It was a role that was just too good to pass up.” That is what actress Maria Bello says about her character in Prime Suspect, the latest police drama from NBC. Bello plays NYPD homicide detective Jane Timoney, a feisty, anything-but-dumb blonde whose colleagues believe slept her way into the job. “But they are wrong,” clarifies the Villanova graduate. “She got the job because she is great at what she does, but she is also a complicated woman. She is honest to a fault, a real straight shooter, and when she tells it like it is, everything is turned on its head.”
Timoney doesn’t like to play by the rules, a trait Bello admits she shares with her character. “I don’t work well in an environment that is too controlled,” she says. Perhaps it is this rebellious spirit that the show’s producers saw when they cast her in the role, which Helen Mirren originated for the BBC in 1991. “Helen created an iconic TV character,” says Bello, and the actress, whose other movie credits include an award-fetching role in The Cooler and the critically acclaimed Beautiful Boy, is intent on carving the same path for her stateside turn.
Despite all the fast-paced drama, she insists the show has its lighter moments. “You have to keep your sense of fun,” she says—even when the roles get a tad intense, as is the case with her next movie, Abduction. “I play a mother whose son is kidnapped,” she explains. “I did a fight scene that took three days to film!” Through it all, Bello says, she tries to keep her mother’s advice in mind: “She always told me, ‘The most important thing you can learn in life is how to laugh at yourself.’” Seriously