Harry Hamlin Got Into Gardening Because of ‘The Martian’

The actor Harry Hamlin pronounces “Bolognese” the way Italians do, with the final “e” enunciated. His niece, the chef Renee Guilbault, says it like an American, with that last syllable ending in an “s.”

But potato, potahto. 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 ignited a squabble on the reality series “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” back when his wife, the actress Lisa Rinna, was one of its cast members.

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


I’ve been in class my whole career. I chose this profession because it’s impossible to perfect. You can’t become an expert. OK, someone like Meryl Streep, she’s an expert. But I’m going to be a perpetual student. And I learn stuff every week because I’m sort of a character actor stuck in a leading man’s body.


It’s the holy grail. It’s how human beings will get their energy for the next 100,000 years, provided that we survive that long.


If you’re alone, the animals aren’t afraid of you. The deer come up to you, and the bears don’t run away from you, which can be a problem. So it is quite an amazing experience to trek solo. I go up to 12,000 feet and get to places where even mountain goats would have a hard time getting.


No truer words were ever spoken.


My grandfather was a lawyer and a part-time judge in Buffalo back in the 1920s. He also liked gin, but it was illegal to drink gin in Buffalo in the ’20s. But it was perfectly legal across the border. So he and his friends, who were all gin lovers but also liked to toe the line and not break the law, migrated north so that they could basically get hammered legally.


Rock stardom was going to be my backup if I didn’t make it as an actor.


The house I live in is on the lip of a national forest, and it was where Bonnie Raitt grew up. There’s a little bench that was there when I bought the house, and John Raitt had owned it for years and years. Bonnie came up with her dad in 1997, and she said, “Whatever you do, never have children in this house — because until you’re 16 and you have your driver’s license, you’re stuck here.” She motioned toward the bench: “I would sit out here and play my guitar and cry all afternoon.” She said it was really horrible. And I said, “Well, Bonnie, it kind of worked out for you.”


I’m on the board of governors of the National Space Society, and my father was a rocket scientist who was the head of what was called the Jupiter program, before it was called NASA. I am fascinated by space. James Michener wrote a book called “Space,” and I did the mini-series for that where I was command module pilot of Apollo 18, which never happened. But I have no desire to become an astronaut. I’ve played a lot of people that I would never want to be.


In 1977, I got a Fulbright scholarship to study at the Moscow Art Theater. And then Brezhnev and Carter got into a big fight about human rights, and they pulled my visa. So 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 turned that down. Then my mother said, “You’re going to take that movie, because I want to meet George C. Scott before I die.” But Shakespeare has always been close to my heart.


There was about a week and a half during the pandemic when there were no fresh vegetables. So I went home and made a garden immediately. When I do the Bolognese sauce with my tomatoes, it’s amazing. Potatoes, they’re really easy. I was inspired by that movie “The Martian.” I said, “If he can do it on Mars, I can do it in my backyard.”