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Angie Harmon plays Lily Tartikoff in Lifetime movie 'Living Proof'

Luaine Lee
McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)

LOS ANGELES - Throughout her life people have always called actress Angie Harmon names. When she was a kid they called her "square eyes" because all she wanted to do was watch the square box in the living room. When she costarred with Sam Waterston in "Law & Order," he called her a "Force of Nature."

Now, playing Lily Tartikoff, the wife of the former chief of NBC in Lifetime's movie, "Living Proof," people have a new name for her: Gutsy.

"To play Lily Tartikoff, what an honor - also, how terrifying," she rolls her brown eyes. "Every single person in the business loves and adores her so it was the first time I was really scared to do a role," she says, seated in a hotel patio, the sound of the fountain plopping in the background.

"It's one thing to do a person who's already passed. It's another to play a person that's here and prevalent in the community and everybody knows her. So that to me was a little terrifying."

The most difficult thing to master in the movie, which premieres Saturday, was Tartikoff's posture. "I had to take a piece of duct tape and tape it between my shoulder blades. In between time, I have morning sickness - take five - and I would run to the bathroom and nobody knew," she laughs. "The whole thing was very, very fun and wonderful and scary. And if things aren't scary in life why do them?"

That attitude has turbo-charged Harmon's life. She began modeling as an infant when she was used in hospital demonstrations on how to properly wash babies. Posing in car seats later in newspaper ads, she says, "It sort of escalated until I got to that gangly, awkward, huge-buck-teeth phase. So I quit for a while and started back up again when I was about 12 or 13. It wasn't something that my parents pushed me into, first of all because I wasn't pretty all my life. When I was 12 I looked like I was 18. It was terrifying for my parents. I don't look forward to that with my daughters at all."

As a teenager she won a car in a competition conducted by Seventeen magazine. The car sat in the driveway for a year until she was old enough to drive.

She was only 18 when she went to Italy by herself to model. "I was one of those students if I was going to learn Italian, I was going to learn it in Italy. I wasn't going to learn it in the classroom, which is just my stubbornness. I don't suggest that to anyone," she says.

The high life caught up to her in her early 20s. "I woke up and thought, 'You know what, I probably should get some therapy.' We can always better who we are. And there were a lot of things about myself back then that I didn't care for and also, in my own defense, didn't know how to change.

"That was one of my wakeup calls. I think it was just one of those things where you realize, 'I think life is supposed to be mostly happiness with moments of sadness - not mostly sadness with moments of happiness.'

"I truly believe it is because of my faith and (the ability) to listen to that little voice we call intuition. I know that that voice is that still, small voice of God telling you, 'OK now, we go down this path for a while.'"

Married to former NFL cornerback and safety Jason Sehorn, Harmon has two little girls, 4 and 3, and is expecting her third child. She relishes mixing business with home life.

"I kind of excel in high pressure situations which I don't say that arrogantly because you don't often have a high-pressure situation in your daily life. That's a hard thing to adjust to in life - like the whole family has the flu, including my husband, and everyone's throwing up. That's when I'm at my best, or when I'm working a 90-hour week and trying to get home and put the kids down and get back to work and I've got a production to run and I've got 178 people who work underneath me that I've got to take care of and make sure they have a job. That's no problem, that's fine and completely enjoyable," she says.

"I enjoy being Jason Sehorn's wife. I enjoy being my little girls' mommy. I enjoy being No. 1 on the call-sheet. I enjoy being a producer. To me, I'm so thankful for it. To be like the least successful in this business is such a blessing. So how do you not give 150 percent when it's to your family and to your husband and to your job?"

Still she admits it can be trying. "Those (bad) times I get real close to God and it all seems to work out," she shrugs.

Harmon was introduced to Sehorn by his teammate, Michael Strahan. It was NOT love at first sight. "To be honest I thought he was cute, but he sooo wasn't my type," she shakes her head.

"And I wasn't his type. So we just kind of went, 'Uhhhh, hi.' He was this good Christian boy with his 'What-Would-Jesus-Do?' bracelet on, and he didn't cuss and he didn't really drink and I thought, 'What am I going to do with this? Could you be a more boring individual?' Now I look at him and it's infuriating how handsome he is. He's graying a little bit, it's so infuriating because you think it's been almost 10 years. Surely you'll kind of get used to it. He's just the hottest thing I've ever seen, and I'm thankful that doesn't ever go away."

___

Lucy Liu, who's costarring on ABC's "Dirty Sexy Money," hits the big 4-0 next year. About that she says, "I know some people that are in their 20s seem like they're 60, and I think it's really about your attitude and how you live and how you are and how you relate to the world and how you connect to people. So to me it just gets better and better. So I look forward to, you know - I didn't think I was going to get past 20. So I feel like I've made a big leap. You know, it's been a great ride."

___

David Alan Grier, who was so funny on "In Living Color," is going to one-up that show with his new "Chocolate News," premiering Wednesday on Comedy Central. Skits will be done in a magazine format with lots of satire, he promises. For instance, when a pair of conjoined twins are born - one black and one white - Chocolate News doesn't even cover the white one. Says Grier, "I think I personally wanted a different way to do sketch, a kind of way to do comedy that I didn't really see, especially from an African-American point of view on television. And (offer) just a fresh approach ... instead of creating a show that I know and I've seen. And it's a black version of that show, trying to come up with a new way to do it," he says.

___

Katie Holmes will be guesting on ABC's "Eli Stone" on Oct. 21 as a sexy jazz singer. Producer Greg Berlanti, an old colleague, coaxed her onto the show. "We were talking about the beginning of the season and knowing that we really want to bring eyeballs to the show and do anything we could to get people talking about the show that like the show or haven't seen the show. So ... I said, 'I can go ask Katie and see if she's interested. We haven't worked together since "Dawson's (Creek)."' And I went and I begged her, and she said, 'I'd love to.' And we talked a little bit about her role, and she is also an attorney, but she doesn't practice law in the episode. It's not a one-scene, two-scene thing. She's doing a lot of work in the episode. She's in a significant portion of the episode. Her first day shooting was yesterday, and it was great. She's an incredible actress and a good friend."

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