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TNT 'Raising the Bar' with 'Grace' and 'The Closer'

  • Story Highlights
  • TNT has a summer lineup that includes popular dramas
  • Acclaimed actress Holly Hunter returns as star of "Saving Grace"
  • Kyra Sedgwick's "The Closer" enters fifth season on network
  • Mark-Paul Gosselaar still loves "Zack," but enjoys role in courtroom drama
By Lisa Respers France
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(CNN) -- Holly Hunter doesn't take roles based on what she thinks viewers want to see.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar is back for a second season in TNT's courtroom drama "Raising the Bar."

Holly Hunter plays a tough detective grappling with issues of faith in TNT's "Saving Grace."

"I have, frankly, very few expectations when it comes to audience," the acclaimed actress said. "I've done features, I've done stage and I've done television movies."

"I'm used to having the experience of perhaps missing an audience where your feature, for some reason or another, may not have a large audience, while some of my features have found large audiences, so I am used to both. My expectations are adaptable and they are low."

Hunter need not worry, because she has a hit on her hands with TNT's "Saving Grace," which is soon to debut its third season.

The television drama follows the decidedly messy life of Oklahoma City Police Detective Grace Hanadarko, who lives and works hard while being shadowed by a no-nonsense angel.

The premise may sound unusual, but it is just that originality that attracted Hunter, an Academy Award winner whose eclectic career has included projects as varied as the films "Raising Arizona," "Broadcast News" and the animated "The Incredibles." See the significant roles Hunter has played »

The actress said she continues to be attracted to playing Hanadarko because it allows her to explore emotions and attitudes that a lot of roles these days simply aren't offering.

"She wants to have conversations about sex, she wants to have conversations about faith," Hunter said. "She is very comfortable with the darkness in herself and with the darkness in others and I want to talk about that. There are not a lot of opportunities to have that conversation in features."

It isn't surprising that Hunter was able to find such a rich, creative playground at TNT.

The network (which is owned by the parent company of CNN) has carved a niche for itself as a destination for critically acclaimed and popular dramas.

That reputation has been strengthened by the popularity of shows like Hunter's as well as the program many credit with raising TNT's game, "The Closer."

That show's fifth season kick's off the network's summer schedule on June 8. Star Kyra Sedgwick said Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson is in for some changes now that she's married -- though she will maintain the edge that fans have come to love.

"I think the character continues to be great at her job and struggles in her personal life and issues surrounding the possibility of having children come up," said Sedgwick. "I think it's hard for someone who sees a lot of darkness in the world and deals with the darkest part of humanity to believe in the benevolence of the universe and the safety of a world to bring kids into."

Like Hunter, Sedgwick said she loves playing such a strong character.

That esteem, and flexibility of working on a cable series, which demands less of a time commitment than a network show, has made it easier to be on an opposite coast from her husband, Kevin Bacon, and their children, Sedgwick said.

"I was very clear on not wanting to give up any other part of my career," said Sedgwick, who this season also serves as the show's executive producer. "By doing the show, I think it has opened up more in the way of feature films for me."

Mark-Paul Gosselaar couldn't agree with Sedgwick more. His series, "Raising the Bar," will be back on TNT for a second season and the actor said he appreciates being part of a network that values drama.

His role as public defender Jerry Kellerman in the courtroom drama is a continuation of the actor's long-time collaborative relationship with Emmy-winning producer Steven Bochco.

"I've been fortunate enough, for close to the last decade, to work with one of the most prolific producers in this genre," said Gosselaar, who also had roles on Bochco's "NYPD Blue" and "Commander-in-Chief." "I couldn't be in a better situation than to have attached myself to a man who is willing to give me these roles and is one of my biggest supporters."

The character of Kellerman is so earnest and passionately idealistic that he might remind some of an adult version of another character who first made Gosselaar famous -- Zack Morris on the teen sitcom "Saved By the Bell."

It's a role Gosselaar said he has no desire to escape, even after all these years.

"Zack has been something that has made such an impact on people and I am proud that I was able to do that," said Gosselaar, who hinted that a long-desired reunion of the show's cast is in the works. "When I was doing the show, it was almost like some people were closet 'Saved By the Bell' watchers and now it's become this iconic thing, so it's fun."

Gosselaar said "Raising the Bar" is a different type of courtroom drama, where viewers are able to witness the lives a different type of attorney.

"I don't think we have ever seen a show that deals with this side of the criminal justice system," he said. "We've seen the cops and the prosecutors, but 'Raising the Bar' gives voice to the public defenders and their clients, who you almost never hear from."

His is not the only TNT show that is giving the audience something different.

Hunter said her show will continue to explore substantive themes.


"This season is a real investigation of beliefs and what does it mean to believe as opposed to what it means to know," Hunter said. "It's a large question and many people have different answers. This show is exploring a more global idea of who God is to each of us."

Also Included in TNT's summer schedule are the heist drama "Leverage" starring Timothy Hutton, which premiers its second season and new show "Hawthorne," which stars Jada Pinkett Smith as a single mom and the director of nursing at a North Carolina hospital.

All About Holly HunterKyra SedgwickTelevision

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