Did you check out ‘Rizzoli & Isles’ last night? It’s Angie Harmon’s new TV series on TNT, and I’m SO glad to see her back on my TV screen. I loved ‘Women’s Murder Club’ and feel like it got short shrift in the cancellation department. Especially since they left us hanging in the middle of a great storyline!
‘Rizzoli & Isles’ is based on the books by Tess Gerritsen, and the story follows Boston detective Jane Rizzoli (Harmon) and medical examiner Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander), good friends who together bust some of the city’s most notorious bad guys.
But they’re also complete opposites. Maura wears designer duds and is more comfortable among the dead than the living. Jane is tough and gutsy, a better basketball player than her brother, and tends to dodge her overprotective mom, played by the always fabulous Lorraine Bracco (won’t it be great to see her back onscreen, too?!).
I recently caught up with Harmon, who talked about ‘Rizzoli and Isles,’ the demise of ‘Women’s Murder Club,’ and working with Emmy-nominated co-star Bracco.
Were you as miffed as I was when ‘Women’s Murder Club’ was canceled?
It’s always hard, but the show had its problems from day one, and I like to think everything happens for a reason. To be very honest with you, ‘Women’s Murder Club’ was sort of a dress rehearsal for ‘Rizzoli & Isles.’ First of all, we’re on cable, so we get to do more. We’re scarier, we’re sexier, we’re funnier. The relationship between Maura and Jane is a lot more in-depth. It’s a lot more fun to watch.
Plus, when you look at the cast and guest stars, that sort of speaks for itself. I’ve got Lorraine Bracco as my mom, Chazz Palminteri as my father. I’ve got Jordan Bridges, Bruce McGill, Brian Dennehy, Donnie Wahlberg, Billy Burke. We’ve got a lot of great people, and every time we get someone as a guest star we’re like, “What? Really?” We just look at each other and smile, because we know we’ve got a really, really great show. That caliber of actor wouldn’t be signing on if they didn’t feel that, too.
Plus, they’re kind of pairing you with ‘The Closer,’ which is great.
Yeah, I feel like the closer to ‘The Closer.’ I just came up with that. Do you think I should stick with it for the rest of the day?
Love it! And, obviously, ‘Rizzoli & Isles’ has two women in the leads, but viewers might look at the premise and think, “OK, another cop procedural.” What sets this show apart from other procedurals? Why should people watch it?
Well, it’s like a modern day ‘Cagney & Lacey,’ except for the fact that I’m in a world of men, and Jane is a real tomboy. She’s very good at her job, but it’s difficult for her. She’s basically got like two friends in the entire squad. Everybody else is a guy that kind of craps on her, for lack of a better word. So, you get to see how she and Maura rely on each other, because they’re the only two women in the field.
But it’s fun and exciting. Remember how you loved to watch Tony Soprano go to work because you knew it was going to make you uncomfortable? You knew you were going to be on the edge of your seat, and you knew you were probably going to gross out a little bit, but you couldn’t help but watch. It’s the same thing with Jane. You love to watch her go to work because you have no idea what’s going to happen. Then she gets to go home, and it’s just like when Tony Soprano went home. You don’t know what’s going to happen. With Lorraine Bracco as my mom, all we do is scream at each other. It’s that crazy Boston family, and they’re all yelling at each other. They love each other, but they get on each others’ nerves.
Is Jane as tough as your ‘Women’s Murder Club’ character, Lindsay Boxer? One of my favorite scenes from that show was her talking on the cell phone and working over some poor schmuck at the same time.
We definitely have that. I did a lot of research with the Boston Homicide Detective Unit, and these people have seen the most horrible things for a long part of their lives, so there’s a sort of disassociation to it. It’s very life-like to be standing over a dead body and have some guy try to hit on you. That’s very normal in that world, which in our world is shocking because there’s this dead person and blood everywhere. But to them, it’s like, “Well that’s another day at work. Another day on the job.”
You mentioned some similarities between Jane Rizzoli and Lindsay Boxer.
There are some similarities, but Lindsay was sort of emotionally inept and hooked on her ex-husband and just couldn’t really get over it. Jane is fully aware of what she looks like, and she’s fully capable of having a relationship, but she just doesn’t want to because she loves her job so much. She knows that if she does fall in love with some man, not only is she going to want to quit, but the man is going to want her to quit, too. She can’t be pregnant and run around chasing bad guys and getting shot at. It’s sort of like the next level of what Lindsay would have graduated up to.
Are parts of the show filmed in Boston? Is it like ‘The Wire’ where you get a true sense of the city just as they did with Baltimore?
Yes, part of it’s filmed in Boston. We have one episode with the Boston Marathon, which is fantastic. It’s really been fun.
Is it tough shooting when you’ve got three kids? It’s probably like any working mom, where you just have to figure it out.
Yes, it’s difficult, but that’s exactly right. I love it when moms come up to me on the street and they’re like, “Hi, I love what you do,” and then they’ll say, “I’m a working mom, and I know what you’re going through.” You hug this complete stranger because you know they know how hard it is. And it is difficult. I don’t go to work from nine to five. I go to work from five to nine. But we’re trying to balance it out. Right now, it’s working really well. Jason [Sehorn, her husband] isn’t working while I work. So, my little girls have a really wonderful relationship with their father.
Do you work pretty closely with author Tess Gerritsen?
No, not really. I mean, we keep the books as an outline, then we sort of go off from there. Because if we just went along with the books, a), everybody would know how they end and that’s boring, and b) we wouldn’t have enough stories for 10 episodes. Anyone who reads the books will recognize similarities, but not storylines. We have different crimes; our crimes are from the real Boston Homicide Unit.
She’s fantastic! We have such a great time opposite each other. First of all, she has one of the greatest lines in film history from ‘Goodfellas’ when she says, “I need to go shopping,” and he goes, “Well, how much do you need?” He puts up a stack of bills as opposed to a number.
She’s so cute, and she’s a mommy, as well, so it’s very natural for her to play Jane’s mom. What’s fun about playing Jane is that all the things that drive Jane crazy about her mother … she has no idea that she has the same qualities. But her mother totally does, and loves to bug her on purpose.
That’s the whole Bostonian way of life. You just constantly jab other people. It’s hilarious. The people in Boston have the best sense of humor I’ve ever encountered.
Did you watch the ‘Rizzoli & Isles’ premiere? What did you think? Excited to see Angie Harmon back on screen?