You may not have noticed that in last week’s episode, we saw less of Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) than usual. The reason for that was twofold. No. 1, it was to give the star of Rizzoli & Isles time to prepare because she directed this week’s 100th episode of the TNT series, which is in its final season.
The second reason was to set up a surprise that you won’t see coming that happens at the end of tonight’s episode — 2M7258-100 – in which Jane goes undercover in a county jail to draw out the killer of a brutal murder.
“I’ve grown up on the show,” Harmon tells Parade.com in this exclusive interview. “Jane Rizzoli is just an intricate and important part of my life. I don’t know that I’m going to be able to just say good-bye to her. I’m hoping that a part of her hangs around in my personality for the rest of my life.”
Also in this interview, Harmon talks about working with Sasha Alexander, Lorraine Bracco, Bruce McGill and Jordan Bridges; how Bracco has truly become like a second mother to her; how having Sharon Gless as a guest star for the 100th episode meant so much because Cagney & Lacey was a precursor to Rizzoli and Isles, and what she plans to do next.
What’s the mood on the set like when it’s coming to an end?
Well, this week we were more celebrating because it was the 100th episode. Being able to direct that was such an honor, and I just feel so special, so lucky and so blessed. To be honest, I feel very believed in. The fact that they gave me No. 100 … I was going, “Are you sure?” They were like, “Yes. Absolutely.” When we just finished, there were lots of tears just simply because my crew was excited for me and we really did have a blast.
This is my second family and we’ve all been through a lot. I think people are just trying to not think about it. We’re just trying to stay pleasant and be in whatever moment we’re in. When I’m exhausted and I think there is no way that I can put one foot in front of the other, I just think, “You do this as some of the last moments that you’re going to get to experience Jane Rizzoli,” and then all of a sudden, then I’m fine again and I can keep going.
What are you like as a director?
I have fun with my crew and cast, but to be on the other side of it … I’ve been told I’m a very excited and supportive director, so I have a tendency to run from the monitors screaming and yelling and hugging. I realize that that’s not the norm, so it just became this thing. They were like, “Okay. Here she comes. Here she comes,” and I was running in the room and hugging everyone. It’s a very, very special thing.
Was it hard to direct yourself?
No. No. Not at all. We had playback, but it was just one of those things where I needed to make sure that technically the shot was what I was looking for. I don’t need to watch the other actors if I’m in the scene with them because I’m in the scene with them. I see what they’re doing. I don’t need to see it.
But, apparently, I have a flair for the sweeping crane shots and the 360 and that has become, “This is a statement Harmon shot.” Those are cool shots in my opinion, so I’m pretty excited about it.
What can you say about the 100th episode?
I met Sharon Gless probably a month or so ago, and she actually approached me. We were at Craig’s restaurant and everybody was having dinner and a great time and the place is full of legends, and this beautiful woman comes up to me and she’s like, “You know, I’m such a fan of yours.” And all I could think was, “Who is this woman with this amazing hair?” because she has this genius haircut that swoops back and then it’s like spikes everywhere but she’s super feminine and gorgeous. She’s strong. She’s tough. She can throw back a martini, and I’m looking at this woman thinking, “Why do I know this woman?”
She had these really fantastic, rose-colored glasses on and all of a sudden I realized, “It’s Sharon Gless,” and I just lost my mind. I literally just started stuttering and stammering. I said, “You have to realize. You paved this street that I walk on.” Because of Cagney & Lacey and those women in those roles, that’s the reason that Rizzoli & Isles is successful.
I was like, “The 100th episode is coming up. Would you want to be in it?” And she was like, “Oh. Sure. Of course.”
One of the things that makes Rizzoli & Isles so special is the relationship between Jane and Maura. What’s it like working with Sasha now in the seventh season.
I think it’s very seamless. Sasha knows that I’m probably going to throw in a couple of things and go off book, and she’s ready to roll with me. That’s what makes the friendship onscreen. We have a different writer each week, and our writers are great, but you often find yourself as an actor acting to their voice as opposed to them writing to ours. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what puts a different spin on it every week. Sasha’s very by the script. She’s a studious actor, and I just come in like a hurricane and go, “This, this, this and this.” But now, she can roll with me.
We laugh and we find things during the scenes. I’m not one of those actors that likes to rehearse and rehearse and rehearse and rehearse. I want the organic moments, the spontaneous moments to happen on film. That’s what makes it lifelike. When you’re having a conversation with your friend, you don’t have it over and over and over again just to come up with a joke or land a punchline.
And the rest of the cast?
We’ve all become that way. Jordan is hilarious. Jordan will do 50 takes. He has become like my little brother. All I do is just tease him and give him hell.
We’ve all become very, very close in our roles and Lorraine is like my mom. I call her Mom. We go to restaurants and I’m like, “Ma, what do you want today?” and she just starts cracking up laughing, or I text her, “Ma, the girls are coming in town. When can you have dinner?” And they think of her as a surrogate matriarch.” We’ve become very, very close.
I’ve known Bruce most of my life. I think it’ll be the hardest for probably Lorraine, Bruce and me, because Lorraine has her two daughters and I have three daughters, and she has become my TV mom. She’s helped me through a lot of things and you get scared. You think like, “Oh, my gosh. What if I never talk to you again?” Which, of course, you will.
And Bruce and I … I guess the show business gods keep bringing us back together, and I’m so thankful for it. I’ve learned so much from him. He says he’s learned a lot from me. I think he’s just being polite. I adore him.
Will fans of the series be happy with the way it ends?
I think the audience is going to be very satisfied with where all of these characters end up. We’ve had [author] Tess [Gerritsen] do an appearance on the show. She’s very pleased and that’s such an honor. And [executive producer] Jan Nash is just one of the kindest and most incredibly gifted and funniest people in this business. Other people come here and they say it’s the greatest set that they’ve worked on. That’s a huge compliment.
Any thought to what you’d like to do after Rizzoli?
I have a movie that I’d like to direct, and I would certainly like to take some time off and spend it with my kids. My youngest is seven years old. All she knows is Rizzoli & Isles, and she’s always been on the other side of the country.
When we first signed on to do this show, we were only shooting eight episodes, so it was like the dream job. We were shooting from the beginning of June to the end of August, so I could live in North Carolina and be mom, and then we’d all come out as a family for the summer when mommy had to shoot and they got to hang out with their friends . We never thought that it would turn into such a huge success and I’d be flying back and forth nine months out of the year.
So I certainly get the: “How could you leave your children?” I didn’t leave my children. It’s one of those things where I was under contract. It’s just as hard for me to be away from them as it is for them to be away from me. So, for example, I take the Red Eye tonight. I get there tomorrow. I will be there for less than 36 hours, but it’s just what you do.
I’m a single mom. I’ve got to keep working, but I would definitely love to work with my little girls close to me. I’m just going to see what God’s got in store. I’ve gotten a lot of offers and, obviously, that’s flattering. I would love to do a comedy. I would love to do a super, super dark serious drama. We’ll see. It’s a very exciting time.