Rizzoli Isles Series Finale Spoilers

Rizzoli & Isles: Sasha Alexander on Directing a Revealing Episode, Plus the 'Beautiful' Series Finale Ahead

After seven seasons on Rizzoli & Isles, this Monday’s episode took Sasha Alexander someplace she had never been before — behind the camera, as director of the TNT drama.

And it’s not just any old episode the actress got to helm. Rather, “For Richer or Poorer” (airing Monday at 9/8c) drops the none-too-tiny bombshell that Dr. Maura Isles once was, for a brief moment, married to rich kid Edward Dunn (played by Life Unexpected‘s Kristofer Polaha).

With this and just three other episodes left in the series’ run, TVLine spoke with Alexander about her directing debut, Maura and Jane’s growth over seven years, what she’ll miss most about the cast and the “morbid” prop she took home.

TVLINE | Had you been angling to direct all along, or was it something offered to you during the final season?
I graduated from film school at USC for directing, and I had done short films and so forth, but I put it on the backburner because acting was my focus. Since Season 2, I did want to direct this show — it was contractually there to say, “Hey, I want to do this” — and every season they found a reason not to let me do it! [Laughs] There’s scheduling, and it’s also very challenging to organize it so that we are given the opportunity to be “light” in the [preceding] episode, so we can prep. It takes a lot of sacrifice on their part, and [showrunner] Jan Nash made that happen, which was a great gift.

It was a really inspiring, enriching and fun experience for me, to be able to work with everybody behind the scenes. That part of the collaboration is something I’ve really missed as an actor. It’s so much more insular, and one of the reasons I went to film school was to hone behind-the-scenes skills. Rizzoli & IslesTV’s hard, because we have eight days of prep and eight days of shooting, and it’s really fast — you don’t get a lot of takes, so you have to make decisions quickly.

TVLINE | What’s nice is that you got to direct a bit of everything. There’s some stunt work, a chase scene, comedy, romance, a party scene….
The party scene was my “Birdman shot.” We had a time constraint that day and we had seven actors in the scene, and I really felt that scene needed movement. When you have to cut to these quick bits of dialogue within party scenes, it can take hours on end. I felt it should have a flow, so I designed the scene, with our cinematographer, to shoot it as one take. From the moment that we do our hellos, it’s one consecutive shot until Jane (played by Angie Harmon) and Maura end up on the couch. Now, that is an unusual thing to do on our show, mostly because they want you to cover everything a lot. I thought that after I did my edit they would say, “No, it doesn’t work,” but when we got to the end of that scene, it was very emotional.

TVLINE | It was. It was.
Yeah, we all felt that way. But yes, I did get a lot to do, which when I initially read the script was super-exciting. The wonderful [co-executive producer] Ken Hanes wrote my script, and he really loves to write character stuff, so I knew I’d get a character-driven episode. I was thrilled to find out I also got an action sequence and all this other stuff to do, but in the end it’s a very character-driven episode. It had that lovely scene with Jane and Maura in the house, which at first was four pages. We ended up cutting it because as an actor I said it’s too long. So we did one part of it in the kitchen, and then one part by Maura’s fireplace, which we’ve never used in seven years! And it wound up being this intimate conversation between two friends, talking about past loves.
rizzoli-isles-fireplaceTVLINE | It is a strange thing for someone to learn that their best friend had a husband she never mentioned — you had that sticky wicket to address — but the way Maura lays out the story, it makes sense.
When I read that too, it was one of those things that stood out, like, “How do we approach this without it feeling like something Maura kept as a secret?” It was something I recognized as a bit of a hurdle, but it was also something that made me laugh, because I love when Jane finds the photo of her in this totally wacky Vegas setting. That’s so not Maura! But the way it played out, particularly because of Maura’s attitude about it, I think you do buy it. The scene that was really important to me as well was when Maura goes to see Edward [in the hospital], it was really important for me that you immediately believerizzoli-isles-maura-husband that they had something between them that was palpable.

TVLINE | I did notice that they held hands. There’s this instant intimacy, regardless of what happened in the past.
Yes, and also when she talks about his mom not being someone who really approved of her, how Maura wasn’t the kind of woman she wanted for her son…. He had to be somebody you believed was in her past, but we also had to understand why it didn’t work out at the time.

TVLINE | In this same episode, Maura learns that Jane has a job offer at Quantico. What do you want to say about her reaction to that?
I feel that our writers and producers and Jan Nash have serviced all of the characters in the most beautiful way, until the very end, straight through to the finale (airing Sept. 5). I do think that they send off these characters with hope, with love, with friendship and family… all of the things that you would want to see happen to them. With Jane and her new job, and Maura as well, we’re dealing with two independent women who have been very career-minded and who are leaving after seven seasons unmarried, with no children. We’re seeing them grow and make choices to live differently. That’s a beautiful thing, because all you ever want to see when you’re committed to any series is that growth. We are left feeling that everyone will stay close, but we are moving on.

TVLINE | The growth thing leaves us feeling like we’ve been watching a meaningful section of these characters’ lives.
Yes, and yet you still feel like they will be together. They may not be in the same place, but they will take the relationships they’ve made with them. For me, the most satisfying part of this series is that it obviously has this crime show element, but what keeps you watching is this personal journey for not just Jane and Maura, but for everyone. You’re watching family and friends move through life, be put in dangerous situations, traumatic situations, and coming out of it closer.

TVLINE | How did saying goodbye to this show differ from ending your second-longest TV run, which was on NCIS?
Well, this was seven years and that was two. [Laughs] And NCIS was a choice of mine, to go on. I feel very… satisfied with our success. I feel satisfied with the amount of time that we’ve gone on. We’ve been really fortunate from the very beginning to have a fan base that stayed with us throughout. Unlike a lot of shows that do a big run and then you get bored by the end, I actually feel like we’re leaving on an “up,” in that there are more stories to tell. As a creative person, I’ve always looked forward to Dr. Isles; it’s been a really interesting, funny character for me to explore, and I’ve never gotten bored. That’s a danger on any series, that you sort of hit a wall where you feel like you’re “making sausage” every week, which is a quote from my old NCIS costar, Michael Weatherly. He’d be like, “It’s TV, we make sausage every week. And you don’t change the flavors too much.” But I was like, “I don’t want to do that!” [Laughs] I want to make characters that are always growing, always pushing the envelope. So I feel really lucky to have been on something where I have learned so much, that we were able to shoot in Los Angeles…. It’s all around been a really positive experience.

TVLINE | What are going to miss about your castmates?
Angie would scream every morning after our rehearsal, “Good morning, everyone!” — in her big, Texas, football stadium voice. I think I’m going to miss that. I’m going to miss Jordan [Bridges, who plays Frankie] questioning every bit of dialogue. I’m going to miss the “Bruce McGill-isms,” because he will sort of turn everything into a Shakespearean soliloquy. I will miss Lorraine Bracco’s laugh…. I’m going to miss this whole cast, because as actors we’re only as good as the people we’re playing with.

TVLINE |rizzoli-isles-maura-office Did you take anything from the set?
I took this big picture from Maura’s office, which was a replica of an old photograph of five women in the 1900s performing an autopsy. It’s something Maura had in her office from the very beginning, and it totally embodied that character for me. Because not being a doctor and not understanding why someone would want to work with dead bodies, for me it was always about understanding what drives a person to do this job. When [series creator] Janet Tamaro was first designing Maura’s office she called me and asked my opinion on certain design things. She chose that photograph as the representation of the power of women who were doing this hundreds of years before us, and that clicked with me. I’m not sure where I’m going to hang it [Laughs] It’s a little morbid. But it had sentimental meaning to me.

TVLINE | Lastly, whats next for you?
I got a tan! [Laughs] I’ve traveled. I took a break all summer, and now I’m going to hit the ground running. I’ve got a couple of projects that I’ve developed, and I’d like to produce and star on my own show, Shameless Sasha Alexanderso I’m just kind of creating my next vehicle, meeting with people…. It’s just a question of finding something that feels like you want to do it every day for a long time. My experience over on Shameless (pictured) for a couple of seasons was really eye-opening, in the way that it’s such an unconventional show that pushes boundaries, and I liked that. I like working in that style, the way they shoot, and how the material is just constantly changing. I think that television is a beautiful place to be, and we’re doing such good work. I want to find that next thing that inspires me.

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31 Comments
  1. Kevin In CT says:

    I am so going to miss this show! I wonder if they will do a “reunion” movie on the Hallmark Channel in a few years? :))

    Best to all R&I cast and crew!!

  2. kris says:

    Well, can’t say the ending of the series sounds any good, in fact, quite the opposite. I am a Sasha Alexander fan, though, and look forward to her directed episode, she is the only reason I have continued watching R&I after it took such a bad turn with it’s new show runner. I hope Sasha finds a new great project, and I really hope she grows her hair out again, not digging the new cut at all.

    • Chelsey says:

      I just goggled to see what you were talking about, her cutting her hair, and you are right, I am so glad that didn’t occur on the show, hope she realizes that her hair was a really big asset and grows it back soon, before her next project. Guess she just wanted a change, but, hair can make a big difference from going from glamorous to just average looking very quickly.

      • T.C. says:

        Come on be serious. She has been on vacation for a few weeks now. She didn’t cut her hair, she took the extensions out to give her real hair a break. Don’t act like ya’ll don’t know.

  3. N says:

    I love this show and will miss it

  4. Chelsey says:

    I had hoped for a better season 7, that didn’t really happen, season 6 was awful, and now the entire point of the show, the friendship between the 2 lead characters is being thrown out the window as they decide they aren’t content in their current jobs and decide to go in opposite directions, whatever, just more junk being thrown at us from Jan Nash, things could have been so much different, so much better if Janet Tamaro was still there. Hope Sasha Alexander has success in the future, I couldn’t really care less about anyone other involved.

  5. Marmee Cruz says:

    Will surely miss this series. Sasha Alexander and Angie Harmon have a palpable chemistry and it looks like they do enjoy being together on the show.

  6. Larry Hester says:

    I will miss the show, because it was one of my favorites on TNT, besides The Last Ship. I have always been a fan of both Sasha Alexander, and Angie Harmon. Bruce McGill is also one of my favorites from his time on MacGyver. Monday nights will not be the same without that show.

    • Doug Henning says:

      What were you Mondays before this summer since the show was a Tuesday show its entire run till it was paired with Major Crimes???? Still going out on high ratings it’s had from the start. Sounds like Sasha won’t be showing her stuff this season on Shameless.

      • HAP says:

        Sounds like Sasha won’t be showing her stuff this season on Shameless.

        Too bad.

        • T.C. says:

          I am thinking that you guys didn’t really watch Shameless, because if you did, you would know Alexander was only contracted for a few episodes on the show, and that story line is dead and gone now.

          She won’t be back, her relationship with Lip is over.

  7. Stephanie says:

    “We’re seeing them grow and make choices to live differently. That’s a beautiful thing, because all you ever want to see when you’ve committed to an series is that growth. We are left feeling that everyone will stay close, but we are moving on.” Maybe actors feel this way, but, the audience, not so much, we watch because we loved the friendship and we would have liked to have been left with the feeling that it would continue just as strong or stronger, not that the 2 would be separated, thou know something like the season5 finale. Also the personal growth of the side/b. characters is mentioned as important, again, maybe to the actors, but not your audience, this show has wasted far too much screen time on them the last few seasons, valuable screen time that would have been much better given to the character Maura, as Maura seemed to lose half of the usual screen time to accommodate the growth of these side characters. This all just sounds completely disappointing

  8. Boiler says:

    I have enjoyed this show for the 7 years. All I can say now is so long TNT. You are replacing many of your good shows with crap and the drastic loss of viewers shows the public doesn’t want the new stuff.

  9. Kristin says:

    The finale doesn’t sound too promising, why separate them at this point, I agree with the poster that stated something similar to the season 5 finale would have been a lot more satisfying. Seems like a waste to even watch, not what I was wanting to see. Are they now going to bring in Agent Dean at the FBI to have Jane go ahead and move to a desk job, and even though Maura is at the top of her field, suddenly she is no longer interested in her job, it just seems like very lazy writing. This show has steadily gone downhill since the new show runner took over and now it really isn’t even familiar, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The friendship use to be focused on regularly and in the forefront, it has been almost non existent in seasons 6 and 7 with Kent taking Jane’s spot with Maura and Korsak/Angela taking Maura’s spot with Jane, no wonder it got cancelled. I just can’t believe everyone thought this sounded like a great ending for the show when they were contemplating how to end it, so disappointing. I do hope Sasha goes on to bigger and better things, she was the one interesting thing about the show that kept me tuning in.

  10. David Colby says:

    Those two women ( jane and maura)are so good together and memorable, ill never forget this show.

  11. Susan says:

    I am really looking forward to Sasha’s episode tonight, I hope she knocked it out of the park. I guess actors have to tow the party line, because I can’t seriously believe she thinks the 2 main character moving away from each other was a good choice for the ending. They might try to squeeze in love interests, etc, on the audience here in the last few hours, but, this show was about the wonderful friendship the 2 had and although in real life people move away, marry, etc, this isn’t real life, it is a fictional television show that should have catered to their audience and at least kept the characters as they were. Why do so many show runners ruin their show in the last few episodes making it all seem like a waste and making the viewer not interested in ever watching the old episodes again, such a waste.

    • Maggie says:

      I agree with all you have said. After investing in the show for so long it will be very disappointing, at the end, to see Jane & Maura go their separate ways with promises to ‘keep in touch’. As another poster said it would be much better to end it in a similar fashion to Season 5, with the characters still together and then any changes could happen in the future off camera.
      Maybe we will be pleasantly surprised by the ending but I doubt it.

  12. Bren says:

    My family has been involved in this show since it started. We can’t believe your letting this wonderful show go that easily. We hope you continue to play all your past shows on another network. I have a daughter that wants to follow in Maura foot steps. She has alittle additives of being a bit physic.
    Please network don’t take our show off. This show really works for our whole family.

  13. Broadwayfan says:

    I love Angie Harmon, and the entire cast. I hate to see the show end, but there comes a time.
    And, that picture Sasha mentioned? Last week was the first time I ever noticed it!

  14. HAP says:

    Interesting woman. Her birth name is Suzana S. Drobnjakovic. She is of Serbian ancestry, and is married the the son of Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti.

  15. Rose says:

    there are no words to express how I am going to miss R & I I watched from day one I am keeping my fingers crossed that it ends with Jane and Maura sitting and drinking wine and bear and talking about what is next I wish you Sasha all the best in the future and hope to see you in something else soon

  16. Deb Kelly says:

    Great show and great cast! I will miss them and hope to see them soon on new projects because they deserve new gigs!!!

  17. Susan says:

    I really feel bad for Sasha, they really used her giving her last nights episode to direct. The show made a definite turn last night away from what it was to what it has become and they used Sasha to helm to most severe breaking down of the relationship yet. Seasons 1-4 J&M were super close, Sasha’s character, Maura broke down in tears towards the end of season 4 when she thought Jane might be moving and Jane decided against leaving. The show has been pretty poor since season 4 with Jan Nash dismantling the relationship and giving it less and less importance, but last night put the final nail in the coffin. In last nights episode Jane and Maura discussed her sudden desire to move away and work for the FBI 3 times, and not any of the times did Maura show any emotion whatsoever, other than encouragement and telling her she was proud of her. They have decided how they want to end the show, with the 2 apart and they don’t care what came prior and are destroying what made the show good and different, how close the 2 main characters are or were, they were the most important person in each others lives, now the are work buddies. To further illustrate the non closeness the 2 lead characters have been reduced to, last nights episode also had Maura being involved in a car crash and then being threatened at gun point and almost killed, but Jane was pretty emotionless and just asked her if she was ok, like it was nothing. Just a really sad episode for many fans realizing the show is gone for good, and Jan Nash used the fan favorite, Sasha, to usher it in, talk about sabotaging. Sasha did do a great job directing, some really great unusual shots, but the episode was really bad.

  18. Shea says:

    Rizzoli and Isles, the definition of queerbaiting show.
    Even though there was always a guy in their lives, the way they cared for each other was far away from a friendly relationship.
    Jane was pregnant, she had the minimal possible contact with Casey (skype calls) and she asked Maura to keep the baby, if anything bad happened to her.When they visited together a spa and Maura had some “revelations”, I thought it was a good opportunity for the evolution of the story. Unfortunately that moment remained unexploited.
    The point of interest of the series was the incredible chemistry between the two main characters. It’s really sad the fans don’t get the end they deserve.

  19. Rebecca says:

    I love the show & adore the entire cast. Will ALL be missed😢 Wish they would do a spin off Show and include all/most characters, to continue building on relationships.
    Fans are left with an empty feeling when good shows, with great, very likable characters are cancelled.

  20. Terease says:

    I truely enjoyed the friendship between Mora and Jane. The show helped me get through rough times.
    I will miss the entertainment from the show.

  21. Margaret Hammer says:

    I will truly miss this show, it has been something to look forward to! I first met Rizzoli and Isles in the books by author Tess Gerritsen and when it became a tv series I was thrilled! Love Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander. I guess nothing lasts forever. Very sad😞 I wish the cast and crew much happiness and success.

  22. friv says:

    Each chapter has a nice array apart from exhibiting a great fun for both players.