Angie Harmon Interview: Talking "Buried in Barstow" and "Law & Order"
Written by Marc Parker and Melissa Benefield Parker, Posted in Interviews Actors
Image attributed to Lifetime
Angie Harmon began working as a child model, and in 1987 won a Seventeen modeling contest. She had a successful modeling career and became known in the early 1990s, working as a runway model and appearing on the covers of ELLE, Cosmopolitan and Esquire. In the beginning of her acting career, she had a leading role in Baywatch Nights and the short-lived C-16 FBI.
In the late 1990s, Harmon joined the NBC series Law & Order, playing ADA Abbie Carmichael from 1998 to 2001. She won praise for portraying Jane Rizzoli on the crime drama series Rizzoli & Isles, won the Gracie Award for Outstanding Female Actor in a Leading Role in a Drama Series or Special in 2012 and the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Cable TV Actress in 2015.
"I think what I love the most about this show is that it’s kind of like Yellowstone in the way that these people don’t necessarily make sound ethical or moral choices, but you still root for them."
In 2021, the actress signed a multi-picture deal with Lifetime, and the first installment of the movie series, Buried in Barstow, will premiere on Saturday, June 4, 2022. Harmon serves as executive producer and also portrays single mother and former hit woman Hazel King, who is now a diner owner trying to escape her very dark past and live a quiet life. Buried in Barstow is directed by iconic director Howie Deutch, and additional cast includes George Paez, Kristoffer Polaha, Lauren Richards and Bruce McGill.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Angie, I really enjoyed Buried in Barstow. You’ve said the movie is your “heart project.” So was it your idea?
Angie Harmon: Oh, thank you! No. It was not my idea. As a matter of fact, I was actually looking for a ghost writer for my script that was my idea, and I’d gotten a friend of mine, and he had written and all that. I read Tom Evans’ script and absolutely just flipped out! I loved it so much that I put mine on the back burner and started actively pursuing Barstow, trying to get it out there and trying to get somebody to make it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: So that process wasn’t a quick one?
Angie Harmon: It was quite a humbling experience. But you know what? I appreciate the knowledge that it brought to me. I would say that all in all, it has definitely been a wonderful experience. But a quick one? No. Not at all.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: This marks your debut as executive producer, however you’ve previously directed an episode of Rizzoli & Isles.
Angie Harmon: Yes. I directed the 100th episode of Rizzoli & Isles, so that was incredibly flattering that they trusted me with that because it was such a milestone. I was floored when they offered me that one.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: The 100th episode featured Sharon Gless whom I recently interviewed on her new book. She told me the story of you approaching her with the invitation to make a guest appearance.
Angie Harmon: I absolutely adore her! But I can’t lie. I did just completely freak out when I met her, and then I freaked out even more when I knew I was going to be acting with her. Then I freaked out even more when I found out I was going to be directing (laughs). I just love her. She’s just a kickass lady. She’s just fantastic.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: She definitely is, and she’s looking for another series.
Angie Harmon: Oh, is she?
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Yes, I can see you two in a regular series together. But that’s just in my mind (laughs).
Angie Harmon: Yeah, in my mind, it would make sense. The hard part is getting someone else to see it (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Exactly. Speaking of a badass, that describes Hazel King perfectly! Did you do some of your own stunts?
Angie Harmon: Oh, thank you, and yeah. Oh, absolutely. I did most of them. I love it. I mean, I love doing action sequences and stuff like that. My stunt double and I have been together for years. She was with me on Rizzoli & Isles. She’s just so wonderful and fantastic. She and her husband both kind of smile at each other when I want to do all the stunts. They’re like, “Okay. There’s some stuff you can’t do.” But most of them, yeah. We just go for it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Very cool. The three guys in the diner provide some comic relief.
Angie Harmon: Right (laughs). Did you think they were funny? Did you like them?
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I thought they were hilarious and there was also some great comedic timing on your part.
Angie Harmon: Oh, my gosh, thank you so much. The first day of shooting is always kind of nerve-racking. You haven’t slept the night before because you’re excited. It’s getting there and learning everybody’s names and meeting everybody. I was wearing an actor’s hat and an executive producer's hat. Those are two very separate roles. But yeah, I’m always nervous about those scenes. I don’t know if they work. We were block shooting them, so they were running back and forth. It was crazy.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Well, they definitely worked. Lauren Richards is a relative newcomer to the acting world. Did she audition for the role of Hazel’s daughter?
Angie Harmon: She did, and you’re correct. She is relatively new. I think that she just has such promise and is so eager to learn. She and I had done that scene in the hallway three or four times. The moment that Hazel pulls off her sunglasses when we were doing her coverage, I welled up and started crying, which of course, then made Lauren well up and start crying. Then we finished the scene, and Howie yelled “Cut!” I came in with this big grin on my face, and I was like, “I got you!” She said, “You totally got me! How did you do that?”
It was just one of those things where, as an older actor, you just have experience and all of those things. You know if another actor is present. She always is, and I knew what to do to be able to kind of push her over the edge and make her cry, too, in a very loving way (laughs). But I love her. She’s a darling human being.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: It seems that there was extreme care taken not to leak that fact that Bruce McGill (Vince Korsak on Rizzoli & Isles) makes an appearance in the movie.
Angie Harmon: Yes. I wanted that to be a surprise. When I’m making a film or TV show, the least I can give away the better I feel because it’s almost like you’re on the rollercoaster. If you talk to someone before the rollercoaster, and they tell you, “Okay. After hill two, there’s a sharp turn to the right. It’s so fun, and you’re going to love it.” Well, now, I know about it.
I want everything to be a surprise. I want everything to be a new experience. I don’t want to know what’s coming around turn three. That was the Bruce McGill aspect of it all. Of course, I love all of our fans from Rizzoli & Isles and everybody who loves Korsak and Jane together. I knew they were just going to flip out when they saw this.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Those scenes between you and Bruce definitely contained some familiar chemistry. Is executive producing more difficult than directing when you’re also acting in a scene?
Angie Harmon: I have to say that I find acting and directing to be a lot easier than acting and producing just because producing is more behind the scenes. Producing is more what’s going on at base camp. Producing is more, “How do we squeeze the dollars to make it go as far as it can?” And a lot of that is also, “How happy is my crew?” I’m sure some producers don’t care. I care very much. So it’s difficult when I’m acting and an issue arises. I’ve got to switch hats really quick to producer to fix it. That’s what I’ve found to be the hardest. Whereas, when you’re directing, it’s super easy. I’m in the scene, so I know if the other actor’s present or not. If everybody says they’re good with the cameras, let’s move on. It’s super easy to direct and act for me. The producing, not so much.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: What do you have to say about iconic director Howard Deutch?
Angie Harmon: That’s the first time Howie and I have worked together. My best friend and I have actually worn trash cans on our heads and held a broom and a tennis racket to kill a giant moth in my closet like John Candy and Dan Aykroyd did in The Great Outdoors. So when I found out we were getting Howie, I lost my mind!
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You have a multi-movie deal with Lifetime. So how many installments are there?
Angie Harmon: Well, we don’t have an exact number. I would like for there to be six to eight, and hopefully we can get there. I did see this more as a series. But I appreciate the vision that Tom has for it as two-hour movie segments. But I’m not sure. Maybe if people keep liking them, we’ll keep making them. Hopefully. We start filming the next one in the beginning of June.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Traveling back in time to the very beginning, you had a successful modeling career. Why turn to acting?
Angie Harmon: I don’t think I appreciated the modeling while I was doing it. I mean, I was so young. I don’t think I really grasped the fact that it was a business, and it was a career. I look at all the life experiences that I got from that in my my life, and I’m shocked really. I flew on the Concord, I lived in Paris, I lived in Milan and traveled so many places. I think all of these experiences are just so incredible, I really do wish I would’ve appreciated it more. To me, it was just like a job, and you’re on to your next flight or to your next thing. It wasn’t as satisfying to me as acting is. But I don’t know that much is.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: So you left modeling for acting?
Angie Harmon: Yes. I had always wanted to be an actor, so that was really fantastic. I do think modeling is a form of it. When you do stories for magazines and things like that, there is a role that you play when you put the clothes on. This was just a chance to actually do it one hundred percent.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Playing law enforcement roles didn’t start with Rizzoli & Isles, of course. You were on a short lived series in 1997 called C-16: FBI. Does it seem like 25 years ago?
Angie Harmon: Yeah. It really does (laughs). It seems like longer. I loved playing Amanda because she was so new and green to the FBI, and I was so new and green to acting. I could’ve walked out after they called “Action!” and tripped and thrown my papers everywhere, and it would’ve worked because that’s exactly the same thing that the character of Amanda Reardon would’ve done.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I felt the series showed promise, but I felt that way also about Women’s Murder Club in 2007.
Angie Harmon: Yes. Women’s Murder Club was the highest rated show they had in that slot. We were following all the numbers and doing our homework. On paper, it was a huge success. But then the writer’s strike happened, and then it just all fell apart.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Have you been asked to return to Law & Order at some point to reprise your role as Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael?
Angie Harmon: I have been, and it’s definitely a possibility. We’d have to work some things out. I promised my girls when I finished shooting Rizzoli & Isles that I would not leave them again until they’ve left the house and gone off to college. I’ve kept that promise. When we shot Barstow, Lifetime was kind enough to have us shoot here. So I could do an arc or cameo on Law & Order, but I just can’t pick up and move my life for the next seven years to Manhattan. I just can’t do it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Olivia Benson (played by Mariska Hargitay) on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is television’s longest running primetime character. If you didn’t have children, would you have been interested in playing the same role for 23 seasons?
Angie Harmon: It depends on how much time off I got, to be honest. We were shooting so many hours a week on Law & Order, and that gets pretty brutal after a while. But there is such an ease once you get into the skin of a character, and I’m sure that after 23 years that would be really easy to do.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Will there be a second season of Cellmate Secrets?
Angie Harmon: I don’t think so, and I was so bummed because I loved that show.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Are your three girls interested in pursuing careers in the entertainment industry?
Angie Harmon: It doesn’t appear so. My middle one kind of dabbled a little but but really hasn’t spoken up about it since. No. I don’t think they do.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You have one daughter who recently turned 18. What is that like?
Angie Harmon: I do! I can’t believe it. It’s so crazy. It’s kind of hard, but on the other hand, since she’s the oldest, she understands more about me now as a person. She helps in the kitchen and helps around the house. She does her own laundry and all these things that in the beginning she said, “Oh, Mom will do it.” If people come over, and they leave the house in a mess, she gets so mad, it’s hilarious.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Are you more of a fun mom than a strict one?
Angie Harmon: I’d definitely say I’m a fun one. I wouldn’t say that I’m strict. I would say that the few rules I do have are non-negotiable, you know?
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Absolutely. There’s been a lot of speculation, but I’m sure all the fans are wondering if there will be a wedding in the near future.
Angie Harmon: Oh, uh, no.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Okay.
Angie Harmon: No (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: (laughs) I believe I got the message.
Angie Harmon: (laughs) Thank you.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: And sorry, by the way, if that’s appropriate. I know a lot of fans care about you.
Angie Harmon: Aw, thank you.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Do you ever regret the cancellation of Rizzoli & Isles, or was it just time to end it and move on?
Angie Harmon: I certainly miss some of the people on the show. I miss my crew and the cast. But, yeah, I understand, and I was most definitely ready to come home and be with my kids. I don’t think the fans knew how far and for how long it took me away from my girls. That was a really hard thing to do every single week for seven years. It was really hard. I don’t think people can really understand it unless you’re a mom. But it was really hard on me. Those were formative years.
I mean, you want to be with your kids all the time anyway. But it was a really long time. I’d fly back on the red-eye, leave at midnight and I’d get here at five or six in the morning because you’re only in the air for five hours. Then I was a zombie all of Saturday and Sunday afternoon. When I was just hitting my stride, it would be time to leave again because I had to be back on set at 5:30 in the morning. It was a lot.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Wrapping up, what do you love most about Buried in Barstow?
Angie Harmon: I think what I love the most about this show is that it’s kind of like Yellowstone in the way that these people don’t necessarily make sound ethical or moral choices, but you still root for them. They’re not making the most ethical choices, but you still love them, you still want them to succeed, and you still root for them. They’re all just trying to get by and make new choices about their lives or hide from their past, but they’re trying, which is remarkable and just what the human spirit is.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Do you have anything else going on?
Angie Harmon: Oh, sure. I’ve got a 13-year-old, a 16-year-old and an 18-year old (laughs).
Smashing Interviews Magazine: (laughs) Good luck with that and the movies. Thanks for taking the time, Angie.
Angie Harmon: Of course, thank you. It was really, really lovely chatting with you, and I look forward to talking to you about the next movie.
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