Whenever she can grab a spare day, she flies in for a quick visit; to gain more time together, the family sometimes reunites midway, in Dallas, where they stay with cousins or other relatives. But it’s clear that the grind of being first on the call sheet and child rearing at a distance takes its toll. When the guilt becomes overwhelming, Harmon turns to costar Lorraine Bracco, who plays Rizzoli’s outspoken Italian mother. “We talk a lot about parenting,” says Bracco, who has two grown daughters and recalls her own days of career-family struggle. Harmon, she says, makes it work: “She’s got more energy than anybody I know. She’s definitely a fun mom. Her girls are lovely. They’re incredibly well behaved, smart, charming. They’re little tomboys, too.”
Even with the commuting challenges, Harmon finds Charlotte a good fit. She likes its friendly vibe and churchgoing habits, which reflect the importance of prayer in her life. “The one thing I’ve learned is that even in my darkest moments, when I feel the most alone, I’m not alone. I can still talk to God and ask for help. I want my girls to know that,” she says, and she has enrolled her kids in a Christian school. But speaking to a higher power, Harmon adds, isn’t the only avenue for problem solving: “I believe in therapy. I don’t believe in staying in it for life. When you have an issue, you go talk to someone, get your issue taken care of, then you go live your life, and you’re armed with the tools to do it correctly.”
Charlotte’s diverse political climate is another plus. A few years ago, Republican Harmon was leaving an event when a reporter approached her. “He asked me, ‘Do you agree with the way the president is handling things right now?’ I said, ‘No, absolutely not.’ ” Though she’d always been open about her political allegiance—she and Sehorn even gave a joint speech at the 2004 GOP convention—Harmon says the remark triggered an Internet backlash: “The day after I said I didn’t agree with the president, it was posted that I was a gay-hating racist.” She spent the next year staging what she calls a “full-blown campaign” to clear up misperceptions, appearing on talk shows like Chelsea Lately and The View (where Sherri Shepherd and Harmon’s longtime pal Whoopi Goldberg defended her). “I’m a liberal Republican,” says Harmon, who is pro-choice and believes in marriage equality. “We actually exist.”
When she talks about the experience, her shoulders droop: “I was devastated. I had one actor friend tell me I was brainwashed and stupid. Here was this brutally intelligent person, and I sat there looking at the limitations of his thoughts.” But she remains unapologetic. “Call it naïveté or stupidity, but I didn’t know that unless you are a Democrat, you aren’t allowed to talk politics in Hollywood,” Harmon says. “It’s bizarre to me that the so-called tolerant party can be so intolerant.”
She talks about her life progress with equal frankness. “I gotta tell you, 40 was really difficult for me,” says Harmon, who hit that milestone last year. One way she celebrated—or eased the pain—was by buying a double strand of rose-cut diamonds that she’s wearing around her neck today. She also found herself entering “not a midlife crisis, but a midlife wake-up. I’m halfway done,” she says. “I still have some good years. But I see the clock ticking where I didn’t see it before.”
When asked what age has taught her to appreciate, Harmon doesn’t hesitate: “My health, the beautiful moments in life. I’ve learned to stop and remind myself to look around and notice who I’m with. Then I take that moment to really record what is going on and to make it a great memory—because it is all so fleeting.”
MARGY ROCHLIN profiled Lauren Graham in the May issue of More.