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‘Rizzoli & Isles’ Too Much of a Good Thing for Angie Harmon

Back in the series game with her July 12-debuting "Rizzoli & Isles," Angie Harmon sounds ... overwhelmed. "I have more of a family, and I have apparently more of a workload than before," says the former "Law & Order" and "Baywatch" actress between shots of her TNT femme crime-fighter show with Sasha Alexander. "It's a blessing on both sides. That's good. I'm learning to balance. This past week, we discovered I can't be in every scene and do 40-some pages of dialogue and have this work."

As we speak, there are only four more episodes to shoot in the first order of 10 episodes of the series, and Harmon's hopes for the show are high — if she gets her workload under control.

The mother of 6-year-old, 5-year-old and 1-year-old daughters with her husband, former NFL star Jason Sehorn, Harmon admits the show "came to me at a time when I was ready to retire, to pick up my girls and move away. But then it landed on my front porch — a drama with an interesting character, on cable so I'd only be shooting five months of the year. It was just what I'd prayed for. And the person who was directing the pilot was at my wedding, a friend. I really feel it was placed there for me by a higher hand."

Early reviews are upbeat for the show, from Tess Gerritsen's popular mystery novels. In it, Harmon plays tomboyish Boston detective Jane Rizzoli, and Alexander, formerly of "NCIS," is slightly eerie forensic medical examiner Maura Isles.

Harmon has clearly taken a shine to her co-star. "Sasha comes over and she grabs me when she gets excited about something — like when we passed our third-month mark working together. She says, 'It's like we're dating!' I start laughing and say, 'You're really in my personal space and it's freaking me out.' She doesn't care. She hangs on and on. I really adore that woman. Our families have vacationed together. Our kids have gotten to know each other."

HORSING AROUND: Sean Astin is eagerly anticipating word on release of his recently completed indie comedy, "And They're Off," a mockumentary in which he plays a failed horse trainer. "By traditional standards, he's not really a trainer — he's only had one horse — but as far as he's concerned, he is," reports the actor with a laugh. "He's upbeat no matter what awful things go on. He's got a documentary crew following him around the track at Santa Anita at dawn, teaching about horses. He's out walking around the track saying, 'I'm not going to ask my horse to do something I wouldn't do myself.'"

According to Astin, the script by Alan Grossbard was "a hoot." Veteran TV director Rob Schiller, making his feature debut, left room for the actors, including Cheri Oteri, Martin Mull, Kevin Nealon and Mo Collins to improvise as well.

Meanwhile, Astin says, "It felt like I was meeting myself" the other day when he had a face-to-face encounter with his "Special Agent Oso" yellow-and-green cartoon panda counterpart. The Oso special photo op was part of his promotion for season two of the Playhouse Disney series, which launches July 10. It certainly has its share of celebrity admirers. Guest voices include Mel Brooks as snoring Grandpa Mel (his real-life grandson is a fan of the show), Brad Garrett, Lisa Loeb, Rita Moreno, Ming-Na, Freddy Rodriguez and Rebecca Romijn.

"Oso is going to be at Disneyland this summer," Astin reports. "It was a really special thing to hug this big teddy bear." Adds the father of three girls, ages 13, 7 and 4, "I think every actor who does voiceover for a particular character becomes possessive. I know I find it off-putting to see 'Special Agent Oso' in Spanish because the voice isn't me."

BEEN WORKIN' ON THE RAILROAD: It's ironic: The big-screen "The Big Valley" is all about the Southern Pacific Railroad tussling with ranchers in California's San Joaquin Valley in the old West — but the picture's being made in Baton Rouge, L.A. Chalk it up to Louisiana's inviting incentives for movie shooting — and California's lack of same. Jessica Lange is taking over the Barbara Stanwyck role of ranch matriarch Victoria Barkley in the feature, due to begin production next month. Lee Majors (who played Heath in the 1960s TV series) is also aboard, along with Bruce Dern, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Nicholson (as Audra), "True Blood's" Stephen Moyer (as Jarrod), Jason Alan Smith (as Nick) and Travis Fimmel, the Aussie who starred alongside the late Patrick Swayze in "The Beast" (as Heath).

AMC is heavy into casting for its "Hell on Wheels" miniseries — which sounds as if it might prove a lure to fans of HBO's dearly departed "Deadwood," with lots of old West dirt, grit, spit, violence and cussin'. The 1865 period tale of a former Confederate slave owner out to avenge the rape and murder of his wife by Union soldiers takes place against construction of the transcontinental railroad. The title refers to a bordello frequented by railroad workers in Nebraska. Parts from hookers to Cheyenne tribesmen are to be filled for the project that starts shooting in August.

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2010 MARILYN BECK AND STACY JENEL SMITH
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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