Copyright 2010 Eric Ogden / TNT
Sasha Alexander's TV death on "NCIS" is one of the most famous: After a false alarm when a bullet hit her character's vest and knocked her down, she stood up and everyone breathed a sigh of relief because she was fine. Then, out of nowhere, a sniper's bullet took her out with a kill shot to the head. It was a shocking season finale back before TV shows regularly began knocking off cast members.
Now Sasha is back with a new series, "Rizzoli & Isles," playing Maura Isles, a medical examiner in Boston, who helps Jane Rizzoli, a Boston cop played by Angie Harmon, solve crimes.
"I didn't take a hiatus," says Sasha, who is married to Sophia Loren's son Edoardo Ponti. "I did have a baby, but I only took three months off. I did a show called 'The Nine' on ABC. I did a pilot, I did a 'House' episode and 'Dark Blue' and I made eight movies. … So, I have been working as much as I want to be working."
Sasha was lured back to series TV because the character of Maura Isles greatly appealed to her, even though they are complete opposites. Where Maura loves all things science, Sasha is quick to admit she was never very good at it.
"It is fun to play a character that is so scientific and mathematical and whose brain functions at such a high pace," she says. "I think the biggest difference is that Maura is very linear in her thinking, very logical. I'm not quite like that. I'm much more laid back."
Although they had never met, Sasha says she and Angie Harmon hit it off immediately because they share the same sense of humor, which is important when they deal with death on a daily basis as they try to solve murders.
For that very same reason, Sasha says she doesn't bring her 4-year-old daughter to the set a lot because there are a lot of corpses on the set.
"I think that becoming a parent absolutely changes your entire life and certainly changes your work, and it has changed mine," she says. "It just allows you access to your emotions even more than it already did. You're watching this little person grow in front of you and you realize precious life is and how quickly it goes."
So how does it feel to be the mother of Sophia Loren's granddaughter?
"Well, the best thing about it is that she is the most normal person and I have the utmost admiration and love for her," she says. "But that really is the best thing about it. I know you know that she is an icon and an absolute legend, but really, truly, as a family member, the most beautiful thing is that she is really, really normal."
"Rizzoli & Isles" airs Monday nights at 10 p.m. on TNT.