Model-turned-actress Angie Harmon talks about turning 40 and starring in crime show Rizzoli & Isles
“OH MY GOD,” Angie Harmon says. “Here come the tears.”
It’s not an emotional scene from her hit series Rizzoli & Isles, now in its third season. Actually, the actress was working on a car-chase scene until she took a break to call from the set to talk about the show. Instead it has to do with a real-life issue: Harmon will turn 40 on August 10 – but that’s not why she’s on the verge of tears.
“I’m not afraid of this birthday,” says Harmon, who was born in Highland Park, Texas. “You hear that they’re going to roll out the casket for you instead of a cake when you turn 40, but I’m not worried. I do realise that I’ve reached the halfway point in life, which is just staggering.”
She hasn’t had that much time to ponder the issue, though, because the past year has been one of her busiest.
“I think my 39th year has probably been my biggest learning year,” the actress says, “but in the end I’ve become more comfortable with myself. I realise my faults and all those things that most people are uncomfortable with in life. I’ve learned to listen to what other people are saying.
“Don’t get me wrong,” she hastens to add. “I always liked myself. I’m a huge Angie Harmon fan. But deep down I’m really starting to like who I am.”
At which point Harmon pauses and her voice gets hoarse.
“Oh my God,” she says. “I’m going to start crying here.”
Nearing the four-decade mark has left her in a reflective mood, Harmon concedes.
“I’m serious when I say that you get to this point where you can look around and say, ‘I’m proud of my life. I’m proud of what I did,’” she says. “I’m leaving something behind when Angie Harmon is gone.”
No cat fighting
One vehicle for that effort is Rizzoli & Isles, which TNT airs on Tuesday nights. Harmon plays Jane Rizzoli, a detective with the Boston Police Department who in the third season finds herself at odds with her best friend, medical examiner Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander), after the shooting of Maura’s biological father. Jane is also in the midst of an Internal Affairs investigation that has exposed her relationship with Agent Dean (Billy Burke).
“We left off last season with a horrible situation,” Harmon says. “We don’t do the cute little button-it-up-in-one-episode trick. Rizzoli and Isles had a horrible fight. When you love someone and fight, there are horrible things that are usually said or done. It takes a while to get over it.”
Harmon admits that it was difficult for her to fight with Alexander, her friend onscreen and off.
“The second week of filming these scenes, I couldn’t do it anymore,” she says. “I was like, ‘Let them be friends again!’
“I’m not a mean girl,” the actress continues. “I don’t enjoy that kind of squabbling. Of course there is an aspect of fun to those scenes for some people, but I hated it. It was awful. I’m only confrontational for a good cause, and not with people I care about who are in my life.
“I don’t do manipulation either,” Harmon adds. “I don’t have time for it and I don’t raise my daughters to be that way. I don’t especially care for women who are manipulative and fight, which is what some of the scenes called for during this season.”
In short, Harmon hates to get her claws out.
She may not enjoy this particular story line, but Harmon says that she wouldn’t miss a moment of playing the character.
“I really love Jane Rizzoli,” she says. “She’s a force of nature. It’s actually hard for me to put Jane to bed at the end of the day.
“Jane always has something being thrown at her,” Harmon continues. “I’m proud of the way she reacts in her love life and her career. She has certainly handled herself better than I have! She’s a good egg.”
There is no bigger compliment, Harmon says, than when women tell her that Jane Rizzoli is their role model.
“That means the world to me,” she says. “I don’t believe anyone has all the answers or that we ever reach perfection, but I love the fact that Jane can give some of the answers. She also tells women that it’s OK to ask for help.”
A decent proposal
Her earliest role models were her parents. Both had modelled early in their lives, so it was no surprise that their daughter also began her career doing print and television work as a child model. She won a modelling contract via a contest in Seventeen magazine, and went on to work runway shows for Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein while appearing on the covers of magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Elle and Esquire.
In 1995 Harmon found herself sitting beside David Hasselhoff on a plane, and an acting career was born. She made guest appearances on both of Hasselhoff’s shows, Baywatch (1996) and Baywatch Nights (1995-1997), then went on to play Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael on Law & Order (1998-2001) and on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999-2000). A couple of failed series followed, but in 2010 Rizzoli & Isles put her back on top, where she has stayed.
When she’s not working, Harmon keeps a low profile with her husband, former New York Giants All-Pro cornerback Jason Sehorn. He famously proposed to her on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2000, interrupting a show on which Harmon was a guest to get down on one knee and pop the question.
“It was one of the most romantic moments in my life,” Harmon says. “I was truly surprised.”
The two have been married since 2001, and live in Texas with their daughters, eight-year-old Finley, six-year-old Avery and three-year-old Emery.
She may be closing in on 40, but Harmon insists that it’s only made her more determined as an actress, as a mother and as a woman.
“I’ve never been one to back down from a fight,” she says, “but now I feel even bolder. I want the challenges. I want to learn from them. I want to open my mouth.
“Of course my mouth has got me in plenty of trouble in life,” Harmon admits with a wicked laugh. “My mouth hasn’t always kept me in a peaceful place.”
From her perspective, however, peace is overrated.
“I’m halfway done,” Harmon says. “I want to get as much done now as possible. If I’m going to (tick) people off along the way, so be it.”