Rizzoli & Isles creator and executive producer Janet Tamaro had been thinking about creating a female buddy cop show for a while. But when her co-executive producer Bill Haber brought her the Rizzoli & Isles series by bestselling author Tess Gerritsen, she found her perfect vehicle. The former reporter, who has a masters in journalism from Columbia University, had covered crime and courts extensively while working for ABC News, Inside Edition and America’s Most Wanted before switching to screenwriting. She had previously written and produced on shows like CSI: NY, Bones and Lost.
Since premiering on TNT last summer, Rizzoli & Isles has become the highest-rated basic cable show. Its ratings remain high in the second season and its stars Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander have broken out big time and graced magazine covers together. Tamaro spoke with AfterEllen.com last week about Rizzoli & Isles’ success, its stars and its large fanbase of lesbian and bisexual women.
AfterEllen.com: What was it about the books that made you think they’d make a good TV show?
AE: I read you were inspired to write a show about female friendship because of the death of a long-time friend.
AE: Since then had you been thinking of a project that featured women?
AE: What was it about Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander that made you think they’d be right for these roles?
And so, when she agreed to do it, the challenge for me was to try and find somebody who could actually stand up to her on the screen. Because she is such a powerful force. My opinion is the woman is a TV star and just needed the right project to explode.
We went through every available actress and we needed to actually put them in the room with Angie. And when we found Sasha, this is not well known so you’ll have a little scoop here, she initially said no. And then we kept pressuring her and eventually she came in and read with Angie. And it was kind of like when you set people up as friends or on a blind date. It was just so obvious when we put them together. They played off each other just beautifully and fluidly. Both were truly a different flavor.
Unlike the books, Maura is kind of morose and a little bit of a goth — sort of Morticia figure. And I knew I couldn’t do that for a television series. First of all I didn’t want two physically similar actresses, two dark-haired women. But I also I wasn’t expecting the lightness that Sasha brings. I knew I wanted to do this sort of wonky, nerdish but also fashion-conscious woman. Sasha had all these other things I had thought about. But she was the only one who just knocked it out of the park with Angie.