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'Rizzoli & Isles' boss on how Lee Thompson Young's death will be addressed

Angie Harmon, Lee Thompson Young and Bruce McGill in "Rizzoli & Isles."
Angie Harmon, Lee Thompson Young and Bruce McGill in "Rizzoli & Isles."
TNT, with permission

When "Rizzoli & Isles" returns for its fifth season on Tuesday, June 17, the hit TNT series will finally deal with the loss of Lee Thompson Young, who played Detective Barry Frost. In fact, according to showrunner Jan Nash, Young's death informed how the producers and writers decided to break the stories for Episodes 1 and 2.

Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander in "Rizzoli & Isles."
TNT/Trae Patton, with permission

"It formed how we laid out the stories, and it informed how we shot them, remembering that this was a real experience that, not just our actors had gone through, but most of the crew had gone through, trying to be as respectful of their real feelings as possible," Nash told at a press day on the set of "Rizzoli & Isles." "That desire to be respectful marched us through the process in a way that led us to some inevitable decisions. At the end of the day, every person involved in the production -- from PAs to Sasha [Alexander as Maura Isles] and Angie [Harmon as Jane Rizzoli] -- was determined to do their very best job to honor Lee and his memory. I am really proud of the way it turned out.

Here is more scoop from Nash on the first two episodes of Season 5 of "Rizzoli & Isles," which will deal with the passing of Young.

Were they really hard shows to get through?

I think everybody was so determined to do a good job. I wasn't here at the end of last season, so it was different for me. It would be untrue to simply say everybody marched through and had no feeling about it. But everybody was so dedicated to doing a good job and making sure that what we all decided to do was accomplished that I think people really took a deep breath and moved forward in the best way possible. I am as proud of this company for the way they handled the first two episodes as I am of any group of people I ever worked with.

In the second episode where the funeral takes place, there were tough decisions to be made. Did you have the same problem deciding on the elements of the ceremony in the writers room?

It is interesting. When we came up with the framework for the first two episodes, I went out to lunch with a couple of people from Warner Horizon. One of them told a story about having been at a funeral recently and that there was a photo montage of the person who had died. In the middle of the photo montage, there was just randomly a photo of her husband. He was not a close friend, he was not someone who would have expected to be in a photo montage, but he was there. After a number of pictures, it came back. It kept coming back until it became the comic relief in the middle of what could have been this very sad photo montage. So, she told that story and I thought, "I am going to use that." The idea that there would be these pictures that would get Jane to the place, where she was going to lean into the joyous side of Barry Frost's character, was where we got to and we worked backwards from that.

My sister is a police officer [in the western suburbs of Chicago], so I pay attention to police funerals. I think there is nothing more moving than that bagpiper standing off in the corner, playing some bagpipe song. We knew we were going to do bagpipes. They are very moving. The rest we filled in.

Barry's desk is empty. Are you going to move someone into it, or will it be a shrine for a while?

We will slowly deal with the issue of the desk. I don't think we are going to place somebody in the desk. We will deal with the issue of the desk and the action figure. We will spend most of the season resolving the story, but as we go on, we will touch down on it. In the same way as in your own life, you have fewer moments [focusing on grief].

Does that mean an existing character might inherit the desk, or is someone new going to come in?

I think we are going to add a character to the show about halfway through the season, but we are not talking about it now because we are trying to focus on the first two episodes. I actually don't think we will have someone sit at that exact desk. We will have to figure out a clever way to deal with it spatially.

Season 5 of "Rizzoli & Isles" premieres Tuesday, June 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on TNT. The network is going to get fans in the mood with a whole day devoted to cable's No.1 crime-drama with a 16-hour marathon of the entire fourth season, beginning at 5 a.m. ET/PT.

"Rizzoli & Isles" also stars Jordan Bridges as Jane's brother, Detective Frankie Rizzoli Jr.; Bruce McGill as Sgt. Detective Vince Korsak, Jane's steady old-school Homicide Squad teammate; and Lorraine Bracco as Angela, Jane's meddling mother.

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