Rizzoli & Isles star Angie Harmon returns to TV in the first installment of her new movie series, Buried in Barstow (June 4 on Lifetime). Harmon, 49, who also co-produces, plays Hazel King, a single mom who left Las Vegas and her job as a hired assassin to safely raise her newborn daughter. Now, nearly two decades later, the past catches up with her as she’s pulled back into her old life.
You hadn’t acted since Rizzoli & Isles. What drew you back?
The most attractive thing about Buried in Barstow was it’s about a mother’s love for her child and how far we will go to protect them: as far as we can get away with.
Barstow is about halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Why did Hazel build her diner there?
I think [in the movie] Barstow is like a starting-over ground zero for people. Everybody there is hiding something. Everybody has something they’re ashamed of. And they’re just trying to get back on their feet and build a new life, but also stay under the radar.
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Hazel is on the opposite side of the law than Jane Rizzoli.
I loved that she’s slightly unpleasant. But that’s her. When it begins, you’re thinking, God, what’s her problem? And then as the story builds, you start to see why she is the way she is.
When we get to the end of Buried in Barstow, there’s so much more to explore as we find out the truth about Elliot [Kristoffer Polaha] and the identity of Hazel’s daughter’s father. How many movies in the series do you hope to do?
I’m hoping to do six. There were eight, but we’re trying to address things faster. So I’m hoping to get six. We’re working on the second one right now.
Do you film in Barstow?
We film in the Carolinas, which was a huge caveat for me because I’ve got three teenage girls, so I can’t just pick up and leave for six months or whatever. Lifetime was kind enough to agree to shoot here so that I was home every night with my daughters. That is a really big thing right now. And, also, when I finished shooting Rizzoli, I promised them that I would never leave like that again while they were still in school. Because I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, and we shot Rizzoli in Los Angeles, that seven years was really taxing on my family. I wasn’t allowed to leave every weekend. If you look at the first two seasons, I’m in almost every single scene. It was unbearable to be away from my girls, as any mother would say.
So there’s no temptation to take on a new series? There are so many good roles for women now.
It’s true. There really are great roles out there for women. I’m lucky enough that Hazel is one of them. But, no, the role of mom to me right now is the greatest one that I can do, especially in raising three really strong, incredible females.
This is your first time as a producer. What have you found that you excel at behind the camera?
It’s an interesting thing, because as an actor and as a director, I want everyone to be happy, I want a family environment and those kinds of things. As a producer, I find that I’m learning a lot more of the things that go wrong behind the scenes, and how are we going to take care of them? It can really be distracting if I let it.
So I’ve really tried to copy Lucille Ball in compartmentalizing, like, “OK, now we’re going to go act and we’re not going to worry about the fact that this actor doesn’t want to show up because he or she is not getting their rate.” Or “We can’t get this diner over here because that doesn’t fit in our budget; we’ve got to go to this one over here even though that one was perfect.” We were so lucky to get the one that we did.
It’s those things I find to be really distracting. I’m lucky enough that I have a team around me that I don’t usually find out about things until they’ve exercised every single solution they can think of. And then they’re like, “We need a washer and dryer on the wardrobe truck.” And I’m like, “What? Of course we do. Make it happen!” It’s all that kind of stuff, and I’m lucky that I have incredibly patient and lovely people around me.
I don’t find directing and acting at the same time distracting at all. If anything, that’s much easier for me. But acting and producing, it’s a little tougher because the acting and the directing part, that’s all make-believe, but the producing part is real. So I found it difficult to cut off the emotions of the producing part and just stay in the acting and directing world.
What did you enjoy about the six years you spent on Rizzoli & Isles?
I enjoyed to the absolute hilt playing Jane. She was such a fun character, and she was a haven for me. When we lost [Rizzoli & Isles actor] Lee Thompson Young [to suicide] and I went through a divorce [from Jason Sehorn], Jane was a safe place; I could disappear into her and get through the day. I will always, always be thankful for Jane Rizzoli.
For Rizzoli & Isles fans, it will be great to see the reunion with Bruce McGill. Why him of everybody in that cast?
Well, [the character called for] a man of a certain age. From the moment I read the scripts three years ago, I’ve always seen Bruce in that role. He’s just so talented, so incredible and so gifted. I knew that it would be such a different relationship than he and I have ever had onscreen, and there’s that trust there. Plus, I just missed him. I wanted to see him. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years.
In addition to being on Lifetime, Rizzoli & Isles is streamed on HBO Max. Why do you think people still want to see it?
It was the whole Rizzoli family, the crimes and, I think, the fact that they were stand-alone episodes. It was lightning in a bottle, and it was incredible to be a part of it.
Law & Order, the TV franchise on which you played ADA Abbie Carmichael, has returned. Have you watched it?
I have not seen it. Like I said, I’m a single mom of three teenage girls. So sitting down in front of the TV at night is not really part of my schedule. We do dinner at the table, and I cook as much as I can. By the time we get finished with that, if I can watch something, I’m still trying to get through my screeners. It’s still hard to do that because that’s two hours, two and a half hours.
Your daughters are in school during the day. Do you have something else that you’re passionate about?
I am into gardening. This morning, I just picked up three chickens, which I’m so excited about. My neighbor has chickens, and I just couldn’t help myself any longer. So we went together, and she got two and I got three, so now I have three hens, three dogs, a cat and seven ducks. I’m not sure what I’m thinking.
And then my garden, I just planted yesterday. I just love it; it’s so therapeutic. It’s so wonderful. I’m really trying to figure out if I’m actually an 85-year-old Southern woman. I’m also growing roses. And then it’s passing down to my 18-year-old. She comes out and plants and trims the roses and stuff with me. Even she finds it therapeutic. Oh, I just love it.
There’s something about getting your hands in the dirt. There’s something restorative about gardening.
There really is. And then being able to eat your own vegetables, make your own salads and make your own dishes and things like that, it’s wonderful. It’s lovely.
Your daughters are teenagers now. What if one of them says, “OK, Mom, I want to follow in your footsteps. I want to go into modeling and acting.” Are you OK with that?
I think I’d want them to do it later in life. I feel like they would need to have a maturity level and a certain set of skills, and I would like for them to experience as much life as they could before getting into worlds like those. Granted, the experience that you get from that stuff is fantastic. I’ve walked the Great Wall of China with [Italian fashion designer] Valentino. I’ve lived a really incredible life. But, no, I’d rather walk the Great Wall of China with my daughters. You know what I mean? And it’s a very selfish point of view. I’m happy that they’re busy being teenagers right now, and that’s really all I care about.
Do you feel as if this is the best time of your life?
It does feel that way. My three girls are happy, healthy and hilarious, and that’s certainly an accomplishment. And I’m producing, directing and acting in my dream project, so that’s certainly heavenly. It’s a good time, definitely