the story is somewhat autobiographical - since the character is somewhat based on me.
I guess it will be difficult of everyone face Stroh tonight but I think the must affected, after Rusty and Sharon, must be Howard since Stroh got to his house and tired to kill his wife Brenda. I guess my question is did Brenda even will mention tonight?
Brenda does not figure into the story tonight. But definitely Deputy Chief Howard has his wife's best interests at heart. And that will be obvious from the very start.
Hi James, it's very nice to watch your show in Europe (my country started airing 1st season this year in August, but I know show since The Closer). I have 2 question: Can you make an episode or maybe a small note about police officers, that are not US Citizen (I know, it's possible for non citizen to join LAPD, I don't know all details)? Will we see end of the story about Bill Croelick and Dennis Dutton in next seasons (Brenda from The Closer didn't catch them)? Sorry for my english. Anna
Your english is fantastic!
We've discussed revising the Bill & Dennis stories. Brenda didn't have their murders to solve because they didn't happen on her watch.
We would like to have a police officer visiting from a foreign jurisdiction of some sort, working with the MAJOR CRIMES unit to catch an international killer. It will be much more likely this coming season than last season.
About ProFlynnza this two are not getting in trouble enough is that Sharon's effect doing? What are the plans for this two in season 4?
Flynn & Provenza always find a way to make a problem bigger! We will see Provenza & Flynn once again encounter a serious problem that they inflate into a crisis. I call Provenza "Kid Kerosene" because there's no fire he can't make bigger!
I'm a huge fan of The Closer and Major Crimes who cannot wait to see what you have in store for us with the latest finale. Two questions:
1. When The Closer was wrapping up, you said that you'd always had a clear vision for how the show would end. Do you have a similar idea of where Major Crimes is going to end up, or are you finding new directions each season as you go along?
2. Are we ever going to see Brenda guest star in Major Crimes?
1) I have a much more open idea of how MAJOR CRIMES could end. If I am given the opportunity to know when it will end. But MAJOR CRIMES is much more diffuse in its point of view than THE CLOSER was, and can go more places than THE CLOSER went. The second it stops being new, we should take it off the air.
2) We have a contract with Kyra to appear in several episodes of MAJOR CRIMES pending her availability and our schedule, and we continue to work to find an opportunity when she can reappear. Kyra and I are very good, close friends. We talk constantly. So it's not just bullshit. Haha!