Top 50 Power Showrunners 2011
"Watch out -- she moves fast." So warns the show publicist for TNT's breakout summer hit Rizzoli & Isles as its showrunner, Janet Tamaro, exits the door of her office on the Paramount lot at a pace normally reserved for emergencies.
It's probably a holdover from her life as an ABC News correspondent that gives Tamaro an ingrained sense of urgency. Or it could be that her drama series was tied with The Closer as this year's top basic-cable series, and the expectations have reached a fever pitch. More likely, it's 90 degrees and the former high school track star (she still manages to work out daily) is dressed for a fall day in her native Boston and needs some AC. "Suede jacket and jeans -- what was I thinking?" she wonders aloud.
Around 1 p.m., we enter Stage 4 and are greeted by the show's stars, Angie Harmon (tomboy cop Jane Rizzoli) and Sasha Alexander (medical examiner Maura Isles). They are filming episodes 214 and 215 for the series' winter-season block, set to air this fall. "Hi baby!" coos Tamaro, embracing Alexander, wearing a slim red dress and between-the-scenes flats. The two discuss a stunt that will have Alexander diving to the ground. "Hmmm. I wonder if you should really be wearing a dress for this," says Tamaro, pensively. "I'm worried about your safety."
By 1:20 p.m., we're tucked inside a nondescript room next to Stage 2. Today, Tamaro and her head of casting, Gary Zuckerbrod, are charged with filling the roles of "Whistler and His Daughter" -- parts that will appear later this year. A parade of middle-aged actors and twentysomething actresses file in and read one by one. By 1:45 p.m., it's been 25 minutes of some pretty good and not-so-good readings. "I liked the one who looked like a Barbie doll," she tells Zuckerbrod. "You didn't expect the intensity."
Back inside Stage 2, a car-crash re-creation scene is being dissected; most urgently, what is the most appropriate type of skid marks? Tamaro hashes out what she feels is the most realistic approach with director Michael Zinberg and police adviser Russ Grant. "But if it went like this, the marks would need to go the opposite direction, right? Like, "Errrrrrr!" offers Tamaro, giving a demonstration while staring at a messy drawing of the scene. "I know I'm in trouble when we start making diagrams."
Tamaro, 43, is open about the strain of overseeing a hit series. "TNT has been great so far, but I've realized there's no way to be a master of the universe," she says. "I've accepted that this is the gig, and I think all the showrunners in Hollywood should start a support group." Her main priorities for season three? "Having a life again" and making more time for her husband and two teenage daughters. "I'm also going to demand more and not be as concerned with people liking me," she says, laughing. "I wish there were more sole showrunners who were female. We've watched men be in charge for 1,000 years. I'm just going to pretend I'm a man and really take the wheel."