EXCLUSIVE: “Rizzoli & Isles” star Sasha Alexander talks season 3 and lesbian subtext


AE: I know when the show started there was no inkling that people would latch onto the subtext the way they have. Do you ever see it yourself on the page when you read a script? Do you ever tone it up or tone it down on purpose?
SA: I don’t because honestly I am a lesbian at heart. I love women. I was raised by my mom and my aunt. I am a girl’s girl.  I am very close to women in my life. So that kind of intimacy is not strange to me. I as an adult have slept in bed with other women friends. None of that reads to me at all. But was I surprised? No. Initially I thought people were thinking that because it is sexy. But maybe not, because it’s subjective. 

At the end of the day, it’s what turns you on. If at the end of the day it turns you on to think of them in that way, great. If it doesn’t, fine. I mean, in the books they are much more separate as characters. They don’t interact as much. But for me, at heart, none of it is really weird. I’m a physical person. We joke around a lot, even when we have physical stuff together we kid around a lot and are both touchy feely. And that may translate, that comfortable part of our relationship. 

AE: I know you’re also close friends with Jessica Capshaw from Grey’s Anatomy and she plays a gay character on that show. Do you ever compare notes about your lesbian fanbases?
SA: We do now, because it has grown so much for both of us. Obviously, she’s playing a lesbian and I am not. She is out on her show, so it’s different for her. But so many people think that she and I are sisters or look alike. It’s funny when we met 15 years ago, it really was, “Oh my gosh, you remind me of Sasha Alexander” to Jessica and they’d say it to me about Jessica. We’d say literally who is that? And when we met it was like, “Oh, you’re this person.” 

It’s funny that that is how we met and now that has also gone out into the universe and to fans. Now people who do not know we’re friends still say you remind me of her and you remind me of her. It’s really sweet and we laugh a lot about it. And recently someone put a Photoshop thing up where they took our heads and put them on the other’s body. She was like, “Oh my Gosh, I look so good in that dress.” 

Credit: Photo courtesy Getty Images

AE: In July, fans are organizing the first-ever Rizzles Con, which you and several others involved with the show are going to try to attend. This is a fan-produced and fan-organized event. What is it about the series that inspires that kind of fan dedication/love? Why were you interested in taking part? 
SA: Look, it’s a good question. I’ve never been in a position before of having the fans organize something themselves. So if I can, and the rest of the cast can crew can, if we can make it it’s great. 

AE: Are you ready for the massive fangirl onslaught you’ll receive there?
SA: Not really. [Laughs] Do you want to come be my bodyguard?

AE: I’ll be your bodyguard. But they’re all very well behaved. You’ll be safe.
SA: I know. But I’ll need some support.

AE: Well let me tell you, lesbian fans are very, very loyal. So once they love you, they will love you forever. Ask Lucy Lawless or Jennifer Beals. The lesbian fanbase is very loyal and will stick with you through ensuing projects.
SA: Well I’m glad. I like loyalty, it is an important character trait. So that’s important to me. Everybody that I’ve met, we’ve done contests and people have come to the set, they’ve all been great. It’s also great that this show is extending to young girls who are 14-15 years old and they’re looking at a character like Maura and sayimg, “You know what, she’s not the biggest nerd in the world.” I mean, she’s a nerd, but she is OK. So they think, “Maybe I can pursue science or math or other nerdy perceived paths I want and it doesn’t mean I have to be a certain way.” So it encourages people to go in these directions and I think that’s powerful stuff.

AE: One of the other great things about the show is it has two female leads. And that is still unfortunately very rare on TV. Why do you think that is and does that add to the appeal of the show?
SA: Absolutely, it adds to the appeal of the show. The only other time we’ve seen it lately is Cagney & Lacey. It shows you the power of women in pairs and even groups like Desperate Housewives and now the show Girls on HBO, which I love, and Sex and the City, of course. I think when it clicks the power of that chemistry between women is such a positive and powerful thing. Women are the future. We are so in the forefront. We are such a strong, strong sex. We can do so much. I just want to see positive female roles on television and movies. I don’t want to be the girlfriend of the whatever. I love that, when you can have those relationships represented in a way that is accurate or a way that makes other women say, “Wow, that speaks to me.”

It’s unusual, I think sometimes because the casting doesn’t work. But let me add one other thing, it is also because they aren’t written by a woman. On our show, the books were written by a woman. Our creator is a woman. A lot of times she’ll write something that some people may not see – like all the male executives in a room might think that’s weird. But guess what, when Angie and I read it, it totally speaks to us and we totally know how to act it. And that translates. 

So I think it’s a combination of things. Having a producer who has a really strong vision about being honest in her writing and writing characters that are as real as she knows them. Also having that brought to the screen by Angie and I who are both very strong women. We aren’t like dancing around it, we’re in it. You can feel that when you watch the show. I really enjoy not only playing my part but also being a part of it. There’s just nothing else on television like it. 

AE: So this season do you think there’ll be enough LLBFF love between Jane and Maura to keep your gay female fans happy? Is there enough subtext still to be read in, even though there will be difficult times in the beginning?
SA: There are going to be some difficult times in the beginning that everyone will sort of be uncomfortable with, because obviously everyone wants to see them getting along. But that will come fast enough. And then I think there will be a lot of cool stuff to see and watch. A lot of that camaraderie. So, yeah, absolutely. 

I am voting for the flashback or more like the wet dream sequence that will somehow happen to one of us with the other. But I haven’t read it yet. What I thought was, what if Jane has like kind of a sexy dream? And in the dream she kissed Maura and something happened. And then she is so embarrassed by it, like so uncomfortable, then she can’t be close to Maura. I think Maura is more open to it, so she’d be more comfortable. She’s a little more experimental. So she’d be open to it.

AE: Get Janet on the phone immediately. Immediately. 
SA: [Laughs] I’ll tell her we spoke and there was an understanding. Really there is a lot of sexy and fun stuff this year. We’ve been enjoying it. The scripts are stronger than ever. The crimes are stronger than ever. It’s unpredictable. Every episode I’m like, where is this going? So that’s fun.

Rizzoli & Isles premieres on a new night and time at 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 5, on TNT. Catch up on the series read past Rizzoli & Isles Subtext Recaps here. And then come back for Season 3 gayzzoli recaps every Thursday on AfterEllen.com.

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