Tom Selleck on His Return to Blue Bloods, the New Magnum, P.I. and 50 Years on TV

Tom Selleck, the Jesse Stone and original Magnum, P.I. star, 73, returns as NYPD Commissioner Frank Reagan, patriarch of the Reagan clan, when the CBS police drama Blue Bloods returns September 28 for its ninth season.

Last season Blue Bloods started with the death of the wife of Danny [Donnie Wahlberg]. Is this a happier season?

One of the things that’s interesting for me—and I like the challenge—is I don’t really know where the show’s going. But we have a new member at family dinner with the engagement of Jamie [Will Estes] and Eddie [Vanessa Rey]. The results for the audience may be happy.

What do police officers say to you about Blue Bloods?

When I walk down the street, I might get a salute from a real cop. Sometimes I’ll get a “Hey, Commissioner.” That’s validation I really welcome and I’m proud to get.

What are your thoughts on the Magnum, P.I. reboot?

I don’t really have any say. CBS was nice enough to include me in a meeting. They said, “We won’t do this if you really have a problem with it.” I said, “I did my own show and I’m very proud of it. I wish you well.”

What’s the status of another Jesse Stone?

I haven’t been able to switch gears and write it. Blue Bloods is pretty consuming. I’m not in Jesse Stone for the payday; I want to do a Jesse Stone that’s up to the rest of the book series [by Robert B. Parker], because he’s a character I love.

How is Frank dealing with the news that Jamie and Eddie are engaged?

Frank’s always got the weight of being the commissioner on his shoulders, so when Jamie and Eddie announced they were engaged, he said, “That means you can’t ride together.” That’s something that’s going to be very provocative, because while Jamie, who is a trained lawyer, points out there’s nothing in the book that says they can’t, there’s also no example of any commanding officer of any precinct in, I think, the history of the NYPD where they let an engaged couple ride together. So that’s a problem for Frank and Jamie and they’re both stubborn. I don’t want to really say where Jamie’s character goes because there’s a real good surprise in the first and second episodes.

Erin moves up in the D.A.’s office following the death of her boss. Will she and Frank be facing off a little more as a result? 

What it does is it puts her in a higher position and all these look-the-other-way favors that Danny, Jamie and Frank have always asked her to do, it’s her job to say no. That’s going to happen rather quickly.

In some funny way, she’s going to have similar problems to what Frank always has to deal with, which is no favoritism to his kids. He always overreacts to that; he goes too far, I think. But, these problems that aren’t simple really make for disagreements and tension.

The real jeopardy in our show—yeah, there’s momentary physical jeopardy to Danny or Jamie or even Frank or Erin, but that only holds dramatically for a very short period of time. The real jeopardy isn’t that Danny’s going to die, the real danger is the relationships. The audience doesn’t want to see anything that they really like go south.

At the Reagan table with their jobs and with these conflicts, it’s possible. We all know of families where there are tensions and splits and all sorts of things. That’s one of the strengths of family dinner. That’s where the show goes on a personal level.

Are there specific police issues you’d like to deal with this year?

We deal with issues in the sense that they’re real issues. Often we deal with such real police issues that, by coincidence, by the time that show comes together—is planned, written, acted and then put together—it’s in the headlines. But, if you realize that it took about four months to get there, you realize that isn’t our goal. What we try very hard not to do is simply rip them from the headlines. There will always be timely issues. We did a show that you could say dealt with the issue of #MeToo. I don’t call it our #MeToo show. That’s not the way we identify stuff. All those things come into play all the time if we’re treating these worlds correctly. But it is a fictional world. We’re not dealing with [NYC mayor Bill] de Blasio’s New York or [Andrew] Cuomo’s New York. We’re dealing with the NYPD and trying to be accurate about that, but it’s also fiction. So we walk a line, and one of the lines we don’t like to cross is blatantly ripping a headline and doing a show about that exact headline.

After eight years, the show is still doing well in the ratings.

While we love all the episodes equally, it doesn’t mean they’re all equally good or equally as good to each member of the audience. Some like some shows better than others and others like different shows. There’s all of that and we get the feedback. But we’re doing so well. I met with CBS recently and they said, “There’s only one time you didn’t win the night in eight years, and that was when Diane Sawyer did the interview with Caitlyn Jenner. So we forgive you for that.” The show is performing remarkably well. In many ways since the television network television audience seems to be shrinking in terms of ratings, I think it’s a fair case to be made that we grew in the eighth year.

You celebrated your 31st wedding anniversary in August with your wife, Jillie. Frank, too, is a family man. Do you see a comparison?

You never stop being a dad even though your kids are grown. Look, Frank’s flawed. I’ve worked very hard to make him flawed because he’s not easy to work for. He takes things out on his people and his family sometimes, and yet people like him. That’s the best kind of character to play. He tries to do the right thing. There aren’t a lot of good, strong, examples of patriarchs trying to do the right thing on television. So I think that performs a certain function; fathers are important.

You’re commemorating 50 years in television. Did you ever expect that?

CBS was nice enough to point that out, which was very good for us, because I didn’t want Blue Bloods lost in all the Magnum hype. CBS singled out when I did episode 163 of Blue Bloods, which tied me with Magnum, and made a big deal out of it. They took ads in the trades and threw us a dinner, a press conference and a screening.

Usually you don’t have time to reflect. You just keep moving. I’ve got a job right now and it’s a job I love. That caused me to reflect a little bit on how fortunate I’ve been. Look, I know what I’m doing. I studied, I was out of work for a long, long time. I didn’t really have success until I was 35, which was Magnum.

So I have a certain talent. Part of that talent, I guess, is my appetites seem to blend with what the audience wants to see me in. It doesn’t always work that way. Actors have appetites and audiences say, “I don’t want to see him in that; I want to see him in that.”

So while I’ve always tried to push the envelope, there’s a quote I got from George Will in a book on baseball that luck is unpredictable but talent tends to take advantage of it; therefore, the talented tend to have more of it. I’m not saying I’m remarkably talented. I’m saying that my talent may happen to be where my dreams are and that seems to be a rather large ballpark that the audience wants to see me in.

So I have reflected in that sense. When I won an Emmy, I went to work the next day on Magnum. In January, I got the Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award. That was a very big deal and I went to work the next day. So you don’t always really reflect. I just feel very fortunate and I feel I’ve earned it. That’s just as important for me.

You’ve had an avocado ranch for years. Do you like avocados?

Well I did have an avocado ranch. We had a really severe drought in California. The ranch is on wells and they wouldn’t support my crop anymore, so I had to watch 20 years of work and 20,000 trees die. But I never ate avocados anyway. Other than David Letterman made me eat one on his show once. Almost triggered a gag reflex. But they’re very good for people.

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