Based on a popular book series, Angie Harmon’s new show, Rizzoli & Isles, has this sweet Dallas girl playing a toughBoston cop — and loving it.

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If she didn’t happen to be fall-over-yourself gorgeous or a TV and fi lm star, she might just be your best friend. The sharp, funny (and incredibly considerate) 38-year-old starts our conversation by repeatedly apologizing for being difficult to reach. Between the demanding production schedule for her new TNT show, Rizzoli & Isles, and having to juggle three daughters — the youngest of which, 20-month-old Emery, can be heard babbling in the background during our interview — with her husband, former NFL player Jason Sehorn , she’s had her hands full. Despite the fact that she’s been in front of the camera for the better part of her life, having started out as a child model, she maintains a real-gal attitude that helps lend her characters authenticity and warmth. That’s never been truer than in her new role as Jane Rizzoli, a headstrong Boston police detective. American Way caught up with Harmon about her new show, her Southern roots and her sense of humor through it all.

You were part of one of the biggest television franchises in history with Law & Order. How does it feel to be back on TV?
First and foremost, I absolutely live for my co-star, Sasha Alexander, and my producer, Janet Tamaro. The three of us have bonded because we are all working moms. Janet and I are the perfectionists and type-A personalities, and then Sasha balances us out. We all just want to be fantastic at what we do. I’ve never been in this kind of creative and collaborative environment.

It seems like there is no better time to portray a strong, capable woman on TV. Was that part of the appeal of this show?
Definitely. I think it’s a direct refl ection on TNT and how they look at women. A few years ago, it started with The Closer and Saving Grace, and now, [this idea] is really coming into its own. Before, it seemed like the best thing for a woman to play was a character on Mad Men, but now people have really welcomed women who are empowered and strong and intelligent — women who have lives and are flawed.

This series is based on Tess Gerritsen’s books. Were you a fan beforehand?
I hadn’t read them before, but now I’ve read all of them. They’re such fun, fun reads. After each one, I get Sasha involved. I’ll be like, “Oh my god, have you read this one? You should see what you do in that one!”

You’re playing a Boston cop. How much background did you do for the role?
I did all my research with the homicide detectives in Boston and based the character of Jane Rizzoli off a man who has become a very, very good friend. What I love about the show is the characters don’t walk in and say, “Well, the killer must have done this.” That’s not how [real] detectives talk. We don’t have to spoon-feed the audience on this show.

How does a Dallas girl like you fit in in Boston?
I have never loved a city like I love Boston. I am a Texan. Born a Texan. But that city is one of the most fantastic places I have ever been. The people in Boston and their sense of humor! Nothing is off-limits. You’ve got to have a thick skin, and I have a really thick skin and sense of humor. We are actually moving back to the East Coast as soon as we’re done shooting.

Can you share where?
We’re actually keeping that part under wraps. [Laughs] We don’t want to terrify the city before we get there. But there’s just something about the East Coast and culture and seasons and all of that. So, I’m going to get my girls back there as quickly as I can before they really put in anchors somewhere.

Speaking of kids, how do you find a balance in it all? Working moms everywhere want to know.
Well, it’s mostly about work and kids. But my job is so fun, and if you love it, and if you’re having a good time at it, none of it’s tedious. Do I stomp my foot every now and then and say, “I need some me time?” Absolutely. But when I actually have the chance to go take a bath or get a massage, I don’t want to do it, because I know that that’s the only free hour that I’m going to get with my kids.