When Rizzoli & Isles returns tonight for its fifth season on TNT, fans will be waiting to see how different things will be for Maura, Jane and the rest of their Boston-based crew. With the exit of showrunner Janet Tamaro and hiring of Jan Nash, the tragic death of star Lee Thompson Young, and cliffhanger of a Season 4 finale where Jane tells Maura she is pregnant, it’s a time for change both on-screen and off.
During a recent set visit, though, the cast and crew assured reporters that things really couldn’t be any better. Despite the fact that the first two episodes deal with the heavy subject of Detective Frost’s fictional passing to match the real life loss, the eulogies delivered on screen and feelings felt by all who knew Lee are part of a touching well-played send-off.
“It’s a reflection of the entire company’s commitment to honoring Lee and his memory and it turned out exactly the way we hoped it would,” Jan Nash said of the second episode. Angie Harmon praised the out showrunner for coming on at a time where the cast was grieving, and also asked for input on the dialogue about Frost in the actual show.
“[She asked] like ‘What do you want me to say in the eulogy?’ Things like that and I would call her back and say,’It needs to be more, it needs to be about this and this and this, and we’re talking about Frost, but we’re talking about Lee—because he was my closest friend here, so to have that collaboration on something that is as devastating as that… to have Jan be able to come in and take that subject matter, that was first. That’s a tough thing. She didn’t know him, she wasn’t here—all that. To be able to go through that and move it through with each one of our characters it’s not just about two characters anymore.”
Jan has worked on several procedural crime series, including Without a Trace, Unforgettable and the Sarah Shahi USA series Fairly Legal, so she said Rizzoli & Isles is “in her wheelhouse.”
“It’s a genre of TV that I’ve very much enjoyed writing for and do in fact think when they’re really good are very satisfying to watch,” Jan said.
Jan, whose first job in television was producing and writing for Ellen in 1996, said she wasn’t aware of the Rizzles lesbian fanbase of the show until she was hired on.
“I had heard about the Rizzles when I went through my meetings,” she said. “I see why people see [the subtext]. I totally see why people see it. There are these two incredible actors who also happen to be really beautiful who have incredible chemistry and a really compelling friendship on screen. I totally see it.”
But fans who are hoping for anything more than friendship to unfold on screen are going to be severely disappointed. Even under the helm of a lesbian showrunner, Jane and Maura are best friends who date men. Jane’s possible pregnancy from the Season 4 finale becomes a reality in Season 5, where Maura is the only one who knows and is thrilled about it, too.
“I think [Maura’s] really excited about everything from all the gadgets you can get and reading you can do and information you can gather,” said Sasha Alexander. “Pregnancy statistics and stuff about the baby—I think she’s definitely more into that than Jane. Jane’s just kind of riding along, so yeah she’s just there. She’s a truly supportive friend and in this situation, we don’t know Casey’s situation in terms of being with her or not but presently with her.”
Jane’s baby’s father, Casey Jones (Chris Vance), is not involved in the pregnancy. Angie joked that she can’t keep an on-screen love interest because she loses all of the actors to their own shows.
“We all know Chris is doing well as The Transporter—it’s become sort of a thing: If you’re a struggling actor, why don’t you come on Rizzoli & Isles? Give ole’ Jane a kiss and you’ll get your own shows. It’ll be amazing!’” Angie joked. “Who’s next? Who needs their own show? Come to Mama!”
But Jane decides to keep the baby, despite being “terrified.”
“She doesn’t want her mom to know, she doesn’t want work to know,” Angie said. “It kind of just becomes a bit of Jane growing up, becoming an adult and once she’s made that decision, she just blossoms and is like ‘OK, this is what I’m going to do.’”
While Maura is helping Jane prepare herself for a new addition, she’s also finding a new love interest.
“Maura does meet someone, someone different from Eric Winter and all I can tell you is he’s a total smarty pants in the right way,” Sasha said. “So that’s a really fun relationship that is happening now so I’m not really sure how it’s going to end or not end, or where it’s going—I haven’t been told. It’s just nice to see that there’s somebody possibly not a killer.”
Jan Nash said she hopes lesbian fans won’t be too put off by the new romances and pregnancy storyline, as she sees it as a natural progression for two female best friends.
“I hope that fans that love the show that love the relationship between these two women, whatever prism we see that relationship through will see that we are honoring that relationship,” she said, “that these two women are continuing to be each other’s best friends, the people they each turn to in moments of crisis. You know, the pregnancy is a life event that you would go through with the people closest to you, and it will be a life event that Jane and Maura will go through together. So I hope that the fanbase, the lesbian fanbase or anybody in the audience that appreciates that relationship will just see that being a different aspect of that relationship.”
Jan also said it could be possible to see a gay or lesbian character on Rizzoli & Isles, though it didn’t sound like there were any in the 10 episodes already shot or plans to include any moving forward.
“I don’t see why that couldn’t happen,” Jan said. “Why couldn’t you see that on any television show? I’ll just say yes, why not? Sure. Why can’t there be on that on any show? It’s America 2014.”
“I have input and it’s usually well-received, we’ll just say that,” Angie said. “I have my own feelings about [the pregnancy storyline] but I don’t want to say anything because I don’t want to give it away. … The first thing Jan said to me was, ‘You’ve played this character and know her better than anyone else.’ And that was really really lovely and refreshing. I think we got one of the loveliest and kindest people in this business. She’s a gift, she really is. And we all prayed for her!”
Sasha said that Jan has helped make the scripts “really smart.”
“She’s got a wicked sense of humor. She’s just snappy funny,” Sasha said.
Including a scene in which Maura introduces Jane to her new beau.
“I think she likes him. Maura takes Jane to meet him and she clicks with him as well. I think Maura’s the one that has a lot of anxiety about being burned so many times, that how do you really know somebody is normal? SO I think Jane–[Maura] kind of brings her in to give her to the OK and that goes really funny too. We’ve only touched in it so I don’t know it’s going to end up. I’m very happy about that for her.
Some of the comedy in Season 5 will surely come from Jane’s resistance of all things overtly feminine, as Angie points out her character is modeled after a male homicide detective.
“It’s not like Jane’s a really frilly girlie girl,” she said. “If I play feminine, then Maura doesn’t work. I have to go way, way, way over here on the sort of manly—tone it down, dumb it down. She can’t walk in and be sexy or pretty or aware of it or any of that stuff. She just has to be a man.”
Angie said she was inspired by the women in the Boston homicide division, too.
“They work very hard at blending in. There’s nothing special about them, there’s nothing very sparkly. They work very very hard,” she said. “It’s an interesting thing to do as a woman.”
Some fans would say it’s that kind of masculine edge that Jane Rizzoli gives in her slacks and boots that adds to the Jane and Maura chemistry.
“When I watch the show, I feel like I don’t know Angie and I,” Sasha said. “I know these two women together. I don’t know, it’s just the magic when chemistry happens in that way, you just can’t define it. You can’t say, ‘Oh it’s because maybe [Angie’s] more masculine and [Sasha’s] not’—I don’t know. I’ve read scenes and they read one way and then we start to do them and they’re something else. I can honestly say picking up with her is we can pick up and we can go. We can make it our own.”
And with that being said, and acknowledged by anyone who has ever worked on or watched the show, it continues to feel like a missed opportunity to explore something other than friendship between these two women. If viewers are able to accept there will never be a romance between Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles, then they will enjoy the show. But if they are holding out hope for something sexual or a deeper kind of intimacy, it seems inevitable that they will be disappointed.
For those who are fine with subtext, it sounds like there will be plenty of innuendo to subsist on.
“We did a fun scene today where—let’s say Jane’s trying to persuade someone to give her information so she dresses up what she thinks looks like a sexy librarian,” Sasha said, “but Maura thinks she looks like a flight attendant.” And with Jane always staying at Maura’s place, Sasha joked, “It’s like the whole family is moving in! I said, ‘We should just build a wing.’ It’s fun. It’s really fun to do. So wonderful when you do have chemistry in that way because the music gets different.”
That’s something all Rizzoli & Isles fans can agree upon.
Source: After Ellen