Angie Harmon Interview: "Jane Rizzoli Is Just a Part of My Personality Now"
Image attributed to TNT
Born in Highland Park, Texas some forty-two years ago, Angela Michelle “Angie” Harmon followed in her parents’ footsteps (who were both models in the 1970s) and won a Seventeen modeling contest at the age of fifteen. She pursued that path and subsequently worked as a runway model for Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani and Donna Karan and appeared on the covers of ELLE, Cosmopolitan and Esquire.
Harmon began acting in 1995 after being offered a role on Baywatch Nights by David Hasselhoff. She joined the long-running NBC series Law & Order playing ADA Abbie Carmichael in 1998, had a supporting role in Agent Cody Banks (2003) and in 2006 costarred with Cuba Gooding, Jr. and James Woods in the direct-to-DVD political suspense drama End Game. The following year, she starred in the short-lived Women’s Murder Club on ABC.
“Jane Rizzoli is just a part of my personality now. It’s so funny because I’ll put her to sleep on Friday nights, and she’ll wake up on Monday mornings when I’m driving back onto the lot. But every now and then, there’s some sort of altercation at the airport, shall we say? (laughs) Jane will wake up and say, ‘Hey, you need me? What’s going on? Do I need to interfere here? What’s happening?’ Then I have to tell myself that I actually don’t have a badge.”
Since July 12, 2010, Harmon has starred in TNT’s crime drama Rizzoli & Isles, a series based on the novels by retired physician Tess Gerritsen. The premiere was later recognized as the all time most successful cable series launch. Rizzoli & Isles follows the lives of homicide detective Jane Rizzoli (Harmon) and medical examiner Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander), complete opposites, but best friends who solve crimes and bust criminals in Boston, Massachusetts. The fifth season summer finale entitled “Burden of Proof” airs September 2, 2014, at 9:00 p.m. (eastern) on TNT.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Angie, according to your publicist, your day is not going well because of some events that are totally out of your control. Could it be that you have an interesting airport story to tell?
Angie Harmon: There’s nothing interesting about it. I had my three girls crying on the sidewalk, and I was crying, and I get in, and my flight’s been changed. It’s not interesting, just really kind of pitiful.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, how are you other than the travel mishaps?
Angie Harmon: I’m okay. We’re on the very tail end. I go back to Los Angeles, and I’ve got twenty-nine more days, but who’s counting? (laughs) Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m very thankful for my job. I’m very thankful for the show. I love playing Jane Rizzoli.
It’s just a hard thing particularly when I’m jetting to the other side of the country, but you know, I try to find the silver lining and that is we got to meet in Texas, and they spent the whole weekend hanging out with cousins, and I hung out with my cousins. We’re all family.
My parents drove in, and so they got to spend time with their grandparents. It’s fine. You just got me right at the end of it when my girls are going to Charlotte, and I’m going to LA, and I’m not going to see them for thirty days, and it’s not fun. I apologize. Normally I’m a more chipper person.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It’s all good. What can you say about the summer finale?
Angie Harmon: I think it’s going to be really great. I actually needed a lot of reassuring on that one which I normally don’t need because there’s a scene where the other actor (Jamie Bamber) and I are doing a scene together, and we couldn’t hear each other because it was so out in the middle of San Pedro in the middle of the night. We couldn’t hear each other. He was facing away from me, so we just kept cracking up laughing.
It was supposed to be a fairly … it was a very dangerous situation, life changing, saving lives and all that kind of stuff and was just hysterical because we could not hear each other. In acting, just like a conversation, you have to be able to hear the other person and listen to them. He’d just sort of creatively glance over his shoulder to see if I’d stopped talking (laughs). Then we both would lose it. We’d just die laughing which is hysterical when you see what the scene actually is about.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’ll certainly watch for that one.
Angie Harmon: I’m the worst at things like that because in my opinion, good television or good movies … I never want to know what’s coming because it’s like a rollercoaster ride. If I tell you there’s a hairpin turn to the left after the third hill, you know it’s coming, and it’s not as fun as taking you by surprise. It’s going to be a surprising episode.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It will also be a cliffhanger because it continues on to the first episode of season five part two.
Angie Harmon: It is. It is a cliffhanger.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Perhaps Jamie is a potential love interest for Jane.
Angie Harmon: I think you have to watch it, and then you’ll make up your own mind.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Wasn’t Jane a bit less grumpy when she was pregnant?
Angie Harmon: Don’t you think? Oh I’m so happy you noticed that! Thank you so much. We have a new leader at the helm, and yeah, I think that Jane was a lot less grumpy and a lot less snarky. She has been so fun to play. It was fun to play Jane before when Janet (Tamaro) was at the helm, but now it’s just sort of a different take on her.
I love being able to make people laugh. I love having great one-liners. I love a witty sense of humor. To be funny you don’t always have to have a sharp tongue or a biting remark. You can be funny and still be loving and gentle and kind and sweet and wonderful. I think we just sort of based it on, “The kid inside brings out the kid inside,” if you will. We just left it at that, so Jane’s been a lot funnier.
I think it’s interesting in this episode, and you’ll seem them coming up that Jane views the world differently now and sees the people around her whereas before, Jane was just solely Jane. Now she’s become rather worldly, and she has grown up a lot. She’s a lot more patient with her friends and with her mother, and that’s been really fun to play. One of the fun things about Jane is that she has a sense of humor and was never necessarily the butt of it, you know what I mean? If anything, now she is and she just rolls with it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Am I to understand then that with Jan Nash at the helm, the show includes more comedic moments and lines than before under the leadership of Janet Tamaro?
Angie Harmon: I definitely think so. They are very different people. It has been extremely fun to listen to Jan and understand her interpretation of Jane. She’s a very collaborative human being, so she didn’t come in saying, “This is who I think Jane is, and this is what you’re gonna do.” She came in with, “You know this character better than I do. What do you want to do?” That’s a very giving and wonderful thing to do, especially for actors that have been playing these characters for five years.
Jane Rizzoli is just a part of my personality now. It’s so funny because I’ll put her to sleep on Friday nights, and she’ll wake up on Monday mornings when I’m driving back onto the lot. But every now and then, there’s some sort of altercation at the airport, shall we say? (laughs) Jane will wake up and say, “Hey, you need me? What’s going on? Do I need to interfere here? What’s happening?” Then I have to tell myself that I actually don’t have a badge.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Or a gun.
Angie Harmon: Or a gun (laughs). I mean seriously, here’s this guy at the airport giving us all attitude, and he’s like, “Your plane will leave when it leaves.” I’m like, “I had three kids on the sidewalk bawling crying, and if I took off my sunglasses, you’d see I was bawling crying, too. Maybe you could just take the edge off just for a minute. What do you think? Or I don’t know, be really smart about it and make an announcement so you’ll quit repeating yourself … you douche!” I’m sorry (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Sounds like Jane stepped in …
Angie Harmon: Yeah, I’m like, “I’ll just bring Jane back. Thank you so much.” (laughs) I will refrain from saying which airline I’m on because that would just be rude, but I’ll give you a hint. It’s not the United States of Delta. It’s not that one (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): This could very well be one of my funniest interviews (laughs).
Angie Harmon: Well, thank you. I wasn’t sure I could do it since I was crying (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Who’s the funniest person on the set? I hear that you like to poke dead bodies … uh, alive dead bodies …
Angie Harmon: (laughs). There are a lot of funny people on set, and that’s why I love going to work every day. I’m there every single day in almost every single scene. Lorraine says, “You’re our Jimmy. You’re our Gandolfini.” That’s one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received from another actor. It’s very important for me to be able to make people laugh and have people laugh around me.
I have great joy in the fact that we have day players who come here and say that it’s one of the funnest sets they’ve every worked on. They write thank-you letters to me, to the production office and to whichever actor they work with. That’s hugely important to me because a set is like your home. It’s like your home, and if you have someone come into your home, you want to make them feel comfortable. You want to make them feel at ease.
There are some actors who don’t understand that. They don’t understand that they’re walking into somebody’s house, and if they’re going to be demanding, you stand there saying, “God, I can’t wait until we get rid of you.” Most of the time, we have some really good ones, and I have a “no asshole” policy. I’ve been in this business over half my life. You keep the good ones and let the bad ones fall by the wayside. Usually they will do it themselves, and you don’t have to do anything. It could take a while, but they usually do it to themselves (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What is your favorite storyline thus far?
Angie Harmon: My favorite storyline so far has been the story between Jane and Tasha. Tasha brought out an even more loving mother vibe with Jane and also being able to bring a child out of that kind of depression and life. I also love doing action scenes. Those are some of my favorite scenes to do ever.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The first two episodes of this season were extremely touching tributes to Lee Thompson Young who passed away a year ago.
Angie Harmon: Thank you. I really appreciate that. I thank Jan and TNT for that just from the bottom of my heart because they very well could have stepped in and decided not to do anything and just to replace him, and that would’ve been it, but they didn’t. They were very collaborative.
Jan Nash is just one of my favorite human beings solely because of those first two episodes which were obviously next to impossible to do. Jan is a great leader and a great showrunner, and I’m very fond of her.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Why did you decide to settle in Charlotte, North Carolina, Angie?
Angie Harmon: It reminded me of what Dallas was like when I was growing up. It’s a very small town, but it still has that metropolitan vibe, and it has lovely people. It’s just a really great place to raise kids, and I couldn’t move back to Dallas. It just wasn’t working out for me there.
We’ve got some wonderful friends that understand I have to disappear for six, seven, eight months a year, and when I get home, it’s like I never left. My girlfriends there are wonderful. My girlfriends in LA are wonderful. I need my girlfriends to keep me going because it’s not easy being a mommy and doing this particular schedule. It’s just not.
It’s a lovely place, the people are wonderful, they have fantastic restaurants. You have to come. It’s such a beautiful city. It’s close to the beach or you drive to the mountains. My girls are all flourishing. They’re blossoming. They’re not happy with this part of the situation either, but they know it’s just a part of it and know it’s not going to last forever. I’m very grateful for my girls.
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