Tom Selleck, 76, the Emmy-winning actor for Magnum, P.I., returns for the 12th season of Blue Bloods (October 1 on CBS), reprising his role as New York Police Commissioner Frank Reagan, the head of the police force and patriarch of the Reagan law-and-order dynasty.
What will happen in the next season of Blue Bloods?
In the beginning of a season, we’re consumed with how can we kick off a program that is consistent and isn’t a stunt first episode? Like, “Oh, my God! They’re going to blow up the Reagan mansion and everybody’s going to die!” That won’t work. I’m extremely, very thrilled about the first few scripts. I know young Sean [Andrew Terraciano] is departing. He’s going to college. That raises challenges for Danny [Donnie Wahlberg].
The first two shows are really Frank-centric in that his predicament is immense. The quality of life in his New York City, as well as New York City by any criteria, has gone down. And he really gets sideways with the mayor, who has moved to another point of view. I wouldn’t say a Bill de Blasio point of view, but a different point of view. He’s really at odds with Frank and that whole relationship is severely tested. You’re really dealing with a guy who can fire him.
Frank serves at the pleasure of the mayor and Frank is continually pushing the envelope. We go into a very real issue with quality-of-life crimes and police enforcement and the fact that his police force budget’s been cut. Those are all genuine difficulties, but the fictitious universe actually helps us. I think we have a lot of credibility in these areas because of how the show is done. But at the same time, it frees us up to deal with things differently and if they strike a bell that’s terrific.
Frank is also thinking more and more about the tension if Erin [Bridget Moynahan] runs for district attorney, which would be a logical next step for her. Not only would they be at odds, but there’s the whole question of how would the public react to a Reagan dynasty, even if they ethically are at odds many times—the district attorney and the police and who they choose to pursue.
I know it sounds rather dry of an issue, but we don’t start with issues; we start with people. We’re character-driven. I think it’s really entertaining. I have very few doubts regarding [executive producer] Kevin Wade’s advice for the show. I’m just incredibly delighted. I’m incredibly delighted with the next script I’m ready to head to New York to do.
The Reagan Sunday family dinners have become fan-favorite sections of the show, but this is not a family that always agrees.
The complexities of family are limitless. In a family where so many are committed to the business, even Frank’s father has his own thoughts. What is most essential at family meal is it’s not “Kumbaya”; it’s the arguments.
There have been clues at Frank dating in the past. Could that happen?
Frank’s a little senior. He’s also still wearing his wedding band. We’ve never gone into it. Maybe it’s too self-centered a story about the why of all that. He’s pretty much buried himself in his work. The worst thing about it is, especially with someone who is obviously as fragile as Frank and possibly frightened of relationships, you can’t just invite somebody on the program and have an episode about it. It takes a lot of forethought.
He’s attracted to women all the time, but dating’s a different thing. I don’t know how you get to a date in one episode. They have to employ somebody who’s willing to, No. 1, undertake a leap of faith, like I did on Friends—there was no script—and have a substantial storyline. That’s the only way to accomplish it.
The world is a different place in the decade since Blue Bloods began. How large of an influence do you believe topics like Black Lives Matter and defund the police movements have had on the show?
I think they have a significant effect, but I also think we strive very hard not to take on one idea or another. What we determined, I think smartly, last season was we’re doing a fake New York based on a certain reality. Our mayor is not Mayor de Blasio. In fact, he was originally pretty much a law-and-order man.
The first two of episodes deal with genuine concerns, but in a way that’s fictitious and allows us to present many points of view of very real difficulties for the police, and, really, the city of New York. So, we’re dealing with it, but not in an issue-of-the-moment thing. There’s a climactic effect to law enforcement. No one would argue that, no matter what side they’re on.
You mentioned young Sean is going, which creates a hole to fill. In the season 11 finale, Danny and Jamie [Will Estes] helped save Joe’s [Will Hochman] life, so maybe Joe will be more a part of this season and have a seat at the table?
Joe is part of the family in his own way. He’s got his own ideas and has chosen a line of work [undercover] that doesn’t always put him at the table, let’s put it that way. And he’s ambivalent about stuff. He is not grateful of fame, evidently. Will Hochman is an extremely good actor and has truly delivered. He’s also an actor in demand. We don’t have him for every episode.
I know the drive isn’t great—L.A. to New York—but will you stick with the show till the numbers fall down and CBS doesn’t want it? Or is there a moment where you might say enough?
I’d never claim there’s a point where I wouldn’t speak enough. Mainly because that puts me in a very terrible negotiation position with CBS. Do I adore the show? Yes. Do I want to continue on the show? Yes. And while I think they’d be stupid to cancel the show that’s the No. 3 scripted show in all of broadcast television, you never know in this world. I’m always looking out there for what’s next. I can tell you this: I plan on staying an actor as long as I’m wanted.
I want to stay with Blue Bloods. There’s a lot of careers involved, so everybody seems to want to continue with Blue Bloods and I’m simply pleased, put it that way. Everybody’s coming back.
The landscape’s changing in broadcast television. I think the heart and spirit of Blue Bloods remains the same and the audience seems extremely hooked on that and I adore that. I adore the challenges of a truly challenging role. These topics I’ve been talking to you about are kind of abstract. To make things come to life is not easy. I think we’re doing that and, quite honestly, I think I’m doing that. If I can’t do that anymore, that would be another story.
When can we expect to see your memoir?
It’s coming along. It’s really personal. I can tell you what it won’t be: It’s not going to be a score-settling item. It’s not going to be a who-I-dated thing. There’s a certain level of anonymity, but I’m getting quite detailed about the personal effect everything has had on me.
How are you structuring the book?
It’s challenging. I wouldn’t say I’m not a writer. I’ve done a lot of screenplays by now. The book is a little different. It’s a question of finding the parameters of the book. I can’t tell 50 years of stories. I don’t want to do this happened and then this happened. That’s simply a résumé.
I truly want to convey my 50 years in show business, or how many years the book covers with, what it was like to start in a business that I never anticipated being in. I never aspired to be an actress, I never did a play, I never did anything. I got lucky and became introduced to it under contract with 20th Century Fox. So that road—and I’m quite a ways in—that road is not what the audience believes it is.
There’s been a lot of glib pieces written about this or that. They aren’t genuinely factual. By the time they go through another writer’s research and another writer’s research and they all put their own mark on it, it’s kind of history. Whoever the audience believes they know is really a lot more of a finished product than I started out as.
From Magnum on, I was in a different ballpark. They don’t have any concept of the years before that, which were embarrassing and informative and eventually a blessing. I obtained my first regular work when I was 35 years old, and those early years I’m finding pretty interesting.
It’s not all about success. It’s largely about failures. I’ve been asked that question a lot, “What do you regret?” You Google something, which I try not to do, and it’s just crazy what’s out there. Once you start off on the road of some version of a tale that goes down a different path, and somebody Googles that and writes something, or they just condense a story that’s really complicated into some very simple things and suddenly it isn’t what it is. I’m not settling scores. I would hope to offer a book that if people want to know about my career, it will be the reference but not in an academic sense. It’s, to me, a really emotional book and I’m sharing a lot of information I haven’t shared.
I’m progressing. It’s taking a while. I’m going to write tonight, I promise. I’m working carefully on it. When it’s ready it’ll be ready.
Your avocado plants died in the drought. How do you spend time on your ranch now?
This will seem foolish, but I’ve dug the holes manually for perhaps 1,000 California native oak trees. I have a full family of oak trees—toddlers, teens and, after 20 years, adult trees. Watching them grow is not something you can do in five minutes in this crazy instant-gratification world, but it’s incredibly fulfilling.
How good of an excuse is working on the ranch to avoid writing? You can say, “I need to go check on the oak trees.”
I’m afraid it is a good excuse. It’s hard for me to sit down with a blank page. I fix scripts. I’ve been mending them since Magnum, or some people say ruining them maybe, when I’ve had to change the writer’s work. I’m a better fixer maybe than I am a blank-page guy.
The book is lending itself to a real voice, my voice. Or my voice that I’m willing to share. I’m just trying very hard to establish a personal conversation with the reader. Little remarks like that’s not the appropriate grammar, or you don’t say to who there, you say to whom, I always dispute and say nobody talks like that. I compose dialogue for a living, I create screenplays. I want to invent my own grammar and put it the way I would talk. The individuals I’ve showed what I have appear to think it has a voice that sounds like myself.
How is the next Jesse Stone movie coming along?
It’s coming along well. Hallmark is going in a different route that we haven’t seen with Jesse Stone, but there’s a lot of avenues today. Michael Brandman and I, who was responsible for Jesse, even the writing, we’re quite thrilled about it. It’s just taken a while. But I’m very, very thrilled about doing another Jesse Stone.
In some respects going to some of these other streaming channels, like Netflix or Amazon, it’s a new universe. I’ve always felt Jesse suffers a little bit under the rigors of some of the conventions of broadcast television. He’s a fairly dark individual. They’re mature stories and I think we can make them more so with a little more, not license, but freedom. So I’m thrilled, but I don’t have anything. I have representatives and they’re chatting.
The Hallmark thing isn’t decided. They’re changing, from what I hear, all their secret things. Also, Jesse’s not politically correct and I’m not interested in growing any more politically correct. It’s not political, it’s just horribly restrictive.