Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick)"People may be created equal, but they do not die that way."The Southern-accented CIA-trained interrogator that leads Priority Homicide/Major Crimes. Nominated for Chief of Police in Season 6, but ultimately does not get the job. Abrasive, intelligent, calculating, and temperamental.
- Action Girl: Subverted, actually. If you do see her pull her weapon, things are very bad. Not that she's not good with it as well.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Pope has commented that he has to make allowances for the fact that Brenda simply does not understand certain modes of human interaction.
Brenda: Of course, not, why would he — oh, very funny.
- In "You Are Here," Brenda is reeling off a list of symptoms suffered by a high-functioning autistic she wants to interview. The detectives she's talking to all shoot each other knowing glances until Flynn comes right out and asks if he has a Georgia accent.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer
- Catch Phrase - "Thank you. Thank you so much."
- Cunning Linguist - Alas, except not Spanish...I speak German, Russian, and am fully conversant in Czech, and I have to move to the one city where half of the people are from Latin America?
- Da Chief - Serves as this to the rest of the squad.
- Defective Detective
- Fair Cop
- Fragile Flower: Despite being a tough Action Girl, our heroine is always one blink away from tearing up.
- Guile Heroine
- Hypocrite: She's just so desperate for "justice" for the murdered that sometimes she arranges for people to be murdered to get it.
- In one episode she's haranguing a Cowboy Cop for ignoring procedure and thinking himself smarter than his superiors, the FBI, and the entire system in his single-minded crusade to solve a crime. Raynor and Pope, watching the interrogation, make sarcastic commentary about whether she realizes what she's saying and if they should give Fritz a copy of the video to make her watch at home.
- It's All About Me
- Knight Templar
- Manipulative Bitch: In a good way. Brenda is not above manipulating Pope, Fritz, and her team in her efforts to solve murders.
- Married to the Job - Brenda veers in and out of this trope, which becomes somewhat awkward once she actually marries Fritz. Then it becomes more a Jurisdiction Friction marriage.
- Military Brat
- Obfuscating Stupidity - Brenda Johnson is a sweet, scatterbrained Southern eccentric - until her suspect slips up and gives her the dirt she wants. At which point Brenda drops the act and tells said suspect that she is a CIA-trained interrogator.
- Pragmatic Hero
- Southern-Fried Genius: She went to Georgetown University and was trained in interrogation by the CIA. She qualifies.
- Sweet Tooth - She hides candy bars and junk food everywhere, including her desk and purse. Serves as Product Placement for various brands.
- Verbal Tic - When she's flustered or upset, Brenda will often repeat the operative word of her sentence three, three, three times.
Detective Sergeant David Gabriel (Corey Reynolds)"Chief? We've got something."Brenda's personal assistant, in essence. Intelligent, logical, and perhaps the most educated (besides Tao) of the squad. Nicknamed College Boy by Provenza, and mocked by various people when he supports Brenda despite his reservations. Johnson's first supporter and her favorite.
- Badass Mustache - (except in season 6; it returned in season 7)
- Butt Monkey - After the leak in Major Crimes is traced to David's girlfriend, most of the rest of the squad treats him like this, with the only exceptions being Brenda and Provenza.
- Conflicting Loyalty - The entire squad in the early seasons are torn between Taylor and Johnson in early episode. Poor Gabriel tends to be the lightning rod for this particular clash, however. Johnson even sympathetically acknowledges this in a season one episode where he was especially torn.
- The Lancer: To Brenda.
- Hyper-Competent Sidekick - For a given value of "sidekick," and with an even more competent boss. So much so that when Brenda moves at the end of Season 7, Gabriel follows her though in part because continuing to work with Major Crimes wasn't going to happen, after the reveal of the leak.
Detective Lieutenant Louie Provenza (G.W. Bailey)"You know me, Flynn. Since when do I go out of my way to help anyone?"Oldest and most experienced member of Priority Homicide. Brenda's second in the chain of command. Bad luck with women.
- Berserk Button: Sitting on Provenza's desk is a bad idea.
- Deadpan Snarker - He gets a good deal of the best lines.Nothing tastes better than somebody else's wedding cake. Mine tasted like prison food.
- Embarrassing First Name - As far as Provenza is concerned, his first name is Lieutenant, even to his grandchildren. The only people he allows to address him as Louie are higher-ranking officers in the LAPD. He goes so far as to threaten Flynn if he repeats his first name/nickname after his old partner mentions it repeatedly in front of him.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners - With Flynn.
- Iconic Item - He often wears a white bucket hat while investigating a crime scene.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Provenza is a complete jerk and an asshole. He can also be quite kind, such as when he stands up for Gabriel, dealing with victims (especially children), volunteering to play Santa and deliver gifts to an orphanage, having Tao buy a replacement Christmas present for an unemployed dad's kids, comforting Sanchez after his brother's murder and, according to Flynn's Twitter, he was quite concerned when Rusty got sick.
- Married to the Job - Provenza has been divorced several times, which explains why he lives in a relatively unimpressive rental despite his salary (which is second only to Pope's). It's also been stated that his first wife will receive half of his pension when he retires. He therefore REFUSES to retire:Provenza: I have a civil service job, and the only way that I am going to leave the Los Angeles police department is if I get shot, have a heart attack, and then you run me over. After which I will consider a disability position.Pope: But you really still haven't told me why.Provenza: When why my first wife and I divorced, I agreed to split my pension with her from the day I retire. I'll be damned if she gets a nickel.Pope: That...I understand.
- Noble Bigot with a Badge - His first reaction to Georgette is...unfortunate. Still, he does patch things up her in the end.
- His remarks about hippies (regarding pot dispensaries) gets him specifically assigned to deal with them by Chief Delk. Bwahahahahah. By the end of the case, he does get to point out to Delk that it was a case of two drug dealers killing over money anyway.
- In "Batter Up," in which the victim is a gay man killed outside a bar Where Everybody Knows Your Flame, he suggests that the other detectives "double up" on their rubber gloves since it's a "homo-cide." Brenda is not amused.
- Although he's weirded out by the transgender girl victim of "Boys will be Boys", Provenza is deeply upset by her murder.
- Number Two - As Major Crimes goes on, despite his initial resentment of her taking his place, Provenza excellently steps up as Raydor's second in command, and makes a surprisingly effective team with her.
- Intergenerational Friendship: With Rusty, starting in Season 2 of Major Crimes.
- Seen It All - It takes a LOT to faze this man. One particularly notable incident involved a cooler sent to Major Crimes covered in plastic wrap and duct tape. After it was cleared by the bomb squad, Provenza has it taken into Brenda's office to open (Brenda had the day off). Upon opening it, the squad discovers a body that's been decomposing for 5 years. Everybody either instantly loses their lunch or walks out of the room with their mouth and nose covered...except Provenza, who calmly orders everybody out of the room, closes the cooler and grumbles about having to call Brenda. And in another episode, he can be seen quietly doing a crossword puzzle as the bomb squad clears a room.
- Stop Saying That! - Provenza was the only person in the squad (except for Brenda) who forgave Gabriel when the leak in Major Crimes was traced to him through his girlfriend. He later shouts down both Flynn and Sanchez for their continuing Jerkass-y behavior toward Gabriel, even though Sanchez hadn't said anything that time.
- Vitriolic Best Buds - With Flynn.
Detective Lieutenant Andrew Flynn (Tony Denison)"The world is short one less scumbag. We shouldn't be investigating who did this, we should be giving them a medal."Second only to Provenza in experience. Misogynistic (especially toward Brenda), frequently serves as a contrast to Brenda's ethics with regards to whose deaths are worth investigating.
- The Alcoholic - Formerly this. He's been in AA for over a decade, with no signs of falling Off the Wagon.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners - With Provenza.
- Heel–Face Turn - He spends most of the first season running Brenda down behind her back, and being rude to the point of insubordination to her face. But when he's suspected of falsifying evidence in an old investigation (which he didn't), the politically-minded Taylor tries to throw him under a bus to limit the damage inflicted on the department. Brenda, on the other hand, believes Flynn when he says he didn't do anything wrong, and she eventually proves his innocence. At the conclusion of the episode, Flynn angrily demands that Taylor transfer him to Brenda's command.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold - Heart of gold is probably stretching it a bit, but he does come across as a fairly nice guy underneath the layers of attitude. A standout case is in "High Crimes", where he stays to talk with a young man after an AA meeting.
- Took a Level in Kindness: By Season 3 of Major Crimes, Flynn has softened a fair bit.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown - Gives a spectacular one despite his age after he gets viciously attacked after an AA meeting.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Flynn is always dressed smartly no matter the occasion, save for if he has to go undercover.
- The Teetotaler: Has completely cut out alcohol from his life.
- Vitriolic Best Buds - With Provenza.
Lieutenant Michael Tao (Michael Paul Chan)"Babs, patron saint of bomb techs. Ain't she cool?"Tech man of the squad. Encyclopaedic Knowledge of just about anything tech-related, sometimes too eager to share it.
- Asian and Nerdy - Oh yes. The only person on contemporary TV who could possibly best him at this trope is Grant Imahara. He actually got into medical school, before he decided he could better help people as a detective than a doctor.
- Bald of Awesome
- Fake Guest Star - Early on, bizarrely.
- Fake Nationality - Averted and Invoked. Both Michael Paul Chan and Lt. Tao are Chinese-American, but Tao, being fourth-generation American, doesn't speak a word of Chinese.
- Hollywood Nerd
- Older Than They Look - Michael Paul Chan is 61. Tao looks maybe in his 40s.
- The Smart Guy: He's usually the go-to guy for anything tech-related.
Detective Julio Sanchez (Raymond Cruz)Formerly of the Gang Task Force, tends to bring intimidation and awareness of the street to the murder room. The whipping boy of Season 4.
- Bruiser With A Soft Centre: Deep beneath his thick skin, he's really quite sensitive.
- Butt Monkey - If something bad happened in Season 4, chances are, it happened to Sanchez.
- Taking the Bullet - Does this for Provenza.
- The Big Guy - Despite his short stature compared to Tao or Gabriel, Sanchez is one of the most likely characters to be involved in an action sequence.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Has this, and it gets worse a fair bit during Season 3.
- Therapy Is for the Weak - His initial opinion after his brother dies. Then the Unsettling Gender Reveal. Off to therapy he goes.
Detective Irene Daniels (Gina Ravera)Forensic accountant and liaison with Homeland Security. Engages in a relationship with Sgt. Gabriel for one season.
- Put on a Bus: Promotes out of the squad to Intelligence after season 4.
- Twofer Token Minority: Black and female.
Buzz Watson (Phillip P. Keene)Civilian sound and surveillance man for the squad.
- Ascended Extra - Doesn't do much in Season 1.
- Butt Monkey - A minor example, but he always seems to get press-ganged into providing more assistance than his job calls for. Especially when the law requires that police officers/equipment not be involved; being a civilian, Buzz can do things the squad can't.
- Deadpan Snarker - When he speaks, he can (and has) give Provenza a run for his money.Buzz: You want me to go out there and pretend to be Lt. Tao?Brenda: Yes! Exactly!Buzz: Do I have to over-explain everything?
- The Silent Bob - Buzz doesn't get many lines, but he can say VOLUMES with a look.
- Throw the Dog a Bone - In one episode, Flynn and Provenza talk Buzz into helping them make a delivery for some quick cash but mislead him about the amount he'll receive. By the end of the episode, he's the only person eligible for a reward for helping catch a criminal. He offers to share the reward with the lieutenants: the same amount they'd told him he'd get at the beginning.
Special Agent Fritz Howard (Jon Tenney)Brenda's boyfriend during the first season, fiancee during seasons two through four, and husband from season five on. Winds up engaging her in jurisdictional confrontations and assisting her in getting information from the FBI; becomes the official FBI liaison with the LAPD during season six, and continues in that role in Major Crimes. By the summer finale of Season 3 of Major Crimes, Fritz has been offered (and accepted) a job offer to become the new Deputy Chief of Special Operations Bureau.
- The Alcoholic - Was formerly this. He now attends AA, has been in rehab, and has now been sober for several years.
- Berserk Button - Do not disrespect his AA meetings or attempt to offer him drugs.
- Beware the Nice Ones: As Brenda describes him, Fritz is the kindest most decent man ever. That does not mean that he is a pushover, as a corrupt ICE agent and an arrogant Indian diplomat learned the hard way.
- Da Chief: Becomes this for Special Operations Bureau.
- FBI Agent: It's the source of a little jurisdiction friction in the series.
- Happily Married - Surprise! Despite the usual ups and downs, Fritz and Brenda have been rock-solid since the middle of season one, and it's made very clear that whatever foibles she may have, Brenda loves her husband intensely.
- The Teetotaler: Is this throughout all seven seasons. Whenever Brenda is drinking wine, he's drinking water.
Assistant Chief William Pope (J. K. Simmons)"I'm sorry. Sometimes she forgets there are other people. In... the world."Brenda's highly political boss. Willing to play both sides against the middle. Serves as Da Chief to Brenda, and can vary between stickler for protocol and slicing through red tape depending on mood and circumstance. Cheated on his first wife with Brenda around nine years before the beginning of the series, and when this is revealed it creates no small amount of tension.
- The Alleged Boss - Brenda can get away with a lot, regardless of Chief Pope's opinions. Occasionally subverted, but usually not.
- By-the-Book Cop - Mostly.
- Da Chief - As noted.
- The Ghost: Becomes this during Major Crimes, as he's promoted to Chief of Department and Taylor takes his job.
- Rank Up: It's teased at throughout the series, but Pope is eventually promoted to Chief of Department for the LAPD.
- Your Cheating Heart - With Brenda, pre-series.
Commander, later Assistant Chief Russel Taylor (Robert Gossett)The commanding officer (as Captain in Season 1) of LAPD Robbery-Homicide. Very much willing to break regulation and delve into gray areas to get the job done, despite being extremely political as well. He's later promoted to Commander, and serves as the LAPD liaison with the media. By Major Crimes, Taylor has been promoted to Assistant Chief of Operations, Chief Pope's old job.
- Butt Monkey - At least in Season 6, a good chunk of Major Crimes goes out of their way to make Taylor miserable. This ranges from dumping a lot of evidence in his
super-cubicleoffice to messing up his Christmas plans.
- Also, Taylor was teased with a promotion to Assistant Chief, as newly-promoted Chief Delk was planning on promoting him to replace Assistant Chief Will Pope... then Delk died of an aneurism and Pope replaced him and Taylor's promotion got frozen.
- Heel–Face Turn - Starts out in opposition to Brenda taking over PHD, ends with being willing to point out her blind spots, but accepts her leadership of the squad, over three seasons.
- As of Season 7, this is looking more like a Heel–Face Revolving Door. Taylor is nice or nasty depending on how things look for his job prospects, which makes his real opinion of Brenda unclear.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Zig-zagged portrayal. Taylor is very media-conscious and has a tendency to cover his ass, but at the same time he does genuinely care about doing his job, and in Major Crimes begins venturing towards becoming a Reasonable Authority Figure. For an example, a lot of his interference in "Out of Bounds" is because Taylor is anxious to avoid a gang war in a local high school - not just because it's a racially sensitive murder, but also because his youngest son attends that same school.
- Rank Up: Is first a Captain commanding Robbery-Homicide Division, later promoted to Commander, coordinating LAPD departments and media relations. By Major Crimes, Taylor has been promoted to Assistant Chief.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Is taking major steps towards becoming this in Major Crimes, including standing up to a US Congressman who's been interfering with an investigation by Major Crimes. Though it being Taylor, there's also a few steps back along the way.
Captain Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell)"I would also like to say, that I am fully aware, that at the beginning of this investigation I was a total bitch."In charge of FID, the Force Investigation Division, essentially Internal Affairs. Introduced in Season 5. Comes into conflict with Brenda when she investigates Det. Gabriel after an officer-involved shooting (he fires on a suspect who allegedly fired first). Foil to Brenda, but portrayed sympathetically; they come to something of an understanding after working together to investigate a case where cops are killed in the line of duty, although their interaction is still tense. Gets her own It's Personal episode when she suspects one of her detectives is being abused by her husband in the season 5 finale.Was chief instigator of getting Brenda on the shortlist for Chief of Police in season 6, and grudgingly admitted that she actually admires — or at least respects — Brenda in the ninth episode. The two are currently on - well, on a bit of a more even keel these days, even if they still don't precisely like each other.After Brenda retired, Raydor was transferred to Major Crimes to replace her.
- Action Girl: Like Brenda, if she pulls a weapon, it means the cowpies have just hit the fan. But some people might think that being an Internal Affairs cop means she can't handle herself in the field. These people would be wrong, wrong, so very very wrong.
- And Starring: Mary McDonnell got the 'with' on The Closer, just before Jon Tenney (Fritz Howard). It was probably a result of having just finished Battlestar Galactica at the time of her initial debut. In Major Crimes, of course, she's fittingly given Kyra Sedgwick's old spot at the front of the credits.
- Bait-and-Switch Tyrant: Although the "switch" took awhile, she is now firmly on Major Crimes' side.
- Bothering by the Book: Raydor has shown an astonishing talent for this. Even more astonishingly, she almost always does it to help Brenda.
- Breakout Character: Nobody expected Raydor to be popular, let alone popular enough to helm the spinoff series Major Crimes.
- Fair Cop: She's played by Mary Frakking McDonnell.
- Fire-Forged Friends: After the events of the first ten episodes of season seven, Brenda and Sharon are firmly allies and very definitely have each others' backs - Brenda outright admits that "I know she's protecting my flank." (This does not mean, of course, that there is not still much eyerolling about each others' quirks on both sides. Because there is. But they're getting there.)
- She slowly develops this with the team throughout Major Crimes, and they all band together over their shared disgust at Rusty Beck's sperm donor father, and her concern over one of her detectives who was injured in the line of duty.
- Good Is Not Nice: During The Closer, when acting as an antagonist toward the team. Mostly averted during Major Crimes, where she mostly is nice.
- Good Is Not Soft: Definitely not. And this trope isn't averted on Major Crimes — nicer, yes, but just as strong-willed and driven to serve justice.
- Guile Heroine: Just as much so (if not nearly as manipulative) as Johnson. Demonstrated when she tells Pope and Taylor she received a private job offer, knowing Taylor would gossip about it, and when Goldman mentions it to her, she smugly informs him it never existed but he's just proven there is indeed a leak in the unit.
- Internal Affairs: And fabulously jarring (and sometimes hindering) in most of her appearances, even though the rationale for her slavish adherence to the rules is simple: she wants everything done perfectly according to regulation so that there is no way someone can claim the rules weren't followed.
- Mama Bear: Do not hurt Rusty Beck. Ever. He may not be her son by blood, but he is her son by heart."We have passed the apology stage of our relationship with Mr. Dunn, and are now at the 'Please don't let me drive over to his house and shoot him in the head' stage.""My primary concern as his mother is- as his guardian, is his safety.""I do not need your permission to seek medical attention for my son."
- Parental Substitute: Raydor is a much-needed maternal influence in Rusty Beck's life. As Season 3 of Major Crimes shows, she is more of a mother to him than his actual mother. So much so that she actually legally adopts Rusty.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: in season 7; and then led the Spinoff Major Crimes when The Closer ended.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: To the Major Crimes division and to Rusty.
- Rules Lawyer: It is part of her job description, after all. See Bothering by the Book.
- Sugar and Ice Personality: Is very cold to suspects and even to other police officers, but is genuinely sweet past that surface. She borders on The Stoic levels during The Closer, though.
- Notably, in Major Crimes she actually hugged Sanchez (who'd been shot the week before) and is giddily happy to see her son Ricky. Everyone looks at her askance at that.
- Took a Level in Badass: In "Death Warrant," where she shocked Brenda's whole team by shooting a bad guy right between the eyes with a bean bag round.
- And then there was the time she ran down eight flights of stairs (barefoot!) and broke down a door with a fire extinguisher to save Rusty from his stalker.
- Undying Loyalty: To the police force and the people she cares about.
- Worthy Opponent - To Brenda. Raydor is proof that you can respect someone...while disliking them immensely. Though the dislike fades over time.
Rusty Beck (Graham Patrick Martin)A kid living on the streets who witnessed Phillip Stroh trying to dispose of his latest victim, Rusty has been living on the streets for a while, after being abandoned by his mother. He eventually becomes Sharon Raydor's legal ward, and moves in with her in the first season of Major Crimes, and is getting his life together with Sharon's help and influence.
- The Chessmaster: Literally, in that he loves chess and is great at it, but he also tends to deal with his problems through manipulation and planning.
- Character Development: Rusty goes from being a needy self-centered brat to a thoughtful responsible young man over the course of the show.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Very much so. He never knew his dad, his mom was a junkie who let her boyfriends beat on him (so that they'd beat him into being straight!), he was abandoned at a zoo, and he had to prostitute himself to support himself. And if that wasn't enough, he ends up being a witness to a serial killer burying his victims.
- It's All About Me: This was pretty much his behaviour throughout Season One, though he grows out of it over the course of the show.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mostly in Season 2.
- Straight Gay: Is gay, but doesn't act stereotypically gay.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Very much so. Compare his behaviour in Season 3 and his behaviour in Season 1.
Detective Amy Sykes (Kearran Giovanni)An ambitious SIS detective, who transfers in to Major Crimes in the Season 1 premiere, with Raydor's permission.
- Action Girl: Sykes is very handy with a weapon, and is usually on point with Sanchez when conducting raids.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Became this with the rest of the Major Crimes team after holding on to a suspect's gun and refusing to let go, even after repeatedly getting her head beaten in.
- Professional Butt-Kisser: Was this at the start of the series, but as time goes on she's gotten much better.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Though a lesser example than most, hints have been dropped that Amy's time in the military affected her much more deeply than she has ever let on, including one episode which suggested that she might have been a victim of sexual assault.