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Rizzoli and Isles - A Conversation with Creator and Executive Producer Janet Tamaro

How were you first introduced to Jane Rizzoli & Maura Isles?
Tamaro: Writers are drawn to what is both relevant to them and to what is universal. I wanted to do a series with female leads because, let’s face it, I’m a girl. I’d written on many shows that have been created by men. Hey, I like men, and I’m not saying men can’t write female characters because then I’d have no business writing male characters. BUT I think women have a secret language (just as men do) that only other women are privy to. I was in the process of developing a cop show with two strong, smart, electric female leads who were not desperate, not good wives, not catty jerks. Two women who were complicated and very different – but who were also friends. I never got a chance to finish that pilot because something better happened. In walked Bill Haber, legendary producer and former CAA agent, who had the rights to Tess Gerritsen’s novels The Apprentice and The Surgeon. He’s wildly persuasive, and was wonderfully enthusiastic about both my writing and Tess’s novels. Once I read the books, I knew there was a compelling drama – and an equally compelling relationship between Detective Jane Rizzoli and Dr. Maura Isles. Tess Gerritsen has become a friend during this process. Both of us love these characters that she “birthed” and I’m grateful to her because she’s been very generous and let me play with them as television characters.

What attracted you to the idea of bringing Jane and Maura to television?
Okay, this part is not fun to relate. Out of tragedy, there are lessons. My best friend of 16 years was killed in a car accident a year and a half ago. She was there when I had my children. I was there when she had hers. She was a professional, doing the same nutty juggling act I do. And she was the one I turned to, even more than my husband, to get through a complicated work and home life because she “got” it in a way that no one else could. Her life was similar. Without her to bounce ideas off of and have a drink with and yes, sometimes cry and bitch to each other and unload, I found myself facing an enormous void in my life. I think about her all the time, and I think she would’ve loved these two women. And she would’ve been proud of me and supportive. What I have now is a fictional relationship, and believe it or not, it helps. It’s a privilege to channel all that she was to me into this extraordinary friendship between Jane and Maura.

There’s also something about their relationship which I see in the world but not on television. Not enough anyway: two smart, strong, competent women who instinctively drop the protective shield when they’re with each other. One of my favorite scenes in the pilot is when Jane is being targeted by a serial killer. Maura says, “You’re very brave.” Jane responds, “No, I’m just tired of being afraid.” That level of honesty speaks to a layered, interesting character. Jane and Maura want to understand each other. They’re also not afraid to disagree with each other because they are good friends, not competitors.

The world of Boston Homicide is still dominated by men. I mean, really dominated. Up to 100%... The detectives we’ve met and worked with are wonderful, but all of them are men. Women weren’t “invited” to be homicide detectives in Boston until 1988. There are usually no more than two female detectives in the department. Sometimes, like in our fictional world, there is only one. The detectives also work closely with the Boston Chief Medical Examiner’s Office, Dr. Maura Isles’ world. That, too, is mostly male. It piqued my interest to have two women with different skills working together to solve homicides and turning to each other when necessary.

What makes Jane and Maura unique among television crime-solvers?
Neither has any super powers – and that’s what I like about them. Jane is a blue collar cop who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s a natural cop with her failsafe gut, deep understanding of human nature, ability to observe and unravel clues others miss. But she also retains a kind-of childlike enthusiasm and fearlessness as she plunges headlong into her cases.

Maura is a well-educated M.D. who spent much of her childhood at elite European boarding schools. But Maura is also a complex mix. She is far more comfortable with the dead than the living. Her powers of observation turn to the micro. As she looks for forensic clues, she is fascinated by all that she knows – and can’t know – about the human brain and body. The reason she is so stylish in her couture clothing is not because she likes labels. She pays attention to what a human mind can create: cars, buildings, computers, machines, a fitted suit with a hand-sewn, blind hem. She unwittingly amuses Jane because she’s straightforward and guileless in a wonky kind of way. Maura says what she thinks and backs it up with science or even a mathematical equation without thinking through the emotional consequences.

That Jane and Maura are so different and yet so effective as a team makes them endearing, compelling and unpredictable.

What do you hope people come away with after watching RIZZOLI & ISLES?
Each week, our mission is to set up a great mystery. We want all the armchair sleuths out there (of which I am one) to lean forward and assess all the clues and try to unravel the complicated puzzle we’ve set up. I like to be both amused and scared when I watch a one-hour drama, so RIZZOLI & ISLES is packed with both suspense and humor. We recognize no genre has been exploited as much as the cop drama, which is why it’s important to us to give viewers a delicious and unexpected surprise in the middle of a beloved procedural structure. Solve the mystery, catch the bad guy and be amused. Along the way, we hope to make you fall in love with these people.
Source: TNT

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