The Los Angeles home that actress Sasha Alexander (Rizzoli & Isles, Yes Man) and director husband Edoardo Ponti purchased has been described as a cross between a prehistoric cave and a vampire den. “It didn’t have a lot of light. It had a lot of dark, painted walls-like dark blues, reds, and oranges-so it felt a little like a caveman’s house,” Alexander says. Interior designer Estee Stanley (also Domaine’s editor-at-large) had a different perspective when she first viewed the property: “It was probably one of the ugliest houses I’d ever seen. It almost looked like a set of True Blood. It was literally like faux-finish oranges and reds-crazy.”
TNT's blockbuster hit Rizzoli & Isles drew a combined audience of 7.6 million viewers in Live + 7 delivery for its March 3 episode and encore, a +6% increase over the prior week. The show also drew 2.7 million adults 25-54 (+5% vs. the prior week). With all replays and multiplatform viewing included, Rizzoli & Isles is reaching an average of 10.3 million viewers per episode this season.
How Female Showrunners Are Making a Difference on the Dial
Tina Fey fans have been enthusiastically tweeting about Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt since the show premiered earlier this month.
Many are expressing their love for Netflix’s binge-worthy 13-episode series with the now-trending tagline from the show’s opening theme: Females are strong as hell.
Fey’s role on the creative team is a huge boon to women viewers, who make up the largest demographic of television watchers - and are more than 51% of the U.S. population. When women create the shows, they tend to have female protagonists in the lead and women writing behind the scenes.
Women, unlike men, don’t have to think about what other women want, feel or need - it’s instinctive. And the women who watch connect to their shows because they feel relatable. (Just ask any fan of Shonda Rhimes.)
And the benefit is even more widespread - when women are behind the scenes, both men and women viewers get a broader scope as to who women are. (And “strong as hell” is only a fraction of the story.)
Despite the popularity of series from showrunners like Fey, Rhimes, Jill Soloway and Michelle Ashford, white men still create and run the majority of shows on television. And while there is a perception that cable programming is more welcoming to women in key behind-the-scenes roles than shows on the big broadcast networks, the numbers don’t bear that out.
Twenty percent of creators of broadcast-network programs are women, versus 15% for cable (A&E, AMC, FX, History, TNT, USA Network, HBO and Showtime) and Netflix programs, according to a study done in the 2013-14 season.
Among executive producers, women account for 23% of showrunners on broadcast network programs and 17% of the executive producers on cable and Netflix shows, as per Boxed In, the annual study of women on screen and behind the scenes, by Martha M. Lauzen, executive director for the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.
The number of women characters on screen and working behind the scenes has grown slowly but incrementally. That progress, small as it was, now appears to be stalled.
One reason why this should matter, especially to women viewers (and actors): When a program had at least one woman creator, women comprised 47% of all speaking characters, compared to 39% of all characters when women weren’t involved in the creation of a show.
“People tend to create what they know,” Lauzen said. “Having lived their lives as females, women tend to create female characters. Having lived their lives as males, men tend to create male characters.
“There are exceptions, of course, but when you consider hundreds or even thousands of cases, as my research on television and film has, patterns emerge,” Lauzen said. Michelle Ashford, creator of Showtime’s Masters of Sex, got her start in TV writing with a gig on the 1980s female buddy-cop drama Cagney & Lacey. The 1980s Golden Globe-award winning series, created by Barbara Avedon and Barbara Corday, was a welcome training ground for burgeoning women screenwriters.
“It was just a given that they were looking for strong, complicated, interesting stories for women - and women of a certain age, also, because they weren’t 20-year-olds,” Ashford said in an interview at her Sony Studios office. “I had worked on other shows that where much more male-oriented, and there was a marked difference. It was just a way of looking for stories where women weren’t afterthoughts, they were the first thought.”
Ashford’s writing team on Masters is predominately female.
“But that is simply a function of finding the writers that I think can do the best job on the show,” Ashford said. “We have made an effort with directing, because there are a lot of women writing in television, but directing less so.”
Ashford is one of a generous handful of women creating and/or executive producing shows for Showtime. Among them are The Affair’s Sarah Treem, cocreator and showrunner; Ray Donovan creator and executive producer Ann Biderman; and women executive producers heading up Nurse Jackie, Shameless and House of Lies.
“These are shows where you have women writing to an audience in terms of what is real through their perspective versus the male gaze,” Melanie McFarland, the Seattle-based TV editor of website IMDb.com. “If you go back and look at what J.J. Abrams did with Alias, there was an idea that if you have a strong female protagonist she has to be kick-ass, and there’s something very cool and hip and untouchable about her.
“When you look at shows with female showrunners, they’re not afraid to write their characters more real,” McFarland added. “I find them to be much more nuanced and relatable as a woman.”
There remains a disparity in opportunities for women to go beyond what would be traditionally considered “a woman’s story.”
“I’m completely open to women, and I don’t know if that’s a function of being a female showrunner or not,” Ashford said.
“I would never not look at a woman’s script because I think a guy’s would be more interesting, so as a result, it turns out women are just as good as writers as any guy, and on our show what has happened, women’s writing samples are more appropriate for our show,” she added. “So I have just naturally gravitated toward women anyway.”
That said, “there are a lot of television shows that network executives wouldn’t naturally think of hiring a woman for - things with a darker sensibility, with more violence,” Rizzoli & Isles showrunner Jan Nash said from her office on the Paramount lot, walls lined with the artwork of her 7½-year-old son and her daughter, who just turned 5. “Something like Transparent, which Jill [Soloway] is very close to, those kinds of stories people can look at and say, ‘Oh yeah, a woman can do that, or a man can do that.’ But a lot of the network shows, I just think they look at and go, ‘Is that a female sensibility? I don’t know.’”
Inside her air-conditioned office on an unseasonably summer-like Friday afternoon in March, Nash, a former investment banker, said she has had great experiences working with male showrunners on such shows as Without a Trace, Family Law and Fairly Legal; they were men who “had world views very consistent with my own world view,” she said.
“I’ve never been a male showrunner, and so I don’t know what that experience is like,” she continued with a laugh. “But I know for me, that as I think about how to do my job, there’s nothing more important to me than my family.
"I have two young children, a partner that I love, and I would never want this job - no matter how great this job is, and it’s really great - to get in the way of our life together,” Nash said. “And I feel that for everybody here. I want them to go ...experience their lives, and come here and do their work with gladness.”
To accommodate such an environment on-set, showrunner Mara Brock Akil said it’s all about mastering the off-set juggle.
“I compartmentalize my entire life,” Akil said. “I compartmentalize as a mother, as a wife, as the business side of who I am and the artist side of who I am, in order to sort of get it done.”
On the phone from her driveway - compartmentalizing her focus before meeting her two young sons - the creator/executive producer talked about doing double duty for BET’s Being Mary Jane, which shoots in Atlanta, and the Los Angeles-based The Game, which she handed over a couple of years ago to her husband, director Salim Akil, and writer Kenny Smith, Jr.
“From a physical standpoint, I could not be on the stage all the time, and comedy requires you to be on top of it all the time,” she said. “That’s why I hire really, really, really well, because sometimes you need to make a change to save the show - even if you’re the change, and you need to get out of the way.”
This week’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are features Angie Harmon, probably best known for her role in the television series, Law and Order.
Angie’s adventure begins at her kitchen table in Charlotte, NC, with a package she receives from her father, Larry, that includes a photo of her great-grandparents. Like many people, up until this time, Angie only knew the names of her grandparents and not much more.
Angie becomes deeply curious (I think the genealogy bug bit her) and she sets out on her adventure to discover her ancestry.
Unlike many of us, Angie started her adventure close to home, meeting professional genealogist, Joseph Schumway at the Genealogy Library at Charlotte Museum of History. Thanks to Joseph’s magic wand, Angie’s tree was able to magically grow to reveal her 5x great grandfather Michael Harmon. I want one of those magic wands….just saying.
Angie discovers that Michael was the first immigrant ancestor on the Harmon side, and to her surprise, from Germany, arriving on December 23, 1772. Of course, then Angie needs to visit a different location to continue.
Angie arrives at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to meet with Colonial Historian Jim Horn. Angie pours over the immigration document and finds an entry that details a transaction binding Michael Harmon as an indentured servant! Jim explains that a primary motivator for a poor young man like Michael to agree to servitude would have been the potential opportunity to eventually buy land, which was near impossible in his homeland. Looking through the details of the agreement, Angie sees that Michael was required to assist a tanner for 5 years and 7 months, which was grueling work. Angie then deduces Michael would’ve been released from servitude in 1778, right in the middle of the Revolutionary War! Angie discovers an online record that shows Michael enlisting with the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment on May 10, 1777. Jim suggests she meet with Scott Stephenson, a Revolutionary War Historian, to learn about her ancestor’s time in the war.
I actually found this part very interesting because it delved a bit into how indentured servitude in the US worked. That is a much-overlooked method of immigration. Many indentured servants didn’t survive, so we don’t know about them today. Those that did simply went on with their lives after their indenture and didn’t seem to dwell on that time. It’s a piece of oral history that hasn’t made its way to current for many lines. It was simply a means to an end. One way to end a servitude early was to enlist to serve in the war – although I’m not so sure that wasn’t akin to jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
Furthermore, I didn’t realize that there were additional records for indentured servitude in at least some cases. Angie may simply have been very lucky, but I need to go and check on my own indentured servant ancestors.
At the Free Library of Philadelphia, Scott Stephenson tells Angie that Michael entered the war at an unfortunate time; the British had just captured Philadelphia, America’s capital at the time. After that, things didn’t get better for the Patriots. Scott hands Angie a paystub for her 5x great grandfather that is marked “Camp near Valley Forge, May 7, 1778.” Angie is excited to discover that her ancestor camped at Valley Forge under the command of George Washington! Scott explains that Valley Forge is the site of a winter encampment that was one of the lowest points for the Continental Army during the war. He suggests that they visit Valley Forge for themselves.
I could tell by Angie’s demeanor at this point that she didn’t know what “Valley Forge” meant historically – what those men suffered through. But she would shortly.
At Valley Forge, Angie gets a feel for what her ancestor endured as she and Scott visit the site on which Michael Harmon lived. Inside a hut that replicates where Michael would have stayed through that treacherous winter, Scott explains the brotherhood that formed during those very trying times, with little food and clothing and disease rampant, but that by Spring a remarkable renewal happened. General Washington brought the acclaimed General von Steuben to Valley Forge to develop a unified code and train the men so they would be capable of going toe to toe with the British.
I found George Washington’s commentary to the men enlightening: “The fate of millions unborn depends on what we do here today.” I don’t know if Washington was visionary or simply trying to inspire his cold, hungry men, but regardless it worked and it was indeed, prophetic.
It was at Valley Forge that I could tell that Angie truly felt what her ancestor was felling, as best we can across more than 200 years. She said, “I can step in the same steps he did.” Yes, Angie, you can.
Angie wants to know what happened to Michael after Valley Forge. Scott sends her to the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg, PA, which houses many of the soldier’s records for the Revolutionary War.
Angie meets with Historian Major Sean Sculley, where a letter from a General that reveals Michael and his entire Pennsylvania line mutinied! – that was unexpected! Things are getting juicy now!
Major Sculley explains that the troops were fed up with the lack of food and clothing – and they weren’t receiving promised payment, either. Not to mention, they weren’t being allowed to leave when their enlistment was up AND the new recruits were being paid more, plus an enlistment bounty. It’s no wonder they were unhappy. According to a letter from that timeframe, the soldiers “had suffered every kind of misery.”
Angie’s curious to know how it played out, and Sean hands her another letter. Angie discovers that British spies offered to meet their demands and take Michael’s line over to their side! Angie’s dying to know if Michael changed allegiances and Sean explains that the soldiers were merely fighting for their rights and had no interest in switching sides. Eventually the U.S. army met their terms, and the soldiers were able to leave service if they chose. Reading a compiled regiment list, Angie finds that Michael’s war service ended after the mutiny.
Angie reflects upon not only his military service, but his servitude and coming to the colonies knowing he would be sold into servitude. She says that she has always wondered where her personal resiliency came from, and now she knows. And of course, I’m left wondering if there is a resiliency gene. Are those traits passed from generation to generation genetically, culturally, or are they simply forged in the fire of the moment?
Angie wants to know what her ancestor did after leaving the army, so Sean passes her a tax record. In it, Angie discovers that in 1795, Michael owned 130 acres of land at Doctors Fork in Mercer County, Kentucky! Angie wonders how he finally became a land owner? And of course, Sean suggests she go to Mercer County to find out.
Angie arrives at the Harrodsburg Historical Society in Mercer County, Kentucky to meet with local historian Amalie Preston. To find out about Michael’s life in Kentucky, Angie searches for his will, and of course she finds one and miraculously, the will book is laying right on the table. In it, she discovers that Michael owned multiple plantations, had married and named 7 children in his will! Wondering how he got the money for the land, Angie looks into Michael’s inventory list, which shows that Michael appears to have used the skills from his indenture to open a tanning business. Angie then finds her ancestor’s land on an old map, and Amalie tells her she made arrangements with the current owners if she would like to see it. Angie agrees and heads out to see her ancestral land.
Angie and her daughters who have joined her for this part of the journey pull up to a farmhouse where the current owner… are you ready for this…another Harmon, greets her. Amazingly, this land is still in the Harmon family 200+ years later. Angie’s cousin invites her to take a look around the land to see where it all started. Angie heads up a hillside to fully survey all that Michael Harmon accomplished. One must admit, it’s a beautiful, traditional fall Kentucky farm scene.
Standing on Michael’s land, Angie says, “All of that fighting, all of that suffering, all of that hardship – was for this.” Yes, Michael got his land, although he didn’t live terribly long and died with underage children. Yet, he clearly accomplished the American dream…land…a family…freedom – a legacy he literally passed to his descendants.
Angie’s commentary about how whole this process made her feel really rang a bell with me. I was glad to hear her say, “This gives me new light into the rest of my life and how I’m going to live it.”
Angie Harmon, who stars as a police detective on TNT's Rizzoli & Isles, recently did some real-life detective work and made a breakthrough personal discovery.
The Highland Park native conducted a genealogical background check with help from Who Do You Think You Are?, the TV series in which celebrities trace their roots.
Harmon went back more than 200 years into her family history and learned about her great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Michael Harmon, who fought in the Revolutionary War and served under George Washington at Valley Forge.
Harmon says she also learned a few things about herself during the journey of discovery.
The episode premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday on TLC.
Harmon talked about her experiences last week by phone from Los Angeles, where she's already filming another season of Rizzoli & Isles.
What compelled you to begin this search into your family history and why at this time?
I've always been curious about where I come from. Why am I the way I am? Why do I think the way I think? Why do I do what I do? I believe a lot of that is in your gene pool. But who was the source exactly? I had no idea.
I have three little girls (ages 11, 9 and 6) and I wanted to be able to give them this information and tell them the stories. So when this opportunity came up, it seemed like the right time.
Tell us a little about Michael Harmon.
My 5X great-grandfather was an incredible person. He came to America from Germany as a young man hoping for a better life. He persevered through a lot of personal hardships, including several years as an indentured servant and then as a soldier during the harsh conditions at Valley Forge.
But he not only survived; he excelled. He wound up becoming a very successful man and had a big family. And I think some of those qualities - his drive, his tenaciousness - were passed down to me.
Going back and seeing what kind of person Michael Harmon was, I was like, "Wow, now I get it. It's literally in my DNA."
What if you had discovered an outlaw, someone disreputable, in your family tree? Would you have been as willing to share that story on TV?
It's the risk that you take, isn't it? There's no telling what you might find. I just kept praying all the way through that I wouldn't be one of those episodes where people uncover villains and criminals. And I was so thrilled and relieved when I found a hero.
After five seasons, Rizzoli & Isles is still one of the top shows on cable. Do you still enjoy working on it?
I love playing Jane Rizzoli. The great thing about this show is it's got a little bit of drama, a little bit of comedy, a little bit of everything. We get to cover the whole spectrum on a daily basis.
We can go from doing a heavy emotional scene to doing something that's just super, super campy and everybody cracking up. I will literally be like, "That had to be too much," but they're like, "No, it works." So it's fun and I'm very grateful for the success of the show.
In the late 1990s, actor Lorraine Bracco silently battled clinical depression for more than a year, and she didn’t seek help even though she was playing a psychologist on the hot cable show, “The Sopranos.” But now the award-winning actor is talking about her journey back to mental heal...
Playing a mental-health professional on HBO's blockbuster series “The Sopranos” was an ironic role for award-winning actor Lorraine Bracco.
“I found myself needing to seek therapy while playing a psychiatrist offering that same therapy,” says Bracco, who portrayed Dr. Jennifer Melfi, the calm therapist who treated mobster Tony Soprano for clinical depression.
“Here I was dealing with depression in real life while playing someone who was helping others cope with the very same thing,” she says.
At the time, Bracco had plenty of reasons to be depressed. The 1990s were “a really lousy decade,” she says.
She was in a public and messy custody battle with actor Harvey Keitel over their daughter, Stella. Bracco also had to cope with unsubstantiated charges that her then-husband, actor Edward James Olmos, fondled a teenage girl.
Eventually she was awarded sole custody of Stella, (she also has daughter Margaux, from her first marriage) but the protracted battle left Bracco bankrupt, and her relationship with Olmos was in ruins.
Life threw the then-single Bracco another curveball when her teenage daughter, Stella, was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes joint pain, stiffness and swelling.
One-time model, and now actress, Angie Harmon, is to be featured on The Learning Channel’s Who Do You Think You Are? this Sunday (March 22, 2015 at 10/9c). She may be best known for playing the character ADA Abbie Carmichael from 1998-2001 on NBC’s series Law & Order.
In the upcoming episode, which was filmed October 20 to 27, 2014, Angie travels from her home in Charlotte, North Carolina to the Charlotte Museum of History; then on to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and the Free Library of Philadelphia in the same city. She then goes to Valley Forge National Park in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg. Finally, she goes to the Harrodsburg Historical Society in Kentucky, which leads her to Michael Harmon’s farm, in Mercer County.
Angie knew quite a lot about her mother’s side of the family, but not so much about that of her father, with whom she grew up and is very close. Larry Harmon (her dad) sent her a package of material about the family to help her get started. Finding a Jim Harmon, her 2nd great-grandfather, she sent the information on to Joseph Shumway, who works for ProGenealogists, an Ancestry.com company. I had the privilege a few weeks ago to attend a class given by Joseph Shumway at the BYU Family History Tech Conference, “Life of the 21st Century Genealogist.” You may click on the link for a review of the class.
Shumway did his research and met Angie at the genealogy library of the Charlotte Museum of History. Her line went back to a Michael Harmon, who came to America as an indentured servant in the early 1770s – and was contracted to work as a tanner for 5 years and 7 months. However, a year or so before the contract ran out, Harmon enlisted in the Revolutionary War. Angie met with Colonial historian Jim Horn at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, where she she got to see the immigration document, and an online record that shows that Michael enlisted in the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment on May 10, 1777 – maybe not the best time to be joining the revolution! According to Revolutionary War Historian Scott Stephenson, who met Angie at the Free Library of Philadelphia, the British had recently captured Philadelphia, and a paystub shows that Michel Harmon was one of those soldiers camped at Valley Forge during the bitter winter of 1777-78. Angie and Scott actually went to Valley Forge to learn more.
Next, Angie went on the the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg. Here she met with Historian Major Sean Sculley. It was revealed that the soldiers got fed up with the lack of pay, food, and clothing and that a number of them mutinied – including Michael Harmon. They could have been shot! However the government backed off, met their terms, and allowed soldiers to leave if they wanted. It looks liked Michael “wanted” as his war record ends, and he shows up owning 130 acres in Mercer County, Kentucky in 1895.
Angie then traveled to the Harrodsburg Historical Society in Mercer County, Kentucky , where got got a look at Michael Harmon’s will. She found that Michael had entered the tanning business, owned several plantations, married and had seven children. Angie found her ancestor’s land on an old map, and with the help of local historian Amalie Preston, went for a visit. The land is still in the Harmon family today, and Angie had found her way home. Quite a story…
TNT's hit crime drama Rizzoli & Isles drew a combined audience of 7.1 million viewers in Live + 7 delivery for its February 24 episode and encore, including 2.5 million adults 25-54. So far this year, the show is reaching an average of 10 .1 million viewers per episode across TNT's linear, VOD, online and mobile platforms, as well as DVR playback.
For four and a half seasons of Showtime's dysfunctional family dramedy Shameless, a good contingent of the audience was just waiting maybe not-so-patiently for Lip Gallagher (Jeremy Allen White) and Mandy Milkovich (Emma Greenwell) to figure things out and actually make a go of a relationship - even if not a traditional one by usual television standards. That seemed harder when Lip started dating rich girl Amanda (Nichole Bloom), and it got even more complicated when Mandy moved out of Chicago with her abusive boyfriend. But the entrance of Helene (Sasha Alexander), Lip's professor-turned-lover may just be the biggest complication of them all.
Amanda may have been Lip's gateway drug into a new world - one of finer things - but Helene is challenging him and inspiring him to be a better man.
"[Helene] is somebody that he can trust and as somebody that I think is overall looking at him and saying, 'You can be more than you were raised in.' And for Lip, he's stuck between the people and the society that he was raised in and now being at a university with new options, and she's saying, 'Behave like the kid at that university,' " Alexander told The Hollywood Reporter of her guest starring role on Shameless.
With only her introductory episode already aired, Alexander talked with THR about what to expect from Helene and just why now was the perfect time for her to take an edgier role.
Let's start at the beginning with Helene: were you actively looking for a role so different from Dr. Maura Isles on Rizzoli & Isles, and what was it about Helene that made you say, "That's the one!" if so?
The wonderful thing about television is that you do get to play the same part for a long time, but then the other part to that is people do see you as only this one thing, and I really want to play all kinds of characters. And it felt like the only way to do that was to get yourself around a role that is a completely different side of you. The producers came to me with the role, and their concerns were that there was nudity involved, and they wanted to know whether or not I would even consider it, and I said, "Well yeah, but it depends, obviously, on what it is." So I had a lengthy conversation with Nancy Pimental and Chris Chulack and Andrew Stearn about the details of this woman - who she is and what role she plays in the story and then in Lip's life, really, along his journey. I think all we want to do [as actors] is take roles that are something different from what we've played, and Helene couldn't be further from Dr. Maura Isles. (Laughs.) So after six years on that show, it was very exciting to me. I was looking for something different, and Shameless came up, and it was perfect timing.
What do you think Helene saw in Lip that inspired the progression of their relationship to move as fast as it did?
One of the things that did concern me, and which I kept going back to, was "Would she really do this and risk her tenure by getting involved with [a student]?" That said, Lip is special. He's really smart and not just in class. I think that when he shows up to her office and how he is with her, I think she's attracted to him; I think it's sexy and hot and all of that, but then she starts to really see that he is a really special kid in terms of where he came from and who he is. So I came from a point of "This isn't just about sex." She's a progressive woman, so "What is it that moves her? What is is that she sees? What's happening inside?" She takes an interest in him that goes beyond what she expected. Not every episode is them in bed! (Laughs.)
If she's advising him or just listening as he confides in her, that almost sounds maternal.
Yes, I think she definitely is, and you're going to see that in the next episode. I don't think she takes a maternal "I'm going to take care of you" [approach but] a little bit more of "I'm older; I'm wiser; I know what I'm talking about; and you need to get your shit together," basically. You see how young he is in some of the choices he's going to make with her, and he tells her some of the stuff that's going on in his life that puts her in the middle of situations she doesn't necessarily want to be a part of, but what I like about it is that I've always believed that relationships are not about the age between people but who are they? What are they looking for, and what's the connection - whether it's sex or some kind of emotional connection, that's what makes it appealing to me. But it's complicated! You'll see she's kind of like the girlfriend and the mother. Jeremy said that; we were shooting a scene that was basically like the morning after, and he said, "This is so weird. It's like being with my girlfriend and then having to talk to her mom the next day." (Laughs.) There is this kind of odd thing about it, but that's what I love about the show. It's pushing the envelope. It's so great to read a script and go, "They're never going to do that." And then they do!
How do you view Helene and all of her complications?
She's a very progressive woman and she definitely has certain tastes. Some of them will be rather unusual and funny. But for me, I think what was most interesting was that she's this woman who's in full control of her body and her mind, and she knows what she wants. It was interesting to play somebody really that mature because even on Rizzoli & Isles, not to compare it, our characters stay kind of youthful; they're not married, and they don't have kids. Helene is a very realized, mature woman - regardless of what you think of her choices, she's very much in control of them. And I think it will be interesting to see Lip with that kind of a woman because he's always the one in control. He's going to become something in her life, too; he may be more than she bargained for.
Will Helene meet the rest of the Gallaghers and get involved in those aspects of Lip's life?
She gets to know more about him, but the situations are not about his family but other friends and things to do with Kev [Steve Howey] and some of the dealings they're doing on campus. She's kind of getting involved in that part. But she's also bringing him into her fold, which is interesting because we'll start to see Lip in some more posh situations. Can he be influenced in different ways? Can he pull himself out?
You mentioned that the producers came to you with concerns you might not want to do the role because of the nudity involved. Were there things you said no to, or things that were changed based on conversations about just how much you were comfortable with?
I never thought as an actor that I would not do nudity, I just never thought I would do it after having two kids and with this very young man! So that was it's own thing. (Laughs.) But that being said, I think part of it is so liberating because you kind of have to just go with it, and that's the tone. There were conversations about sexual positions or whatever that I might not be comfortable doing, but as far as when we were shooting, not really; everything they wrote was pretty much what they had said, and I think then the question becomes how they're actually filming your body. I worked with the Wells team before, and they're classy people. The concern is that we live in an age of the internet, and anything you do is forever out there, and I have to always feel comfortable that when my child comes to me at some point and says, "Why did you do this?" I know why I did it. Those reasons are very clear to me, and I'm very comfortable with this job. I think those are the things you have to consider these days. It used to not be like that. But the other thing, too, is it's not gratuitous. Sexuality doesn't bother me as much as violence does; sexuality and the human body, I feel is like, "Go for it." And I do feel that for the character, when you see her episodes this season, you'll say, "I think the nudity that was there was meant to be there." It wasn't all that she was about.
Helene is sticking around through the end of season five, but is this a role you have had conversations about continuing in the already announced season six?
I would love to do more if the situation presents itself! I think it's fun for people to see actors play different parts. Whether you agree with it or not is not the point, it's more about "Can they pull it off?" It's really fun to be able to - as an actor - be able to go into a series that's been on for five years and jump into their world and play with them for awhile. Especially such a specific world! Shameless is a very different show; it's an envelope-pushing show, and I had a lot of fun with it. There's nudity; there's cussing; it's wild; [you need to] watch it with a sense of humor and an openness to go on for the ride.
The Sasha Alexander that stars as Maura Isles on TNT’s long-running drama is NOT the Sasha Alexander who joins Showtime's Shameless tonight.
On Shameless Season 5 Episode 9, Alexander plays Helene, a character who crosses paths with Lip Gallagher in the college classroom... but things quickly escalate from there.
And, as Alexander told me when we talked about her new gig recently, Helene is someone who carries her sexuality very different from the star's other alter ego.
Alexander also talked about what Helene sees in Lip, whether doing nudity for the Shameless role was a big deal and how Rizzoli's Maura needs to get her groove back.
TV Fanatic: Helene is kind of sexy and she really wears her sexuality. So tell me how you connected with this character who is definitely very different from Maura.
Sasha Alexander: Totally different than Maura, oh my God. It was like, I finished Rizzoli & Isles on a Friday and I started Shameless on a Monday and I needed to take a lot of quiet, meditative time to sort of enter the world of Shameless and the character.
Look, it's always a gas to be able to play a role different than the one you're playing at the moment. So that is what every actor looks for, but when they called me to consider doing this part, it was just a yes for me and the whole experience was a gas.
Getting into the role of Helene was asking a lot of questions to the show runner, Nancy Pimental and her directing producer Chris Chulack, who directed the first episode that you meet Helene and I really wanted to understand who she was wholly. You're going to see a lot of different things in the four episodes. She's extremely, let's say, a progressive woman. She is very comfortable in her body, in her choices, but it’s complicated.
[Helene and Lip] definitely have a huge sexual chemistry, an attraction, but that's not what it ultimately...it gets deeper and more complicated on both sides for both of them and that's whats really interesting.
TVF: What do you think she sees in Lip? Is it just a sexual conquest, or does she see something more in this kid? It gets hot and heavy right from the start!
SA: I think it's Shameless so it moves pretty fast. From Day 1, it moved pretty fast. I think that initially, he's attractive and he's special in a unique way…he’s smart. He's quick. He banters well with her. He's not laying down when she's not allowing him to get into her class and when he comes to her office, it turns into something very different.
My question was, obviously, who is this woman that she would wreck her position for this kid? What does she see in him? She couldn't just do it for the sex because that seemed so, I don't know, trite in a way. So obviously, she sees something more in him, she feels something more in him and she's right because as it develops I think you will see she did. She got it. She smelled in him something and she was right.
I don't want to give it away but let's just say that she plays different roles in his life through their experience. I think that is very interesting for his character. It;s always difficult to enter the roles of another series in its fifth year like jumping on a moving train but it's also exciting because as a guest star, you can't really bring another color to the main character and I think and I hope that that’s what it does for Lip.
We've seen him in so many situations that he is in control of because he is so bright. I think now, he's facing identity crisis. He's a college kid that’s going to get his act together or live the life he was brought up in. I think that Helene offers him a window into another world and she helps nurture that part of him.
TVF: It sounds like Helene will be teaching Lip certain things whether it's about the world, or whatever, do you think she'll also learn something from him?
SA: Do I see that she's going to get more than she bargained for? Yes, I do. I think both of them get surprised, which is ultimately what I like so much. I've always been attractive to this idea that age is only a number and it is not really where people might be at, not just physically but emotionally what they might be needing.
At this moment, it's interesting because whatever Helene is going through personally that attracted her to this much younger man, he's also incredibly attracted to her in a way that's totally different than any of the girls that he so easily can get and so there’s a need there and that need is the most interesting thing to me. Humanly speaking, what is that brings people together?
Yes, I do think that they become more for each other than you think. It's definitely not every episode is just them in bed. He brings some of his own problems to her doorstep, which I don't know how happy she is about that. In typical Shameless fashion, there's so many levels to it that are unexpected and kind of twisty turny and are so interesting that, that's the most fun for me. I like it that that way.
TVF: What would Maura think of Helene if they were to cross paths? Would she even give her a second glance, or would she just write her off, what do you think she would think of her?
SA: That’s a great question. I think Maura would love Helene. I actually think she would even be a little bit like her. I think that Maura has been kind of trapped. If you look at the early seasons of Rizzoli & Isles, Maura was an extremely sexual being. She was always the one pushing Jane to date different kinds of men. She was the one much more involved in her romantic life and that sort of withered away a few seasons ago and now, I feel like the women are just so lonely. So I think Helene would be an inspiration to her, really channeling her inner Goddess Helene is a very real live woman. I feel like she’s really like ahead of the game in a big way and that’s always very interesting to play.
TVF: She might help Maura get her groove back because Maura needs her groove back.
SA: I totally agree.
TVF: Just because Shameless is also a much more adult show and you have some very adult scenes where nudity involved, was that a big step for you, or was it not a big deal because the role almost required it?
SA: It did require it and it was definitely something that is a part of it when you go and do a show like Shameless, that’s where you're going to go and I did exactly what I wanted to do. There was something else that was attractive. I wanted it to be something totally out of the box and that’s what I liked about it. There's much more to the character than just that part of her, her body or her sexuality. I think definitely they have a huge chemistry there, but I think there's more to it.
I think if it was just one-sided, I probably wouldn't have been attracted to [the role], but do I think that people who have never seen Shameless will be a little shocked if they just tune in? Yes, I do. But if you've seen the show and you follow the show, I don’t think you'll be shocked at all. I think you’ll be totally, hopefully, excited about the storyline.
For me, sexuality is to me is just human nature and it's very natural and I don't find anything offensive about it but I do about violence against women. So I think this is really personal and some people, it might appeal to some and not to others. That's just what it is, it's a role.
It was such a joy to work with that whole cast and Jeremy White is extremely talented and they're just wonderful. It’s extremely liberating to be on something where you’re not the same thing every week. You get a script and you don't know where it's going to go. That’s the big, unique experience because it's like, how wild can you get? So for me, that was just really liberating and really fun to do. I had a blast.
Actress Sasha Alexander is guest starring on 'Shameless.'
Since her Dawson's Creek stint, Sasha Alexander-perhaps best known for playing Pacey Witter's older sister Gretchen-has grown up. In the '90s, Alexander spent her days on set with Katie Holmes and Michelle Williams, and grabbing the on-camera attention of Dawson himself. But make no mistake; the Rizzoli & Isles actress is still attracting the younger guys.
Alexander makes an appearance in Sunday's episode of Shameless, playing Helene, a professor at Lip's school. And yes, he totally has the hots for her. Really, who doesn't? "This woman is a much more sexual creature," says Alexander. "She expresses herself and she's very comfortable in her sexuality. She doesn't apologize for it."
We shamelessly asked the actress to spill her secrets for staying sexy, and thankfully she obliged.
Yahoo Beauty: In Sunday's episode of Shameless, you're playing a sexy, confident, character. Where do you channel that inspiration from?
Sasha Alexander: I admire women in the movies that have that tough girl sparkle to them. Lauren Bacall was one of them. Sigourney Weaver. Faye Dunaway had it. The toughness and the sexuality-it wasn’t one or the other. I draw from that.
Does that describe you?
I'm confident, but I'm also incredibly vulnerable and incredibly fragile as well. I enjoy playing those characters because they're definitely tougher than I am.
Are you more confident now at 41 than you were in your 20s or 30s?
Absolutely. For women, maturity comes with age and experience. It all comes back to having both feet on the ground and feeling confident with who you are. You get to a place in your life when you're like, "This is who I am. I can't change this." You can change your hair color, but in general, you are who you are. Love yourself, and make the best of it.
What insecurities have you overcome?
I always thought I had a big nose. You know what? I grew into my nose. I'm OK with it. It fits my big eyes. We judge ourselves more harshly in our teens and our 20s.
You're Italian and Serbian. Have you learned any cultural beauty secrets growing up?
My [Serbian] mom believes in all natural remedies, so she's got a cure for everything. She puts olive oil all over her face and her hair, but especially in the summer time. It's the best natural conditioner. Both sides [Italian and Serbian] believe in eating natural foods-no crap and preservatives. Lots of fruit and vegetables. And napping!
Did you pick up any beauty tips from your Dawson's Creek co-stars back in the day?
Those were the acne years for everybody. The thing I learned about from Dawson's Creek was ProActiv! It was at the time where everyone was breaking out all the time. I learned don't drink red wine before going on camera. It makes your eyes puffy.
How do you maintain great looking skin?
I use a lot of sunscreen and try to stay out of the sun as much as possible. I use a Clarisonic, which I’m totally obsessed with. I wouldn't go and get Botox around my eyes-I do a lot of comedy. I have to be careful with that. On the other hand, I'm getting wrinkles! There's an interesting treatment I've done in the past year called the Q Laser. You can do it for 20 minutes and walk out like it's nothing. It tightens the skin around the eyes and gives moisture to the area and goes three layers under. I have seen an enormous difference from that thing! It's something you have to do more frequently. I'm also a big Tracy Anderson devotee. You are drenched in sweat. I believe that kind of sweat is good for us.
If the new girl in the Boston Police Department looks familiar, that's because she is. Idara Victor has joined Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander on Rizzoli & Isles this season as incoming crime analyst Nina, and has been a fantastic addition to the series.
We sat down with her on Wednesday to discuss becoming a part of the popular show, her other - and vastly different - recurring role, and generally getting to know this breakout actress a little bit more.
There are only three episodes left in this season of Rizzoli & Isles, and Idara told us those episodes will find Nina becoming "definitely more a part of the team. She's been integrated into the team a bit more."
Part of that has been learning about her tragic backstory. "The reveal that she left the streets of Chicago," Idara continued, "[that] she was a beat cop and her boyfriend got killed and that's why she moved to Boston, that was a big one."
Joining a new team is something that she has in common with her character, and she told us what it was like to jump into the well-established Rizzoli & Isles world. "It's basically like they're a huge family, and they've been a family for quite a while, and all of a sudden I'm a new person coming in," she reflected.
"They were all so welcoming. Everyone from the stars to the showrunners, everyone was wonderful, which was really, really nice."
"I actually went out and bought a book on forensics," she continued. "Me being a crime analyst, there's all this techology that my character uses on the show that I have to be familiar with...It's amazing because our fans do know. They know what we're talking about."
When she's not in the lab, Idara is in an entirely different era. In addition to portraying Nina, she has another recurring role as Abigail on AMC's Revolutionary War drama TURN: Washington's Spies, which returns for its second season next month to tell the further story of the Culper Spy Ring.
"She eventually becomes a spy along with them," she teased. "She's got this really fascinating arc; she's got a son she's got to protect. She's really brilliant. I love that [show], and I don't know that everybody got to really see that."
What's it like to segue between two vastly different shows at the same time? "It's amazing," Idara enthused. "The schedules work out perfectly, so I finish one and then jump to the other one. It's been really beautiful and I've gotten to stretch myself in so many different ways."
She also told us what attracts her to projects like TURN and Rizzoli & Isles. "If I see that the character, she has a challenge to overcome, has to learn something that she's not yet able to do," she explained. "I find that I seem to be in that boat with a lot of my characters. There's a certain courage that they have to have.
"That's something I believe in life, that whole notion of jumping and growing your wings on the way down. I would say my acting career even follows that," she continued. "Then the other thing that usually draws me is the other people involved. If I hear other actors involved that I know are really talented and will challenge me. I've been lucky to work with some really, really talented people."
Idara's enthusiasm for film and television is wide-ranging - from romantic comedies to Ingmar Bergman films and Six Feet Under - but you might not know that she's equally interested in another art form.
"I don't get to talk very much about my passion for music," she said. "I play piano [and] my first instrument was the drums. My boyfriend is actually a musician; he's a pianist and has been since he was a kid...That's a world that I love."
Whether it's music or television, the energy she brings to any project she's working on is boundless. It's helped her in a career that's ranged from theatre to two different incarnations of Law & Order (the original series and SVU) and now a pair of recurring roles on two major networks. While the Rizzoli & Isles season is coming to an end, Idara's career is only just beginning.
An all-new episode of Rizzoli & Isles airs tomorrow night at 9 PM ET/PT on TNT; TURN: Washington's Spies returns to AMC on April 13. For more with Idara, you can also follow her on Twitter (@IdaraVictor).
The Feb. 17 winter premiere and encore of TNT's hit drama Rizzoli & Isles drew a combined audience of 7.7 million viewers in Live + 7 delivery, with 2.8 million adults 25-54. Combined with multiplatform viewing included, the winter premiere of Rizzoli & Isles has reached 10 million viewers. With its strong premiere performance, Rizzoli & Isles ranked as one of basic cable's Top 3 original dramas among total viewers and adults 25-54 for the month of February.
I can exclusively reveal that Adam Sinclair (24: Live Another Day, Mile High) will join the cast as a recurring guest star in the sixth season. Sinclair will play Kent Drake, an assistant medical examiner in Maura Isles’ office. While guarded about his personal life, Kent is dedicated to his job, impressing Isles with his knowledge and intelligence.
You’re originally from Brooklyn, NY and you had some exposure to music. What initially drew you to being an actress?
Haha! Yes, my dad would DJ our parties on the weekends and I grew up playing the piano. My parents were really into music, so that was a constant in the house. But, they weren’t going to stage shows nor were they really huge film enthusiasts, except on our Blockbuster nights. I loved movies growing up and watched a lot of I Love Lucy reruns, which gave me an itch to do it. I would say 3 pivotal moments really fueled my desire to act as a kid: (1) When my 1st grade teacher did The Tortoise and the Hare, and I played the Hare, (2) When I read the play Romeo and Juliet, fell in love with Shakespeare, then saw Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann’s adaptations. And, (3) Seeing the movie Sense and Sensibility… falling for Kate Winslet. Also, Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett. I loved period pieces.
While attending college, you went to Business School. How did this fit into your overall plans for the entertainment industry?
It didn’t. I didn’t plan on entering the performing arts, as much as I wanted to do it. I attended the Wharton School for undergrad, and that curriculum left very little room for any liberal arts in my course load. When I graduated, I couldn’t shake the desire to act, so I pursued it without knowing anyone in the business or anything about it. My ability to find my way can be greatly attributed to that education and a healthy dose of common sense. Talent is key, but I know so many talented people in this business. You need to have a clear direction of where you’re headed and what you want to achieve to succeed. At the end of the day, this is a business, and getting an education from a school like that, has helped me tremendously. I see the many ways in which it will continue to do so.
With respect to acting, you received a good portion of your training at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute and worked on Broadway. What advantage did this provide you as you began to work in film and television?
Working in theater gave me a huge level of discipline and respect for my work. Not only from the shows that I did, but from workshops and readings that were also a non-stop part of my life. Exercising that muscle of learning lines quickly and incorporating changes, flows seamlessly into the film and television world, because you don’t get nearly as much time to rehearse with your co-workers, if at all. You have to think quickly on your feet, as well as adapt and incorporate new material on the fly. My background in theater, has made that much easier. Also, we shoot out of sequence on-camera. The legwork I learned to do for a role while in theater, helps me to maintain the thread of the storyline and the integrity of the character through all of that hopping around the script.
You’ve had the opportunity to play a variety of roles on television. What characters do you tend to draw to the most?
Whether set in the 1700s or now, I seem to play a lot of quietly powerful women who have to be strong in the face of tragedy or potential danger. I love that. They are usually also quick-witted and flirtatious, yet independent. I like that, although most of them are set in these dramas, they still have those colors and quirks that make them multi-dimensional people, as every woman I know is.
With these opportunities, you’ve had the chance to play alongside various actors. If given the chance, which actors would you want to work with?
Ohhh wow…That is incredibly hard. I’m working with some majorly talented folks right now. Of the people I haven’t gotten to work with quite yet, I have such a long list. If I try to run it down, it would be as long as an 8-year old’s Christmas list in November. The person I’ve looked up to for life is Cate Blanchett, so she’d be somewhere at the top. I would be willing to read a grocery list on-camera with Tilda Swinton. I’d also like to work with my friend Uzo Aduba sometime very soon.
Let’s talk about your role on TNT’s hit series, Rizzoli & Isles. How were you first introduced to the show?
I didn’t watch the show for some time, because the only “cop” show that I was loyal to was Law & Order. Allegiance to any other one, felt like cheating. So, it wasn’t until somewhere in Season 4 that I finally watched it and got to see how smart, funny and dynamic it is. Our female leads are two of the most powerful women I’ve seen written for television, and their interaction is actually one of the most honest depictions of female friendship I’ve seen on screen.
You play the role of Nina Holiday. What are the good and bad sides of Nina and what do you enjoy about playing her the most?
Nina is brilliant. Her brain works like lightning and she can handle a lot of responsibility. She isn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves and think like there IS no box to get things done. However, because she knows how capable she is, she thinks she can do it all, and tries. She doesn’t delegate much at all, and she is pretty hard on herself, particularly about a moment in her life when she couldn’t be there to save the life of the person, she loved the most. She hasn’t yet figured out how to heal that pain.
As the season comes to an end, what can fans expect to see from Nina and the rest of the cast?
Nina begins to open up a little more and starts to get a bit more involved in other aspects of the Boston Police Department. Because she was escaping a life on the streets of Chicago, she really did intend to keep a low-profile in this new city. But, she proves to be far too valuable to the team, and they are starting to become her friends. She slowly starts to become one of them. On their end, they are just getting over the loss of a loving partner and friend. So, by the end of the season, you can begin to see that pain resolve and everyone open up more to the idea of having someone new in the family. Somehow, although it isn’t spoken, I think all of them mourning their own losses separately and simultaneously brings them closer together.
You’ve come a long way and we’re sure that you’re not turning back. But, if you weren’t working as an actress, what career path would you most likely have?
I would either be a writer or a rancher. I respect the work of writers so much, and my father was one. I feel like I would want to pick up the torch. I also like the fact that they create worlds, get to live in the essences of other people, all within their mind, and that they understand the human race so well. Either that or a rancher, because I love horses.
We look forward to seeing how things end up on the season finale of TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles. What other projects do you have coming up?
I also play the character of ‘Abigail’ on the AMC show TURN: Washington’s Spies. It’s a show about a group of friends that form America’s first spy ring, and it’s set during the Revolutionary War. We return for Season 2 on April 13, and I’m so excited because things move really fast this season. We travel, get introduced to new societies and ‘Abigail’ has to make some major, life-altering decisions. It’s the complete opposite of Rizzoli & Isles, set in the 18th century, and I love every minute of it. It’s nice to have that balance, and to jump back and forth between worlds.
Actress Angie Harmon has a long list of professional accolades, but it was on a recent business trip to Nashville that she added jewelry designer to the mix. When a friend brought her to the Woodbine studio of conscientious jewelry line, Red Earth, she immediately felt inspired—and admittedly, a bit apprehensive. “I couldn’t figure out if I was in a gallery and this was art I couldn’t touch, or if I was in a store and I could put on every piece, buy all of them and walk out,” she says. However, what she walked away with was so much more: a partnership.
Angie collaborated with Red Earth’s Travis Gravette, working exclusively with their artisan partners in Kenya to bring her designs and vision to life. The result? The Angie Harmon x Red Earth collection of rings, bracelets, earrings, ear cuffs, chokers and necklaces handcrafted with recycled materials of hand-cast brass and aluminum, carved bone and linked chain. “Every piece is handmade, no two are alike. And personally, that’s my style. I want that one-of-a-kind piece,” she says. Angie designed the collection to be seasonally universal, using meaningful, symbolic elements. One of her favorite pieces in the collection is the Skull and Bone Necklace ($165) made with dark, hand-dyed camel bone. “The skull represents what each of us are underneath and our uniqueness. When you get us all down to our ‘bare bones’ if you will, we all look the same.”
Prices range from $30-195 and will be available for pre-sale March 13-22 at www.redearthshop.com. The official launch will be on April 16. A portion of the proceeds will go to UNICEF, where Angie is an ambassador within the department of human trafficking.