Harmon back to law & order

Angie Harmon has proved there's dramatic life after modeling and "Baywatch Nights": The Texas-reared beauty went almost immediately from cheesecake on the beach to the FBI in L.A., co-starring in the short-lived ABC series "C-16: FBI." Then came her best-remembered stint, as Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael on "Law & Order."

But after playing Frankie Muniz's CIA handler in "Agent Cody Banks" (2003), movies didn't seem to beckon further. And once she and former New York Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn started having kids, the regularity of TV work again sounded promising. Now, Harmon stars as Boston police detective Jane Rizzoli alongside Sasha Alexander's sleuthing medical examiner Maura Isles in TNT's "Rizzoli & Isles," premiering today (9 p.m., Channel 30).

You seem to play a lot of people in law enforcement.

I know, don't I?

What is it about you that seems "law enforce-y"?

I'm not sure. I think a lot of it has to do with my features fitting for the drama side of the entertainment world.

Not just drama, but it's that you play but cops, prosecutors ...

It's not like you've got a lot of dramatic characters out there that aren't in that line of work. God love 'em, our cops and prosecutors and firefighters and all those people, they've got the best jobs out there. If I weren't acting, I'd be a homicide detective.

Or a model.

No, I've already done that. That's OK!

Originally, the show was called "Rizzoli," although the character of Isles was there from the start. You were the first person cast. How did the title change?

"Rizzoli & Isles" is just a lot catchier than "Rizzoli." And it's a "Cagney & Lacey" thing — showing two women who are friends, who are in it together and working in a man's world.

It's funny you mention "Cagney & Lacey," since the actress who played in the pilot got recast when it went to series. How was it getting into and keeping a chemistry with Sasha Alexander?

When we were casting Isles, we had gone through a bunch of girls and narrowed it down, and then we had Sasha read. And when she walked out, we all kind of looked at each other with a glimmer in our eye and were like, "Oh, my God, we found her! This is her, this is her!"

We wanted to let her know right then and there she had the job, but I was, like, "OK, wait a minute. Let me go get her, and let's play a joke on her." I walked outside and went, "I'm sorry, what's your name again?" And she was like, "Sasha." And I went, "Right. Sasha. They want to do all four scenes again, but they also want us to do another one and just sort of ad-lib. Are you OK with that?" What's she going to say? "No?"

So I bring her into the room, and she looks at everyone and asks, "Can I just have the pages for the new scene, and I'll look them over very quickly?" And I went, "No, no, no! You don't need to because you've got it!" And we all just jumped up and hugged her and screamed and everything.