Angie Harmon on TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles and motherhood

By Fred Topel You know Angie Harmon can solve a crime, as she did as A.D.A. Abbie Carmichael in ‘Law & Order’, and a little bit in the short-lived ‘Women’s Murder Club.’ Now Harmon is the first billed title character on TNT’s new detective show, ‘Rizzoli & Isles’ so it’s time for her to lead the cases. She spoke with the media in a conference call about her new role as Jane Rizzoli.

“I think the thing that made this stand out the most was just the fact that there’s a lot more character to these characters,” Harmon said. “I mean, we see their back stories, we see their present situations and I think that to me was a lot more interesting than just the regular procedure, 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.”

Maybe Rizzoli can be the detective viewers can relate to. She’s not the elite expert like CSI. “We don’t pretend to be the smartest people there,” Harmon continued. “We’re not like, ‘And 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.” 

In a post Cagney & Lacey world, female cops have less to prove to audiences. Rizzoli & Isles airs on the network that’s home to the one-woman interrogator The Closer. So Harmon took the opportunity to play a little with gender roles in the workplace.

“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 sort of 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 you know my costar Lee [Thompson Young], I keep trying to figure out how do they know which handshake to do?  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, and they’ve got that whole figured out, and cannot figure it out to save my life.”

Jane Rizzoli comes from a series of books by Tess Gerritsen. The books not only introduce the partnership of Rizzoli and Isles, but also Rizzoli’s romance with Gabriel Dean. Billy Burke plays Dean on the show and it’s going to go there.

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

Harmon is catching up on the ooks since she started playing Rizzoli. Now it’s becoming a double life. “First of all I’m reading a book of a person that I’m playing.  Anyone that does follow the books, you’re sitting here watching these two characters live, but if you know the books you’re knowing what’s happening so 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 don’t follow the books exactly. The characters are pretty dead on but we would run out of episodes and we would run out of things to do, plus not to mention the fact that we want our audiences to enjoy what’s happening not already know what’s happening.”

Rizzoli & Isles finds Harmon balancing work and motherhood in real life. She was wrangling her kids after production ran over while she was on the phone with the press.

“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 sort of you know made a deal with God, and 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 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.  It was very, very lucky, and I feel very lucky, and I feel very blessed because you don’t often get exactly what you wanted and hoped for.  I mean, I would love to say that I’m you know 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. I guess 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, and I cannot say enough good things about this project.  It’s just been awesome.”

Rizzoli & Isles airs Monday nights at 10 on TNT.

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