They are one of Hollywood’s most elegant couples: Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna have been in the public eye for more than 20 years. They have successfully navigated the theatrical world and been able to maintain a strong and loving marriage despite the demands of the film and television industry.
Their fruitful careers shine with notable accolades and memorable roles. Harry is well known for both LA Law and Mad Men and in 1987 was named the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine. Lisa is famous for playing Billie Reed on Days of Our Lives and Taylor McBride on Melrose Place. More recently, Lisa has twice been a contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice, and she’s again starring as herself on the popular reality show, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Harry’s an accomplished author. His book Full Frontal Nudity: The Making of an Accidental Actor has just been released in paperback. He’s also a co-founder at Tri Alpha Energy, a California-based alternative energy company created for the development of aneutronic fusion power, and he will soon appear as Anna Faris’s love interest, Fred, on the hit sitcom Mom.
“You’ve got to be passionate about all the things you do. You won’t always succeed, but always know that the flip side of failure is success.”
tg: Harry, your father was an aeronautical engineer, a rocket scientist. He was extremely gifted. How did your father’s career impact your childhood?
HH: My father was a pragmatist, being a rocket scientist. He was a nuts and bolts kind of guy. He taught me how to work with tools — how to take an engine out of a car right down to the drive shaft and build it back up again. He was a very mechanical person and he taught me mechanics and carpentry. He also taught me how to camp and to love the outdoors. We spent a lot of time climbing around the High Sierras and I still enjoy it to this day.
tg: That’s pretty cool to have a dad who is so knowledgeable and accomplished but who still makes time to take his son camping!
HH: Back in the ’50s, rocket scientists weren’t being paid much. The best way for us to get away was to pack sleeping bags in the car and head out into the desert or the mountains to go camping. My mom often went with us; I have photos of her out in the desert making dinner for us.
tg: You graduated from Yale and headed straight for success. You became an actor and then in 1987 you were named the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine. Was that a career booster at the time; was it the huge title it is today?
HH: At the beginning, people thought the title was weird. It wasn’t that cool but now, since George Clooney and Brad Pitt have had the title, it’s a really cool thing. I found out about being named sexiest man by looking up at a storefront in Australia and seeing my picture in a window. I was there promoting LA Law and our car stopped and I looked up and saw all of these huge pictures of me all over the place. It was actually the cover of People magazine that had been blown up and put in the storefront window. It was kind of shocking, and in those days it wasn’t quite what it is today. I was the third Sexiest Man Alive cover and it’s an interesting club we all belong to. To my knowledge, there’s never been a reunion and there have been 30 of us thus far. It would be interesting to get us all together.
tg: It would be great photo-op and editorial for People magazine. You are incredibly famous for many roles, including those on LA Law and Mad Men. Was there one role that resonated more with you — one that you enjoyed the most?
HH: I like every role I take. They say your first movie role is
the one you remember the most. The mini-series Space was an interesting role for me. I liked it a lot and it was close to what my father did — about going to the moon. I enjoyed working on that role.
tg: There are many young hopefuls out there who would love to follow in your footsteps. What advice do you have to share?
HH: I wouldn’t necessarily recommend being me, but I would say remain true to yourself; find your own passion and follow it; be patient and never give up. One of my favorite quotes is from Savas Dimopoulos, a physics professor at Stanford who worked on the Large Hadron Collider. His quote is, “Jumping from failure to failure with undying enthusiasm is the secret to success.” I have that quote plastered on my refrigerator in bold letters so my kids will see it every day. You’ve got to be passionate about all the things you do. You won’t always succeed, but always know that the flip side of failure is success.
tg: You’ve been an advocate and quite passionate about fusion energy for many years.
HH: I am. My company, Tri Alpha Energy, an alternative energy company, recently came out of what we call stealth mode. If you keep your eye on The New York Times and Time magazine you will see quite a bit about it. If you go to Science Magazine and you put in the name Tri Alpha Energy you will see an article about it there, and you can also read about it in MIT Technology Review, Orange County Register and Physics Today, all of which have come out recently. It’s quite a phenomenal achievement for these scientists I have shepherded for the last 20 years. There are still hurdles between now and when we flip the switch, but I have great confidence in our scientists. We have a group of Nobel Laureates on our advisory board, and I think the scientists who are working on this are some of the best in the world.
tg: You are also an accomplished author with your book Full Frontal Nudity: The Making of an Accidental Actor.
HH: My book just came out in paperback. I’m happy that some of the reviewers called it “laugh out loud!” There is a slight mention of my film career in the first paragraph but otherwise it doesn’t mention my film career at all. The book is about my early life and it ends before my film career begins.
tg: You and Lisa are role models for successful marriages.
How have you been able to stay secure in a happy, lovingmarriage while living in the spotlight and traveling apart so often?
HH: My motto is “Happy Wife, Happy Life!” I make sure Lisa gets much of what she wants when she wants it. She’s happy … I’m happy. Also, we listen to each other and usually admit when we’re wrong. Since “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” the more we travel apart, the fonder of each other we become. And finally, we are in love. That helps.
tg: Lisa, anything to add? You’ve got one of Hollywood’s most successful marriages.
LR: I think it’s just luck, and I think it’s also mutual respect and staying in one place for a period of time and not being separated for too long.
tg: You have appeared together in film and on stage. It must be an incredible experience to be able to collaborate on something you both love doing. You both appeared in Chicago in 2009. Would you talk about that experience?
HH: We love working together. Chicago was especially great. It doesn’t get better than Broadway, and Broadway as husband and wife is very special. It doesn’t happen that often and we are extremely lucky to have had that experience.
tg: Lisa, it must have been wonderful to share the stage.
LR: I love working with Harry; it’s one of greatest experiences ever. He is the most professional actor I have worked with. I adore working with him and I would love to do it again.
tg: Harry, our readers will want to know; do you have a favorite travel destination — a place you both love to visit?
HH: I think our favorite destination together was Tahiti. We went to Tahiti and Bora Bora. I loved the Bora Bora Hotel, which is now closed. For me, being an avid scuba diver, Micronesia is the coolest place I have been. I’ve been there three times; the diving is spectacular and the cultural experience is out of this world. On the bucket list is to go back to Egypt with Lisa and the kids. The Nile Valley excursion is life changing. Of course, while in Africa, a safari with the family!
tg: Lisa, where’s your favorite travel destination?
LR: I would say Tahiti was my favorite. I would like to go to Micronesia, Egypt, Vietnam, Phuket, Thailand, Spain and Portugal. I want to go everywhere. I have a big fat bucket list
of travel. Hong Kong, Singapore…
tg: You both travel often; is there one item you never leave home without?
HH: I never travel out of the country without my birth certificate, a color copy of my passport and a couple of passport photos in case I find myself without a passport in Afghanistan and I have to forge one!
LR: Alcohol antibacterial wipes. I bring them everywhere. I wipe down my hotel rooms with them.
tg: Lisa, Donald Trump is a frontrunner in the presidential campaign. You worked with him twice on Celebrity Apprentice. What are your thoughts on Mr. Trump?
LR: Donald Trump was nothing but lovely to me during my two experiences on Celebrity Apprentice. What you see is what you get.
tg: Tell me about your current role on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I recall there was some reported controversy with Harry when you agreed to take on the role.
LR: Real Housewives of Beverly Hills has not had any adverse effects on our relationship at all. It actually made it stronger. It made me have a voice and has helped me define my voice in a way that has been very helpful in my career and my life. Being on the show has brought Harry and me closer together.
tg: Harry, there’s been quite a bit of talk that you would divorce Lisa if she took the role. I’m sure that’s not the case, so to clear the air and set the record straight; would you
comment on this?
HH: Lisa came to me and said that she had an opportunity to be on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The first thing I said to her was, “No, if you take that job I still have my divorce lawyer’s number on my speed dial.” She said, “Okay, then I won’t do it.” Then I thought about it and I did some research on what the effect of doing that show globally is on someone who does it, branding wise. I realized that for actors who do a show like the Housewives, it’s like putting whatever ancillary business they have on steroids. Lisa’s clothing business, Lisa Rinna collection, is on QVC and has done very well and she wants to continue its growth and success. So I went back 24 hours later and told her that I had changed my mind and I thought she should do it. She went on the show and turned it to her advantage; she killed it.
tg: Harry, what’s the best thing about being married to Lisa?
HH: Everything about Lisa is phenomenal. She’s just amazing, and somewhere along the line I must have done something right to be married to Lisa Rinna. She’s amazing, and I’m a lucky man.