Intent on conquering the acting arena as well, Harmon moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1990s. By coincidence, she met producer-actor David Hasselhoff on a transcontinental flight and impressed him enough to land an audition for the mystery series spin-off "Baywatch Nights" (syndicated, 1995-97). She landed the lead role of Det. Ryan McBride, as well as guest-starring roles on a handful of similar syndicated fare. After the sun set on "Baywatch Nights," Harmon successfully segued to coveted network parts with the drama "C-16" (ABC, 1997-98), playing a rookie FBI agent, and essayed her first feature role, the small part of a wealthy Kentucky woman secretly bedding Sam Rockwell's hunky mower in John Duigan's "Lawn Dogs" (1997). All of Harmon's dues-paying proved worthwhile when she landed her star-making role, Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael on the award-winning series "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010). Replacing the departing Carey Lowell, Harmon's tough-minded character reflected many of the actress's own, real-life conservative leanings. The character - and Harmon's acting - won over critics and fans alike, making a strong enough impression that she made a string of crossover appearances on the popular spin-off, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999-). Harmon's aura of authority and her distinctive, husky voice served her well with a recurring voiceover role in "Batman Beyond" (The WB, 1999-2001) and the direct-to-video movie "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker" (2000) as Commissioner Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl.Harmon sparked the best kind of news when her longtime boyfriend, pro football player Jason Sehorn, surprised her during an interview on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (NBC, 1992-2014) and proposed live on the air. To much press fanfare, the two were married the following year. As her personal life was on an upswing, Harmon's professional life proved chafing. Frustrated that the demanding hours required for "Law & Order" forced her to miss out on several high-profile movie roles, including the hits "Charlie's Angels" (2000) and "Spy Kids" (2001) - as well as the limited growth her character underwent - Harmon left the show in 2001. She played the romantic lead in the charming but featherweight DVD newspaper comedy "Good Advice" opposite Charlie Sheen (2001), and brought her gravitas to the woman-in-peril, real-life drama "Video Voyeur: The Susan Wilson Story" (Lifetime, 2002). Harmon finally scored her first big screen success playing the sexy handler of teen superspy "Agent Cody Banks" (2003). The Frankie Muniz/Hilary Duff action comedy did solid business, and Harmon garnered much attention for the creative padding used to make the athletic beauty into a more voluptuous one. In real life, she gave birth to a daughter in 2003, and followed up her silver screen and maternal successes with a supporting role in "The Deal" (2005), a straight-to-DVD thriller about a Wall Street investment banker (Christian Slater) and his environmentalist partner (Selma Blair) entangled with the Russian Mafia.Harmon returned to television with a regular role on "Inconceivable" (NBC, 2005), a primetime soap opera about the lives of doctors, lawyers and therapists who work together at a San Francisco fertility clinic. That same year, she gave birth to her second daughter. Despite a full season order by the network, the show only lasted two episodes. Back in multiplexes, Harmon had a small part in "Fun with Dick and Jane" (2005), a remake of the fondly-remembered 1976 Jane Fonda film. In the surprisingly topical, updated version, Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni played Dick and Jane Harper, a married couple who resorts to armed robbery after the economy squeezes them both out of work. The usually-dignified Harmon got to do a little physical comedy in the film, which was a success.Adding to her gallery of intelligent, powerful professionals, Harmon essayed a tough newspaper reporter in the action thriller "End Game" (2006) alongside Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. and James Woods. The film, which was meant for a theatrical release, ended up going direct-to-DVD. A similarly unlucky fate awaited "Secrets of a Small Town" (ABC), a highly-touted nighttime drama that would have starred Harmon as a reporter digging up the dirt on a kidnapping and murder. Focus groups adored the show and blogs buzzed about it, but "Secrets" failed to even get picked up. Making even less of an impact was "Glass House: The Good Mother" (2006), a direct-to-DVD, in-name-only sequel to the Leelee Sobieski 2001 big-screen thriller. In a rare villainous turn, Harmon played a murderous foster mom, but critics and audiences had little to say about the film.Harmon took a small supporting role in the Western thriller "Seraphim Falls" (2007), which drew good reviews if not a bustling box office. Harmon found herself in excellent company, appearing in an impressive cast that included Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan and Anjelica Huston. She seemed assured of a hit return to form with the lead role in the ensemble procedural drama "Women's Murder Club" (ABC, 2007-08), based on the bestselling books by James Patterson. Harmon played a homicide inspector whose personal life becomes wrapped up in her work, and who leads a group of her female friends - an assistant district attorney, a medical examiner and a reporter - in solving cases. Despite a very vocal fan base, the show lasted just one season. Mitigating the professional frustration with personal success, Harmon gave birth to her third daughter that year.Although Hollywood had an eternal reputation as a bastion of outspoken liberals, Harmon's relative rarity as a famous actress with very public Republican, conservative beliefs made her much in-demand during presidential campaigns. She and Sehorn delivered a speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention, and she was tapped again for a celebrity endorsement for the John McCain/Sarah Palin 2008 GOP ticket, which she happily gave. During Barack Obama's subsequent term, Harmon remained a visible proponent of the right wing, and a frequent public critic of his policies. When Carrie Prejean drew massive criticism for saying she did not support same-sex marriage during the question/answer portion of the 2009 Miss USA pageant, Harmon was one of the few Hollywood voices who spoke up to defend Prejean's right to express her opinion, no matter how unpopular. Harmon also threw her support behind the possibility of a Sarah Palin 2012 presidential run and continued to speak out for her conservative beliefs.Professionally, Harmon took a supporting role in the well-received drama "Living Proof" (Lifetime, 2008), starring Harry Connick, Jr. as Dr. Dennis Slamon, the real-life researcher who helped develop the breast cancer drug Herceptin. The emotional story - both wrenching and triumphant - followed Slamon's efforts to test and develop the drug, as well as the women and men who helped with funding and trials. Harmon played Lilly Tartikoff, a wealthy philanthropist who organized the long-running "Fire and Ice Ball" fundraiser. With a powerful cast that also included Swoosie Kurtz, Tammy Blanchard, Regina King, Jennifer Coolidge and Bernadette Peters, the movie received excellent reviews. Showing her range, Harmon also earned praise for TV guest starring spots as a comically crazy ex-wife on "Samantha Who?" (ABC, 2007-09), and as a butt-kicking assassin on "Chuck" (NBC, 2007-12). On an upswing and benefiting from the boom of strong roles for women on television, Harmon headlined "Rizzoli & Isles" (TNT, 2010-16), a drama based on a popular series of novels by Tess Gerritsen. The actress played the title role of police detective Jane Rizzoli, once again fighting crime with her signature blend of intelligence and authority.
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