Tom Selleck on the future of “Blue Bloods”

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It’s hard to beat the panorama on the highest hill at Tom Selleck’s California ranch. You could say, at 79, the actor is very familiar with the view from the top.

For the past 14 years Selleck has starred in the hit CBS show “Blue Bloods,” as the head of the NYPD, and the head of a strong (and often headstrong) family. The show is set to end this year, but there’s been some pushback on that, most notably from Selleck himself.

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Tom Selleck as New York Police Commissioner Frank Reagan in “Blue Bloods.” 

CBS


Asked if “Blue Bloods” is ending, Selleck replied, “Well, that’s a good question. I will continue to think that CBS will come to their senses. We’re the third-highest scripted show in all of broadcast. We’re winning the night. All the cast wants to come back. And I can tell you this: we aren’t sliding off down a cliff. We’re doing good shows, and still holding our place. So, I don’t know. You tell me!”

It’s not the first time Selleck has been at odds with the powers-that-be, in a career that’s been long and legendary. In his most famous role in the ’80s, the character Thomas Magnum wore a Detroit Tigers baseball cap – a nod to the town in which Selleck himself was born.

Long before Magnum, and the mustache, he was an athlete at the University of Southern California, and after a less-than-stellar academic career, he found work in ads, selling products like Ban Basic and Safeguard Soap.

Smith asked, “You told yourself early on, going to auditions and interviews, you would literally say to yourself in the car, ‘You’re good enough, Tom.'”

“I’d say, ‘You’re enough,’ but – thank you – maybe that ‘good’ would have helped! But I didn’t think of that.”

“But, ‘You are enough, Tom,’ you’d say that to yourself?”

“I did, I did.” 

But little of what he did in his early career was ever enough: not the soap opera gig on “The Young and the Restless,” nor the six TV pilots he made.

And then, he was signed to do “Magnum, P.I.” And around the same time, Selleck was offered another role from Steven Spielberg. “Steven said, ‘Here’s the script, go read it. Tell me if you like it, ’cause we want you for Indiana Jones,” Selleck recalled. “So, I got to about page 8 in Steven’s office and I just went, Oh, ****, this is really good!”

But, in a story that’s become legend, he was forced to turn down “Raiders of the Lost Ark” for “Magnum.” 

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Dey Street Books


In “You Never Know,” a long-awaited memoir out this week, Selleck shares the details of what he calls “the world series of disappointments,” and how he quickly made peace with it. “You can make yourself a victim, or just smile and say, ‘That’s really ironic,'” he said. “I had a good job coming up, a job I would’ve dreamed of, ‘Raiders’ or not.”

“Magnum, P.I.,” about a former Navy SEAL and Vietnam vet-turned-private investigator, debuted in 1980 on CBS. The studio wanted to lose the Vietnam elements (back then the wounds of the war were still fresh), but Selleck and his producer fought hard to keep it in, and the show was a hit. 

Among its biggest fans was Frank Sinatra, who once told “Magnum” co-star Larry Manetti that he’d like to be on the show.

“Larry comes to me and says, ‘Frank wants to do the show,'” said Selleck. “‘But he wants to be asked, so you have to call him.’ And he wanted to do it right away. So I said [to Sinatra], ‘Well, we’re gonna have to write it for you. What do you wanna do?’ He said, ‘Oh, I don’t care. Just make sure I get to beat somebody up.'”

That was his condition? “Yeah. Well, that’s Frank!”

The “Magnum, P.I.” guest shot (in which he did get to beat somebody up, pretty decisively) was Sinatra’s last acting job.

But it was only the beginning of Selleck’s reign as an ’80s sex symbol. That smile! That swagger! That mustache!

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Tom Selleck won an Emmy for his 1980s series “Magnum, P.I.” 

CBS via Getty Images


In private, however, Selleck was smitten by British actor Jillie Mack, whom he first spotted when she was in the London production of “Cats.” He said, “I got checked out by some of the cast, never Jillie. One of the cast members told her at half-time, he says, ‘You know who keeps staring at you? Tom Selleck.’ And – I don’t know how to clean this up – she just said, ‘Who the f**k is that?’ She didn’t know who I was from Adam, which to me was the greatest thing in the world!”

They married, in secret, in 1987, just before “Magnum” entered its final season. They’ve been together ever since.

By that time, Selleck says he was burned out, but he knew he had created something that was more than just a TV show: “When ‘Magnum’ ended, we got a call from the Smithsonian: ‘We wanna honor “Magnum,” we need some artifacts.’ And they took my hat and the ring I wore – the team ring in Vietnam – and my Hawaiian shirt, the red one. And we went back there and they read the citation. They gave us credit for being the first show that showed Vietnam veterans in a positive light. So, the fight was worth it.”

These days he spends most of his non-working time on his ranch, and it’s not hard to see why. “You know, hopefully I keep working enough to hold onto the place.”

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Tom Selleck, with correspondent Tracy Smith.

CBS News


Smith asked, “Seriously, that’s an issue? If you stopped working?”

“That’s always an issue,” he said. “If I stopped working, yeah. Am I set for life? Yeah, but maybe not on a 63-acre ranch!”

Happily he likes his job, and after 60 years in front of the camera, Tom Selleck knows … he’s enough.

Asked what he sees down the road, he replied, “Hopefully, work. As an actor, you never lose – I don’t lose, anyway – that sense that every time I finish a job, it’s my last job.”

Does he still have that sense? “I like the fact that there’s no excuses!” he laughed. “You just go to work and you do the work. And I have a lot of reverence for what I call ‘the work,’ and I love it. And I’d like to keep doing it.”

READ AN EXCERPT: “You Never Know”

       
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Story produced by John D’Amelio. Editor: Steven Tyler. 



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