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Angie Harmon stars in the TNT series 'Rizzoli and Isles' based on the popular mystery novels by Tess Gerritsen.

Angie Harmon

Keeps On Enforcing the Law

by Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: July 9, 2010.  

Law & Order does not seem to just be a former television series job for Angie Harmon; it appears to be a career path.  The beautiful actress has played more than her share of cops, lawyers and spies over the years since she first captured America’s attention as Assistant D.A. Abbie Carmichael on that venerable series. 

In the years since then, Harmon has played cops (in her 2008 series The Women’s Murder Club), a police commissioner (in the animated film Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker) and a secret agent (in the film Agent Cody Banks). 

Her latest series is the new TNT drama Rizzoli & Isles, an adaption of the popular series of mystery novels by Tess Gerritsen.  Harmon plays Jane Rizzoli, a tough Boston homicide cop who juggles personal and family problems with a series of horrific murders.  She has formed a crime-fighting partnership with a beautiful and brilliant forensic scientist named Maura Isles (played by Sasha Alexander). 

A few days before the series premiere of Rizzoli & Isles, Harmon interrupted a trip to the Toy Story Funhouse with her kids to talk on the phone with us and several other websites about her new series and her career. 

Since you've obviously played a lot of detective and law people before what made this one stand out and what past experience might be drawn for her?

The thing that made this stand out the most was just the fact that there's a lot more character to these characters.  We see their back stories.  We see their present situations.  That to me was a lot more interesting than just the regular procedure – it's like four heads standing around a body spelling it out for you.  It's a lot more of a roller coaster ride.  It’s definitely got a lot more grit to it.  We don't pretend to be the smartest people there.  We're not like, “This is how we did it and now we're just going to show you how we go catch them.”  The audience gets to figure it out with us.  But also, with the caliber of actors that we ended up getting, Lorraine Bracco plays my mom, Chazz Palminteri plays my father, Brian Dennehy, Donnie Wahlberg in the first (episode).  We've got Billy Burke from Twilight.  We got all kinds of fantastic actors.  I think that speaks for itself.  Bruce McGill and Sasha.  It's not just a typical procedural show.  We have these actors because they can come here and actually act and show the different colors of actual people.  No person is just one color.  No person is just who they are at their job 24/7.  That was really what I was excited about.  (Plus being) on TNT I knew we'd have a lot more creative freedom to tell the stories that we wanted to tell.  I went and spent a lot of time with the actual homicide unit in Boston and it was just amazing.  I thought okay, well (if) I can't play a homicide detective, then I'll just be one, and now I have the best of both worlds.

Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander star in the TNT series 'Rizzoli and Isles' based on the popular mystery novels by Tess Gerritsen.What's so great about the show is the chemistry between you and Sasha.  Did you know the first second that you got together that it was going to be you know great chemistry and that you were going to work great together? 

I think so.  We had such a great time.  When we were trying to find the woman to play Maura it was a no-brainer when Sasha came in.  We knew it was her.  She did such a fantastic job.  She got the job right then and there in the room and it was great.  We actually played a little joke on her.  She's a great lady, and we've had a really, really fantastic time.  You don't often get what you ask for and I got exactly that.  I got a show, it was on cable that I could you know shoot five months a year and go be mommy the rest of the time, and to have a cast and crew that I really, really love and adore and respected, and I got all of that.  We just had the most amazing time.  Every now and then we'll come across a review, like the person didn't like it and we're like, “What?  Really?  How could you not like it?”  Because all of us like it so much and we have such a great time at work it's just really, really been blessed.  We're all standing here going, wait a minute, how did this happen?  It’s been awesome. 

In the books, Rizzoli and Gabrielle Dean fall in love and their relationship progresses.  I adore Billy Burke.  Do you know if they're planning on or how closely they're planning on following that storyline? 

I do.  I just finished The Sinner and it's just been so great because coincidentally enough you know we're shooting a couple of episodes with Billy right now.  The story has a lot to do with Dean and Jane and all that.  I mean, do I think they're going to get these girls hitched first out of the gate?  Absolutely not.  I think it's more fun to watch them date and watch them scramble and try and figure out their relationship and things like that.  But I do – I almost felt like this was like a prequel to Gabrielle and Jane.  I almost feel like I'm seeing them before the stories take place.  You know what I mean? 

Angie Harmon stars in the TNT series 'Rizzoli and Isles' based on the popular mystery novels by Tess Gerritsen.You always play intelligent characters and that really shows in Rizzoli & Isles.  What is your interpretation of the character of Rizzoli?  What are some of the things that you found out about that character?

(There) are things – some of them that I really enjoyed playing that with her.  I mean, she's witty, she's funny, and a lot of people don't I guess see me as a funny character because I don't usually get to play them.  I'm usually cast in the more dramatic roles, and it's been a really, really fun time playing her humor and playing her attitude.  She's a complete tomboy, so I did sort of a really intense study on men and how they relate to each other in the way they walk and the way they hold themselves and the way they position themselves in the hierarchy just in something as simple as a conversation.  Some of them are threatened by another one.  Some of them aren't.  Even with my costar Lee, I keep trying to figure out how do they know which handshake to do?  It's just sort of this thing that they just get.  They know if they're going to do this handshake and then the finger grip and then the gun, and turn it into a snap and a chest bump.  They've got that whole figured out, and (I) cannot figure it out to save my life.  I think the things that I like the most about playing her is she is such a tomboy.  That's very different from me and from how I am.  And her humor.  Those are the two things I love about her the most. 

How did you come about hearing of the show, and even the books when they first came out? 

TNT offered it to me.  I don't know if you've already heard this story.  If you have I apologize.  But I was pretty much getting ready to retire and thinking that I'm going to move back East with my kids and raise my little girls and go be mommy.  I wasn't really finding the roles that I wanted to play really.  So I just made a deal with God.  I was like, okay, I would love something on cable, shoot five months a year, and then I get to be mommy the rest of the time.  I’d like to be funny and strong and intelligent.  And literally the next day it was on my front porch because my manager lives down the street.  So it was very, very lucky, and I feel very lucky.  I feel very blessed because you don't often get exactly what you wanted and hoped for.  Working with Sash and with Bruce and Lee and Jordan and every (guest star), and Lorraine and Chazz Palminteri plays my father.  It's just the caliber of actors that we've had come through here.  All of us are just sort of pinching ourselves thinking how on earth has this happened.  This show’s just been fantastic.  I would love to say that I'm waiting for the anvil to fall, but I'm not.  I think I'm in a place in my life where I can really accept good things.  I guess you know you really should be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.  I'm thrilled that they offered it to me.  I'm thrilled that it's with TNT.  They understand what it's like to be a working mommy.  I cannot say enough good things about this project.  It's just been awesome. 

Angie Harmon, Bruce McGill and Sasha Alexander star in the TNT series 'Rizzoli and Isles' based on the popular mystery novels by Tess Gerritsen.I've been a fan of Bruce McGill for years…  

Well, who hadn't?  I mean – he's in everything ever made.  He's amazing. 

I've only seen the pilot.  His character is sort of left in a rather precarious situation at the end of the pilot.  I'm assuming that he's going to recover, but how does that affect the course of the season? 

I don't want to give too much away just because I want you to enjoy the roller coaster ride.  It's not one of those little bumper boat rides.  It's a good one.  It's a roller coaster.  It's got its ups and its downs and it's a precarious situation.  That's one of the things I think I love the most about the show is that the characters truly are characters in their relationships with each other.  And that's life.  That's how people truly are.  When you're at work you're not that same person when you're at home.  So I love the fact you know that my character with Bruce we have a relationship.  The two characters have a relationship that is as close as partners, knowing that each other's lives is in each other's hands.  Then Bruce and I are pretty close as well.  We're both from Texas.  We both understand each other.  We both get each other.  When I'm having trouble with a scene I'll just go over to him and be like I have no idea what's happening here.  What are we doing?  He's just been such a wonderful sounding board, and obviously, he's a tremendously talented actor.  We were just so lucky and blessed that he said yes to this obviously.  I mean, you being a fan of his you know what he brings to the table.  When you take him, you put him next to Lorry Bracco and Chuck Palminteri who plays my father and Brian Dennehy's in the first episode, and Billy Burke and Lee and Jordan and me and Sash, it just becomes this giant pot of fantastic and rich characters.  It's like watching people.  And that to me is what good television is. 

Well, we've discussed the books the little bit already and, of course, your show Women's Murder Club was also based off a series of novels.  Does it influence your portrayal of Rizzoli knowing there is the character on TV and then the character in the book? 

It does.  I hadn't read any of the books of the Rizzoli character, and I have since we started.  It's so funny because in some serendipitous way I keep reading – like, for example, Billy Burke is in this episode right now and I just finished reading The Sinner and it's so interesting because first of all I'm reading a book of a person that I'm playing.  And then here's this person that she's in a relationship with, and what we're shooting now we're not in a relationship.  So it's like I'm getting like a prequel and a history to these people in the book.  It's very odd.  It's very weird.  It's like The Twilight Zone because here I am shooting the history of these two characters and I'm reading their future.  You know what I mean?  It's interesting.  It's almost like our head writer Janet is writing things that happened before the books.  I think that's a really cool and interesting aspect of the story… of the characters… for our viewers.  Anyone that does follow the books, you're sitting here watching these two characters live, but if you know the books you know what happens to them before they know what happens to them.  It's been very interesting having that happen in each episode that we do because the episodes they don't follow the books exactly.  The characters are pretty dead on.  But you know I mean, we would run out of episodes and we would run out of things to do, not to mention the fact that you know we want our audiences to enjoy what's happening – not already know what's happening.  So yes, it's been really, really fun.  I've never actually had that happen before in a character that I play.  Here I am acting with Billy and we're doing our thing, and all I keep thinking about is do you know what happens?  It's very funny.  But yes, it's been really, really interesting and really fun. 

Bruce McGill, Sasha Alexander, Angie Harmon, Lee Thompson Young and Billy Burke star in the TNT series 'Rizzoli and Isles' based on the popular mystery novels by Tess Gerritsen.There's Angie Harmon online, there are already Twitter pages for Rizzoli & Isles, and you know a lot of buzz going around the Internet and social networking sites about the show.  How important is getting the word out through Web sites like Angie Harmon online and through Twitter to the promotion of the show? 

It's huge.  I think it's smart.  It's funny because there are a couple – I'm from the South so I'm very old-fashioned, plus, I'm not very computer savvy at all but I'm getting it.  I understand that if you've got information and you want it out there, (this) is how you go about doing it.  Now having my face on the dry cleaning bag is not my favorite.  I get very embarrassed about things like that.  I'm like, what if I go to the dry cleaners and they hand me a bag and it has my face on it?  What am I going to do, what am I going to say?  I'm just going to run to my car I mean, so embarrassed.  But it's funny.  I mean I get it.  When it's all said and done I'm very, very glad to work in this business but that's exactly what it is.  It's a business.  I get to do the fun half of it.  I get paid to pretend.  I get to play really great characters.  We have such a wonderful writer, and she just knows people so intricately, and it's so fun to be able to act out her words and things.  That being said, I totally understand the promotional aspect of our show and the business end of it, but I can also say that I – and I think I speak for the rest of the cast and for our producers and our writer and Tess – we're putting out there something that we're really proud of.  It's not like we're putting out there, “Hey, come watch our show because it sucks.”  We're all pretty proud of it, and I think we're also sort of standing around scratching our heads going, wow, this is really good.  I mean, obviously, like I said, with the caliber of actors that we have you really can't got wrong, but I think even all of us are standing around just kind of going, wow, this – not only is it fun but it's good.  It's been really, really great in that aspect.  But I totally get what they're doing, and it's kind of like, oh, okay, really, okay, great.  But if somebody hands me my face on a dry cleaning bag I'm going to freak out. 

Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander star in the TNT series 'Rizzoli and Isles' based on the popular mystery novels by Tess Gerritsen.I'm watching you right now on TNT in Law and Order.  There's not a day that goes by (when) you know people don't get to see you two or three times a day.  That must be good. 

They're just going to be sick of me at this point. 

No, I think it's wonderful.  I was just going ask were you rooting for them to go to season 21 and will you always remember that with fond memories of the show that kind of pretty much made you a household name? 

Absolutely.  I think it's so important to be thankful and grateful for any and every opportunity that we have especially in the business.  I learned some wonderful things there.  I learned it doesn't matter how tired you are you always hang up your wardrobe.  I learned from Sam (Waterston) you come to the set without your (ties).  That was a wonderful, wonderful place for me.  I would sit in my dressing room and stuff my envelopes with my wedding invitations and “Saved the dates” and things like that.  That place has a real reverence for me you know.  I understand some people may not have that kind of reverence for it, but I really thought that the revolving door of Law and Order would keep it going because you can just keep moving the people through….  People are going to move in and out of that office.  They're going to move up and they're going to get fired.  All kinds of things happen like it does in real life.  And we're always unfortunately going to have crime.  But then if we didn't, then I wouldn't have a new show.  So – I don't know.  I keep thinking and hoping maybe it'll turn the soundstages into like a museum or something.  I used to – my dressing room was right on the water and I would climb out of my window and walk around on the roof out there whenever I needed time to think – whenever I couldn't get a scene together.  My (father) even came there on the roof with me.  We just walked around (and) talked up there just to get away from everything.  Nobody can get to us there.  I really do, I love that place very much.  It was a very deep-rooted place in my heart.  I think this show deserves that.  I think it deserves some sort of respectful memorial or tour, or whatever they can do for it. 

Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander star in the TNT series 'Rizzoli and Isles' based on the popular mystery novels by Tess Gerritsen.Aside from Tess Gerritsen, who asked me say hello to you…  

Oh, I love her.  Isn't she fabulous?  Okay, go ahead.  I'm sorry. 

… are you fan of mystery fiction and who do you read? 

I am.  I mean to be very honest, I hadn't read Tess' books until we started playing the characters and now I'm obsessed.  Like I come home, I'm exhausted, and I just finished The Sinner, and I'm getting ready to start The Keepsake.  It's been interesting because, like I was saying Billy and I are shooting together and here I am reading about our future.  It's so fun because I can walk up and (stop) him, or we get in a big fight, or you know we kiss and he leaves or something.  It's so fun playing this out for the audience.  That being said, I do – I mean you know my top five favorite movies two of them are Alien and Aliens so I do.  I love to laugh, I love to make people laugh, I love comedy but I also love the darker things in life.  I guess I'm an extremist.  I'm an adrenaline junkie.  So sort of cruising along at a normal capacity really doesn't do anything for me.  I mean, I like things to be really, really funny or really, really dramatic, and those kind of books are certainly the ones that grab me.  I like the exercise of reading through a paragraph and it is just torture.  So I try not to have my eyes dart to the right.  Try and figure out does (Maura) get away from the killer and get to her car safely, or that kind of thing; does Jane get away from the bullet?  It's that stuff I love.


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