‘Prime Suspect's' Maria Bello Is Already Sleuthing Out Her Role

If there’s a prime suspect for TV’s next great lady cop, it’s Maria Bello.

After catching audiences’ eyes with a season-long stint on “ER” back in 1997, Bello’s turned in compelling performance after compelling performance in film after film – not the least of which is her role in the upcoming “Beautiful Boy” as part of a married couple whose lives are devastated after their teenage son goes on a deadly campus shooting rampage. And next up is Bello’s return to television next fall, headlining NBC’s reinvention of the beloved British crime drama “Prime Suspect.”

Bello’s character, NYPD detective Jane Timoney, is cut from a similar cloth as her inspiration, Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennison of Scotland Yard, Bello tells PopcornBiz in an exclusive chat. “There's something about playing this character: I feel like she's a real role model for women,” she explains. “She is unapologetic – can’t help herself but to be honest. She's terribly emotionally complicated, but has a sense of humor about life and herself. She's incredibly strong.”

Similarly, Bello hasn’t hesitated to do the legwork necessary to get into the head of the character, an outsider trying to earn respect after being transferred into a frat-ish, male-dominated department. “I went on a ride-around with a female detective and went to the station with her, and what I found about her is that she had a real sense of her own femininity within that world,” says the actress, who’s discovered that sex bias remains a palpable force to be reckoned with, beyond the boys in blue. “I've been talking to a lot of women about this, in agencies, in PR companies. I've been doing business with some men, and I find that sexism is still insidious – and everywhere. It's something that we're all still working on, to be respected not only as a woman, but as a fully formed, smart human being.”

Bello says that the series’ emphasis will be much more about Timoney’s personal struggles than about cracking cases, and that’s what grabbed her.

“The reason that I wanted to do it – I hate procedurals and would never want to do a procedural – is it's not a straight procedural, which is great,” she reveals. “It's about this character, her home life and the complications, and then the cases. There will be a lot of really cool and interesting cases – but it's not about that, thank God.”

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