Fighting crime is old hat for ‘Isles’

By Luaine Lee

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Confronting criminals is nothing new to actress Sasha Alexander. After all, she plays the nerdy medical examiner fighting crime with her tomboy partner in TNT’s “Rizzoli & Isles,” which returns tonight at 9 p.m. And she was one of the intrepid investigators in the first two years of “NCIS.”

But Alexander also managed a little crime busting in real life.

“When I was 19 years old I ended up in two very dangerous situations in a month. I was in a bank robbery, and I was held at gunpoint by some young gangsters,” she says over a Cobb salad in a hotel restaurant here.

“When this happened to me, I was incredibly strong and clear. I was almost defiant in the way that I dealt with the situation ... In the bank robbery there was a woman in front of me as the men came in, who was an elderly woman, and I got so scared because he had a gun trained on her. So I stepped right in front of her, not even thinking. Even my move could’ve made him do something. I didn’t think about it. So after the fact I went into a paralyzed state of shock,” she recalls.

“A month later I was coming out of a restaurant and I had one of those pull-out radios because I had a Jeep, and some gang-bangers in a car pulled up and trained three guns on my stomach and said, ‘Give me your radio.’

“And I stood looking at their guns because they had some kind of strange tape on them — looking at them wondering whether they were real or not — not handing over my radio. I held on to it. I don’t know why, maybe fear. Some big guys were walking by and the guy said, ‘Let’s get out of here.’

“He tugged at the radio and it fell, and they took off. Two days later they shot and killed a kid in the San Fernando Valley at an ATM. The same guys, in the same car. I got the license plate and the car and reported them, and read it in the paper. I had these really intensive experiences happen to me, and I was really strong in the moment. But afterward completely fell apart, nightmares,” she shakes her head.

She says those experiences helped her in her work. “It’s interesting because when you’re playing a character you understand why somebody in that line of work would be very clear. But those things are [usually] outside of your life.”

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