Your character of Jane is pretty buttoned-up and serious. Do you draw upon your own life to "find" her?
- With Jane, I mean I have to say—she is a lot different than I am. She's a tomboy; she hides what she looks like and tries to dumb it down and blend it in, and I'm like [said in a sorority girl squeal] 'Hair!' [Laughs] And jumpsuits and heels; I love fashion and all that. She has no idea what it is with her sensible shoes...There's not a lot of similarities between me and Jane. That being said, it makes it so much fun as an actor to get to go to work and do all of the things that I get to do.
So what was it about this project, which is admittedly similar to some of your previous iconic ones, that made you want to do it?
- I wanted a creative outlet; I also wanted to be a mommy. This lets me work for five months [and] I work my tail off; I love what I'm doing; I love my show and the people I work with, but then I get to take the rest of the year off to go be a mommy.
It's all about strong women and women in the work place, and we're going to get it done. Not a lot of networks really celebrate that, and TNT does. When this script landed on my doorstep I was like 'Whoa! This is exactly what I want!' You never get exactly what you want! How do you say no to that?
Were you worried at all about the comparisons to Women's Murder Club? Rizzoli & Isles draws a lot of similarities simply because of the females in law enforcement angle but also because of how close Jane is to the serial killer case she is tackling in the pilot.
- This is the perfected version of that. I mean, it really is. Am I not supposed to say that? I don't know, but it is! I feel like Women's Murder Club was sort of a dress rehearsal for this.
The show is set in Boston, and an upcoming episode will deal with the real life Boston Strangler in some ways. How closely were you able to study true crime of the northeast for any future ripped-from-the-headlines episodes?
- I hung out with some homicide detectives up there. I almost denounced my Texas citizenship to be part of Boston clan. That is a fantastic city! I have a very sick sense of humor, so I totally appreciate the whole—there's nothing off-limits in Boston! [They] jive each other over everything; everything is a joke; it's awesome.
I went to the Union Oyster house, and I stayed there from twelve o'clock in the afternoon until eleven o'clock at night, and I just ate and drank and talked with people and hung out. That was probably some of the best character research I could have ever done.
Why the choice not to do the accent then?
- Another thing that I learned, our generation, the accent isn't as strong. It only comes out when you're drinking or when you're upset.
I'm from back east, too-- New York-- so I definitely know how that goes! Where do you think this show fits in—in the landscape of TNT or television in general?
- I think what this show does—remember when they did that study a while ago and like 95% of kindergarteners said they wanted to be famous? …The thing that was alarming was that A) the subject matter but that they didn't say how. Like if you want to be a famous director or an actor or a news anchor, that's fine but the fact was they just wanted to be famous. And I think what this does is just put into the mainstream that, look, women can do anything they put their minds to. And that's what I teach my daughters, you know. If you want to be a veterinarian, be the best veterinarian. Obviously I don't want my kids to be homicide detectives because I don't want anybody shooting at my children—there's that! [Laughs] But outside of that I want them to know that yeah, you can do anything you want to.
The show is heavily focused on the friendship between Rizzoli & Isles (Maura Isles is played by NCIS' Sasha Alexander); what do you hope the audience takes away from their relationship?
- They're not catty and bitchy! They're the only two women in the entire unit. And you know, in real life, a detective will have a certain M.E. that he always works with, and they help each other and that's how they solve cases. And these two recognize that okay look, we're in this together; we're the only two here; so there's a connection.
And let's face it, I wouldn't be me if I didn't ask about some of your upcoming male guest stars like Donnie Wahlberg and Mark Paul Gosselaar. After all, NKOTB and Saved by the Bell influenced me so greatly growing up that they both make it into my upcoming pop culture memoir!
- Well what should I talk about? Mark Paul Gosselaar's butt? He has an amazing rear end. There I said it! [Laughs] You know, yes, Jane does have a lot of chemistry with Joey Grant [Donnie Wahlberg's character], but you know, we'll see. It's not like we want to get these girls out on a great show and get them hitched. And done! So I think the fun thing about this is watching them sort of struggle through these bad dates.
Harmon also teased some upcoming comedic moments such as the dynamic duo donning luge suits to run a marathon, an episode where she goes undercover as a lesbian, and more great guests, like Chaz Palmintari, who will play her father. Clearly this show is so much more than just dead bodies and gun shots! Tune into Rizzoli & Isles on July 12th, when it premieres as "the closer to The Closer." Harmon is the queen of sound bytes and once again the queen of cop dramas!