Nearly every comic book superhero (or superheroine) has a common trait. Underneath the iconic, admired public figures that splash across periodical covers (in full color!) and wow the world at large wherever they go, a secret identity hides. These alter egos allow the high-flying and death-defying to preserve and protect some elements of their lives, whether they are treasured loved ones or defining personal histories. It makes the hero (or heroine) that much more human and accessible for fans and readers, and it makes for an amazing story every time.
So when a model, actress, advocate and ambassador appears on the covers of countless magazines and graces screens both small and silver as a hard-nosed prosecutor, a secret agent and, most often, a daring detective from the Northeast, it prompts us to be curious just how good a story will be found when we look into the secret identity of Angie Harmon.
It might surprise many who watch her portray a Boston native on the hit television show Rizzoli & Isles, or followed her time as a New York City prosecutor on Law & Order, that this particular superheroine’s story begins in the north part of our very own Lone Star State. Having grown up in the Highland Park district of Dallas, the fact that any might not know this about her comes as a surprise. “I do not know anyone that does not know I’m from Texas,” she laughingly proclaims. It is a constant source of pride for Harmon, and has been something she’s held dear since her career’s humble beginnings abroad.
“I’ve always thought there’s something very special about being from Texas,” she explains. “I learned that when I was very young and I was modeling in Milan and Paris. There would be a group of girls together, and they would ask each of us where we were from, and people would always say, ‘I’m from America,’ or, ‘I’m from the United States.’ And I would always say, ‘I’m from Texas.’”
Regardless of where she is or how high her career has taken her, Harmon still manages to beam about her home state. “It’s always made me feel like I was from some place special,” she says. “I think every person has a loyalty and a fondness for where they’re from, but there’s something very special and true about the people in Texas. I don’t go for manipulation or game playing and I find that most people who were born and raised in Texas are the same. You are what your word is, and your word is important.” It is an honest and humble take on her state heritage, and one she still champions and recognizes, despite the influence an ever-evolving world can have. “I guess it’s now called ‘old fashioned’ to have these ethics and values, but I find it’s something Texans still have.”
It is precisely these ethics and values that prompted Harmon to lend her good name to great causes. Two years ago, she was named an ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), championing the plight of underprivileged children worldwide. Her involvement with UNICEF helped turn her attention to still more places where people were marginalized and she has recently lent her name to the Red Earth jewelry label, wearing pieces and curating a collection that represent sustainable income in under- resourced nations, desperate for a living wage.
While working on a project that had Harmon directing in Nashville, a friend of hers introduced her to a local jewelry store. “He was showing me around town and he showed me this really incredible store that I thought was an art gallery,” Harmon explains. She was caught unaware by the quality of the craft. “That’s how cool and original and fantastic these pieces were,” she explains. “When I realized that this wasn’t some unattainable piece of art, that it was actually quite attainable for every woman and not only that, but was ethical and worldly-conscious, I thought, ‘Let’s do a collection together.’”
Soon after, the Angie Harmon X Red Earth Collection was born. “It’s affordable for most people, and, because every piece is handmade, is one of a kind,” she explains. “I think that’s fantastic because I know when I’m out looking for things, it’s the rare piece, whether it is clothing or art or jewelry, that always draws me to it. In the end, I think all of us want to express ourselves in an original and singular way.” Though it may seem like a lot to add to the responsibility of an actress/ ambassador, Harmon takes it in stride. “Look at the creativity that comes out of this beautiful country and look at how talented they are,” she says. “Then look at the resources that they use to make such beautiful things in order to support their families. [Representing them] is kind of a no-brainer when you think about it.”
Asked for the secret to her powers of balancing such a hectic life, she laughs heartily and explains that her balance isn’t always perfect. “Kyra Sedgwick gave me some really valuable advice,” Harmon says. “‘Keep your heart where your feet are.’ That’s been a difficult thing to try and master. I think I’ve got it down to about 75% now.” She elaborates, saying that means “being present where you are and enjoying that moment with the people that are around you.” And not, as she explains, “missing what could be a really great moment in your life, because you were either thinking about or too worried about something else, or wanting to be some place else.”
Hers is the struggle of many women, a fact not lost on the incredible Harmon. “I think we naturally do that because we worry about our friends, our families, our kids, about the world around us,” she says. “Our minds are constantly occupied with either something that’s going on with ourselves, or with someone we care about or the world around us, so it’s difficult to step back, take a breath, and concentrate on where we are at that precise moment.”
Finding breaths can prove difficult for any woman, let alone one who spends so long in the public eye. In the days since splitting with her husband, former NFL star Jason Sehorn, it would be natural to assume that balance is a good distance off. “Jason and I have split up,” she calmly states, when asked about the push and pull between work and life. “It’s very advantageous and helpful that he is a hands-on father,” Harmon adds, making it clear that her outlook and fight to find center are undaunted.
Which brings us to an essential and crucial part of her being. Amid all of the public responsibilities and demands that she juggles, there is a more important and precious role. One far easier for the public to understand: the proud mother to three girls. And, while she may be celebrated for her time in the public eye and her power over film and television roles, her true giftedness may best reveal itself in how she balances all of her endeavors with being a loving and supportive parent.
Harmon’s home and daughters are on the East Coast, but her hit show films in Hollywood, and a genuine vulnerability appears in her voice when she speaks of the miles between her work and her family, split between two coasts. “A lot of people don’t know this,” she confesses, “but I didn’t take Rizzoli knowing I would be on the other side of the country from my family for nine months a year. We were only going to shoot three months, and that was in the summer. We, as a family, were going to travel back to LA when the girls were out of school,” she says. “Mommy would work June, July, August and that would be it. That was the original deal, and a lot of people look at me and think, ‘how could you work on the other side of the country?’ That’s not how it started. I said ‘no’ many times.”
The success of Rizzoli & Isles and its subsequent toll on Harmon’s schedule does help reveal yet another element in her secret identity – namely, the source of her power. She readily and gleefully admits, “It’s kind of impossible to do without help from above – and your family and friends and everybody else you know.”
With the incredible origin story and secret identity now on display, it only seems right to ask the wonder woman what she might want to do with her next feat. “Any superhero,” she all but exclaims. “If I could play She-Hulk or Wonder Woman, that would be such a thrill, such an honor and so much fun,” Harmon says. “Most of the characters I’ve played in my career are the characters that fight for the less fortunate. ‘Fight for the victims, fight for the children,’ has kind of been my entire career. So, I think that would be the epitome of it all.”
Indeed, the superhero role seems tailor-made for a woman who could already be called one, considering the amazing qualities and characteristics that Angie Harmon displays, in both her public persona and her ‘secret identity.’
Texas could hardly find a better superheroine to call its own.