It looks like such a glamorous life in Hollywood …

… but it’s work. Damn hard work.

Last week in Los Angeles, I had the pleasure of visiting the “Rizzoli & Isles” set on the Paramount lot. The cast and crew had no idea I was coming (only my good buddy Janet Tamaro knew) so when I walked onto the set, I wasn’t initially noticed. The cast was in a huddle, talking, and I didn’t want to interrupt. So I just hung around for a few minutes, and then Lorraine Bracco turned and stared at me, and so did Sasha Alexander, and suddenly there were squeals of “Tess is here! No one told us she was coming!”

Immediately, Angie Harmon grabbed my hand, pulled me over to the crew, and yelled: “Here’s the writer who created these incredible characters!” It was such a warm, wonderful welcome, by people who greeted me like part of their family, that I felt like crying.

We all posed for their traditional “point at the body” photo, which is apparently the way they welcome every newcomer to the show:

Followed by the “hanging out together photo”

(L-R: Lorraine Bracco, Sasha Alexander, me, Bruce McGill, Angie Harmon, Lee Thompson Young, and Alan Rachin)

Then the cast got back to work filming. If you’ve never been on a film set, you probably imagine that the actors just walk on, say their lines, and head back to their comfortable trailers. Not so. The actors, the film crew, everyone, is putting in long, exhausting hours as they scramble to put together fifteen TV episodes in only a few months. A lot of the hard work is behind the scenes, starting with the creative ferment going on in showrunner Janet Tamaro’s office, where the stories are crafted and polished. And once Janet finishes a script, her job is far from finished, because she’s also keeping an eye on the production from beginning to end. In truth, I have stamina for only a few hours on set, and then I get sympathetic fatigue from watching the cast and crew running around, and I have to stagger away for sustenance.

Also, those film sets are freezing. It was warm outside, and inside it was, oh, about fifty degrees. Lorraine Bracco saw I was shivering and she actually handed me her fleece jacket! How cool is that? I wore Lorraine Bracco’s fleece!

I got the chance to chat with Bruce McGill (Korsak) and Lee Thompson Young (Frost), whose hilarious back-and-forth on the show always makes me laugh. I want more Korsak vs. Frost, please!

I also got to spend time with actress Tina Huang, who plays Susie Chang, Maura’s assistant in the morgue. I asked her if her Chinese parents had a problem with her going into entertainment and — no surprise — they wanted her to be a doctor or a lawyer instead. Tell me about it, sister!

(Here I am with Tina, and I’m wearing Lorraine Bracco’s fleece jacket!)

After my visit to the set, it was off to do some touristy L.A. things. And, no surprise, one of the big things on my agenda was to visit the La Brea tar pits and the Page Museum, where millions of ancient animal bones are displayed. For those unfamiliar with the tar pits, here’s what they look like today:

Yep, right in the middle of Los Angeles, there are bubbling, stinky pools of tar which continually belch methane gas. Tens of thousands of years ago, mastodons and giant sloths and wolves and ancient horses would wander into the tar, get trapped, and starve to death. The tar pits are an amazing repository of skeletons, but I can’t imagine the hot, filthy, stinky work it takes to dig them up.

After the amazing tar pits, and visits to the Getty Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, it was on to Anaheim and … RizzlesCon! The giant Twitter universe of Rizzoli & Isles fans have been an online community since the show began, and this was their chance to get together, party, and celebrate the show.

Organized by Joy Thomas (who comes all the way from the UK) and Liv Moreno (above), the con turned out to be a nonstop party, along with workshops taught by some fascinating law enforcement folks, including a coroner, a homicide detective, a crime scene photographer, and a firearms expert.

I gave a talk about the creation of Jane and Maura as characters in my books series:

and hung out with some happy attendees:

Of course, a visit to Disneyland was called for on the last night, when the fireworks and music and crowds completely blasted out my eardrums. So I’m happy to be back in quiet Maine. Not so glamorous maybe — but a whole lot calmer!

9 replies
  1. DaveG
    DaveG says:

    Tess,
    Loving R&I on TV (terrific to see 2 strong women leads (I’m thinking of a sitcom about 2 young waitresses, 2 fine actresses yoked with mediocre scripts), not sure if anyone else is doing that, but it’s about time) led me to your books and I just finished The Silent Girl. I really enjoyed it, although if you will indulge me, I thought it could have been longer and gone deeper into plot and characters.

  2. wy82331
    wy82331 says:

    Tess,
    So happy for all your success!! I am always reminded of a lady saying, ” All the Big boys.” I greatly enjoy all your many books and I watch R&I each week. Who ever decided upon the actors for each I think did your books much justice. I am waiting for the book publisher to deliver my order of your two latest. Again, enjoy each little thing, be happy and thank you for it all.

  3. DebPiccurelli
    DebPiccurelli says:

    Tess, love the photos! You’re a natural, too. Thanks for sharing this wonderful trip. How exciting to see your characters come alive before your eyes!

  4. steph gracie
    steph gracie says:

    Hi Tess

    I’m actually jealous at the fact you met the amazing cast of my fav show. As I’m writing this now Rizzoli and Isles is on t.v (I always put it on record ) only jus started to read your books and, wooooow I love them :-). I’ve read the silent girl and keeping the dead, now everynight before I go to bed, I read a few chapters of the killing place. I’m definatley going to get every single one of your books :-). Pictures are amazing and they all look so wonderful. If you all were in the UK I’d love to have got a picture and autographs. Will you be writing another rizzoli and isles thriller. Would love to know release date for the UK. Keep it up Tess your doing a wonderful job. Xx

  5. deeorbra
    deeorbra says:

    Tess: I read “The Sinner”. And I was hooked! I have converted several other people as well. The TV series is WONDERFUL and I can’t wait until the next episode comes on. As an ex-women cop, I can relate to some of the things going on, so thanks for the memories as well. You rock!

  6. nerophiliac
    nerophiliac says:

    Tess, having just returned home from my very first trip to Maine, I sure wish I was back there as well. You live in such a beautiful part of the country! I got my copy of “Last to Die” yesterday, and can’t wait to jump in. I’ve read every one of your books, and have enjoyed each and every one. Thank you for your work.

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