An interview with “Rizzoli & Isles” creator Janet Tamaro


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.

Left to right: Angie Harmon, Tess Gerritsen, Sasha Alexander and Janet Tamaro

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 last week about Rizzoli & Isles’ success, its stars and its large fanbase of lesbian and bisexual women. What was it about the books that made you think they’d make a good TV show?
Jantet Tamaro
: What I liked and what I was drawn to was the relationship between the two women. The fun for me was this odd couple, these Kirk/Spock women with all their edges and all their complications.

AE: I read you were inspired to write a show about female friendship because of the death of a long-time friend.
Yes, she was my best friend for 16 years and she was killed two and a half years ago.

AE: Since then had you been thinking of a project that featured women?
It’s strange. So much of writing is unconscious and you don’t make the connections. [Pauses] I’m sorry, it’s still actually hard to talk about and it’s her birthday today. I had started to write a spec pilot. I was doing a female buddy cop show when Bill Haber approached me with Tess’ books. I didn’t really think about it until after I had written Rizzoli & Isles. I think the reason I was drawn to this was because of Melissa, my best friend.

AE: What was it about Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander that made you think they’d be right for these roles?
We wanted Angie and I’d always liked her work. The thing I didn’t know about her was how funny she is. She is very funny in person, she is witty and she is like a wild horse. She has all this crazy, furious, feisty energy. We wanted her. She was Jane Rizzoli.

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.

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