Harry Hamlin started gardening because of “The Martian”

Actor Harry Hamlin pronounces “Bolognese” like the Italians, with the final “e” pronounced. His niece, the chef Renee Guilbault, pronounces it like an American, with the last syllable ending in an “s.”

But potatoes, potatoes. With “In the Kitchen With Harry Hamlin,” their five-part cooking series on AMC+ and IFC, they find a happy meeting place – including on the subject of the aforementioned pasta sauce, which sparked a dispute back when his wife, actress Lisa Rinna, was a cast member on the reality series “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

“Wherever I go, people say two things to me: 'Oh God, I love your wife' and 'Where can I get your sauce?'” Hamlin, 72, who also stars in “Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches,” said in a video call. He also talked about space travel, the High Sierra and his grandfather's Canadian gin-drinking hideout. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.


I've been taking classes my whole career. I chose this profession because it's impossible to achieve perfection. You can't become an expert. OK, someone like Meryl Streep is an expert. But I'll be a forever student. And I learn something new every week because I'm kind of a character actor stuck in a leading man's body.


It is the holy grail. This is how humanity will generate energy for the next 100,000 years – assuming we survive that long.


When you're alone, the animals aren't afraid of you. The deer will come at you and the bears won't run away from you, which can be a problem. So it's a pretty amazing experience hiking alone. I go up to 12,000 feet and get to places that even mountain goats would have a hard time getting to.


Truer words were never spoken.


My grandfather was a lawyer and part-time judge in Buffalo in the 1920s. He also liked gin, but in the '20s it was illegal to drink gin in Buffalo. Across the border, however, it was perfectly legal. So he and his friends, who were all gin lovers but also liked to follow the rules and not break the law, headed north to get drunk, almost legally.


Rock star status would have been my alternative if I didn't make it as an actor.


The house I live in is on the edge of a national forest, and this is where Bonnie Raitt grew up. When I bought the house, there was a little bench there that John Raitt had owned for years. Bonnie came with her father in 1997 and said, “Whatever you do, never let children in this house – because until you're 16 and get your driver's license, you're stuck here.” She pointed to the bench: “I sat out here playing guitar and crying all afternoon.” She said it was really awful. And I said, “Well, Bonnie, it kind of worked out for you.”


I'm on the board of the National Space Society and my father was a rocket scientist and head of what was called the Jupiter program before it was called NASA. I'm fascinated by space. James Michener wrote a book called “Space” and I did the miniseries where I was the command module pilot of Apollo 18, which never happened. But I have no desire to be an astronaut. I've played a lot of people I never wanted to be.


In 1977, I got a Fulbright scholarship to study at the Moscow Art Theater. Then Brezhnev and Carter got into a big fight about human rights and they revoked my visa. The Fulbright people said, “We want you to go to London and study Shakespeare.” Stanley Donen had asked me to do “Movie Movie” with George C. Scott and I said no. Then my mother said, “You take this film because I want to meet George C. Scott before I die.” But Shakespeare has always been close to my heart.


During the pandemic, there were no fresh vegetables for about a week and a half. So I went home and immediately started a garden. When I make the Bolognese sauce with my tomatoes, it's incredible. Potatoes are really easy. I was inspired by the movie The Martian. I said, “If he can do it on Mars, I can do it in my backyard.”

Anna Harden

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