'Closer's' Jon Tenney in 'King & Maxwell'
Clearly, TNT loves Jon Tenney.
And the feeling is mutual, since the actor has worked for the cable network for the better part of the past decade. After his long run as FBI Special Agent Fritz Howard -- longtime friend and eventual husband of Kyra Sedgwick's Brenda Leigh Johnson on "The Closer" -- Tenney stars in a new TNT crime drama when "King & Maxwell" premieres Monday at 10 p.m.
He and Rebecca Romijn play Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, former Secret Service agents now partnered as private detectives. The characters originated in bestsellers by David Baldacci, and they're odd-couple opposites: He's more refined, while she's the streetwise one.
Tenney says his conversations with TNT about "King & Maxwell" began as "The Closer" was winding down. "I felt my piece of that puzzle was primarily the personal relationship," he explains. "As the focus shifted away from that, because Kyra was no longer going to be there, I wondered how much there would be for me to do [on 'Major Crimes']. And then, they sent me this script. "I had not read any of David's novels about King and Maxwell, but I certainly had seen them. I mean, every time you walk through an airport, there they are. As soon as I read the script, I got into the novels as well, and all the elements seemed to come together to make this a fun thing to do."
Much of that hinges on the stars' teamwork. ""We did a series of 'chemistry reads,' and we clicked right away. We fell into a conversation about kids and this business, and we just got along," Tenney says of Romijn.
Having "NCIS" producer Shane Brennan's presence on the team is a big plus, Tenney says. "You always want to know you have somebody at the helm who knows what they're doing," he says, "and he certainly has a tremendous track record. Shane obviously has been successful, but I sensed in him a real excitement to do something different from what he's been doing.
"When he was on the set with us when we filmed the pilot, there was one night when it was very late, and we were doing a scene at this abandoned warehouse. It was cold, and everybody was sort of slogging through it, but he had this glee about him, that was out in the trenches making this show. I saw this kind of excited kid, and that got me excited."
For fans of the King and Maxwell novels Tenney says, "We're going to be true to them on one level, then we're going to go way beyond them as well, hopefully.
"It's really a work in progress," he continues. "Each day, we're saying things like, 'Oh, I see. This is a good way to go.' We're going to have fun stories and exciting plots, but it's ultimately going to be about the relationship between these people."
Past law-enforcement roles have worked as prep for Tenney to a certain extent. "One of the fun things is that while these people come from the same background, they share an ignominious dismissal from the Secret Service . . . that wound, if you will.
"They approach things very differently. Maxwell is that kind of gung-ho, good-with-a-gun adrenaline junkie, and King is much more a man of words: 'I can talk us out of this. I can figure this out.' He prides himself on his brains over his brawn, and we're hopefully using that to some comedic effect."
Tenney, who has also been on "The Newsroom," "Brothers & Sisters" and "Brooklyn South," is clearly no stranger to television. "I think most actors will say they always feel like they'll never work again," he reflects. "In between jobs, you think your luck has run out, but they keep on letting me do what I love to do. I really can't complain."