Angie Harmon is disappointed to leave so many unpicked cherry tomatoes in her back yard in California, but she’s had to move to New York to tend to her own Miracle Grow–style success story. That’s where Law and Order films, and this season the 26-year-old Dallas native is the newest cast member of the Emmy award– winning NBC drama, playing onetime Texas prosecutor Abbie Carmichael. No stranger to the camera, Harmon saw her career take off at fifteen, when she was plucked from the hallways of Highland Park High School to be on the cover of Seventeen after beating out 63,000 teens in a nationwide contest. A successful stint as a teen model ensued, though Harmon was keenly aware of the temporal nature of life in the beauty biz. “When you’re modeling, even if you’re only fifteen, you see that there will be an end to it,” she says. In her case, the end came after a chance meeting on a plane with David Hasselhoff, who recommended her for his syndicated series Baywatch Nights. Say what you will about Harmon’s stint on the short-lived show, but she considers it to have been 44 episodes’ worth of acting lessons. Anyway, three years later she has landed on Law and Order, which promises instant credibility and boundless potential. “With acting, I don’t see an end,” she says in her husky voice. “There’s always something challenging, and you’re always learning. I need that.”