There are lots of things Angie Harmon enjoys about her job. But the best part, the star of TNT’s “Rizzoli & Isles” says, might be the ego boost that goes with playing a tough homicide detective. Harmon, a Dallas native who portrays Jane Rizzoli of the Boston P.D., could get the same indestructible feeling from looking at the TV Nielsen ratings. “Rizzoli & Isles,” in its third season, airing at 9 p.m. EDT Tuesdays, consistently ranks among the most popular shows on cable.
Despite the presence of vicious criminals and brutal murders, the show is also very funny. Do you like the way the show switches tone like that?
Yeah, because life moves that way. When I did my research with the Boston Homicide Unit, we were often standing around horrific situations. But the detectives kept their senses of humor. It’s not in a disrespectful way. I think it just allows them to cope with what they’re dealing with on a daily basis.
Jane has such a brassy, in-your-face personality. Does she tend to rub off on you?
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Our little Janie is quite a force. It’s hard to put her to bed at night. She kind of hangs around with me for the full six months that we’re shooting. My temper gets a little quicker. My fuse gets a little shorter. I say things I probably shouldn’t say and normally wouldn’t say.
The highlight of the season premiere was the scene showing how Jane and Maura Isles (played by Sasha Alexander) met. Jane was dressed as a hooker. It was a hideous outfit. Were you aiming for the least-sexy outfit possible?
Oh, yeah. As bad as we can make it. That’s where I wanted to go. When I went in for a fitting, I said, “OK, guys, if we’re going to do this, let’s commit 100 percent. Let’s make it as horrible as possible.” Still, as bad that was, I think the worse outfit was when Jane was reassigned to gun maintenance and I’m wearing those awful chinos. It made me appreciate Louboutin and Manolo more than ever.
What kind of feedback do you get from viewers about the show?
Many young girls come up and tell me they want to be a forensic criminologist or a homicide detective or something in that field because of “Rizzoli & Isles.” That makes my day. To hear girls say that they want to make a difference, and that they’re inspired because of something I did, means the world to me.
What’s the biggest acting challenge you encounter on this show: being believable as a gun-wielding cop or being believable as a woman who won’t let her mother hug her?
You know me too well. Because I’m a hugger. I’m very affectionate. So those are oddly difficult scenes for me with Lorraine Bracco when I’m trying to fight her off and wriggle away from her hugs. I’m like, “Let me get this straight. You want me not to hug her back? OK, I guess I can do that, but I’ll need a moment to get in that frame of mind.”