Tom Selleck – 9 Facts About The Tv Icon

The ‘Magnum, P.I.’ and ‘Blue Bloods’ actor has had a career spanning six decades. He also batted for the Detroit Tigers in 1991.

Tom Selleck - 9 Facts About The Tv Icon
Coverage of the CBS Movie SEA CHANGE with Tom Selleck. Photo: Chris Reardon/CBS ©2006 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Other than Sam Elliott, perhaps no actor is more famous for his mustache than Tom Selleck – the former star of Magnum P.I. and CBS long hit Blue Bloods.

You probably know he was once ready to play Indiana Jones, but there is much more to Selleck’s life and career.

Check out some lesser-known facts about Tom Selleck, including his military service and time with the Detroit Tigers.

1. Tom Selleck Was Once On The Dating Game.

Born in Detroit, Michigan on January 29, 1945, Tom Selleck grew up in Los Angeles and received a basketball scholarship at the University of Southern California, where he also completed a United Airlines management training program. Although he was a talented athlete, he was more interested in the performing arts. Selleck worked as a model and later landed a commercial for Safeguard deodorant, in which co-star Teri Garr proclaimed, “He smells exactly what a man should smell — clean.” Prior to, he appeared on The Dating Game, at the time a popular way for aspiring actors to gain exposure. (Steve Martin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Andy Kaufman all made appearances.) Despite his future status as a screen hunk, Selleck lost on the show—twice.

2. Tom Selleck Served In The Military.

Selleck was drafted during the Vietnam War.

Tom Selleck was drafted during the Vietnam War.

He joined the California National Guard in 1967 and was placed in the 160th Infantry Regiment, achieving the rank of sergeant and serving until 1973.

At the time, Selleck was under contract with Fox. After serving full-time for six months, he returned home in 1969 and found out the studio had fired him.

Later, Selleck was used in promotional material for the National Guard and served as spokeman for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

3. Tom Selleck Got A Big Break Courtesy Of Mae West.

Though he would continue to film television commercials throughout the 1970s, Selleck’s first major big-screen role came courtesy of Mae West. The legendary actress hand-picked Selleck to play one of her “studs” in 1970’s Myra Breckinridge. Selleck credited West with helping him get noticed. “Mae was a wonderful woman,” Selleck told The Morning Call in 1997. “I escorted her to a couple of premieres and she did hundreds of interviews where she mentioned me in the same sentence as Cary Grant.”

4. It Turns Out That Magnum, P.i. Wouldn’t Have Kept Tom Selleck From Playing Indiana Jones.

Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum in Magnum, P.I.
Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum in Magnum, P.I. CBS

One of the most notable bits of trivia in Selleck’s career is that he auditioned to play globe-trotting archaeologist Indiana Jones in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, got the job, but was forced to turn it down because CBS wouldn’t let him out of his contract to star in the private eye drama Magnum, P.I.

That’s accurate, though it turns out that Selleck could actually have done both.

Just as Magnum, P.I. was about to start shooting in Hawaii, a writer’s strike held up production, and Selleck was forced to work as a handyman to pay his rent until the show resumed. To add insult to injury, Raiders started filming around the same time—in Hawaii.

One lesser-known but intriguing bit of Selleck trivia is that Selleck turned down the lead role in 1985’s Witness, a drama about a cop who befriends an Amish family, which went on to star Harrison Ford.

5. Tom Selleck Initially “hated” The Role Of Thomas Magnum.

When Selleck was offered the role of Thomas Magnum, he had already been in a string of failed television pilots. While a starring role in a big network show was welcome, Selleck told GQ in 2014 that he initially disliked how the role had been written. “I hated it,” he said. “He was James Bond-like, he was perfect, he had girls on each arm. He owned a Ferrari.”

Selleck wanted to play a character more in line with the downtrodden Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files, in which he had guest-starred. Producers agreed, and Magnum became more of an Everyman character. The series ran for eight seasons.

6. Tom Selleck Once Played For The Detroit Tigers.

Fans of Magnum, P.I. noted that Selleck was fond of wearing a Detroit Tigers baseball cap throughout the series, a nod to his birthplace.

The actor is such a fan of the team that he joined spring training in 1991 as part of his preparation for a role as a baseball pro in 1992’s Mr. Baseball. Selleck even played in one exhibition game against the Cincinnati Reds that April, striking out in the eighth inning.

7. Tom Selleck Is An Accomplished Volleyball Player.


While filming Magnum P.I., Selleck often played volleyball with members of the Outrigger Canoe Club senior (over 35) team in Honolulu and was even named honorary captain of the U.S. Olympic men’s team in 1984. Selleck agreed to pose shirtless for a poster because the proceeds went to the athletes.

8. Tom Selleck Was Offered The David Hasselhoff Role On Baywatch.

After wrapping up Magnum, P.I., Selleck pursued a film career, including films like 1989’s Her Alibi and 1990’s Quigley Down Under.

He was offered a return to television in the form of Baywatch, the NBC series about lifeguards. Selleck passed on the role of Mitch Buchannon, which eventually went to David Hasselhoff.

Selleck returned to series television with a recurring guest spot on Friends and the police drama Blue Bloods, which is now in its 10th season

9. Jesse Stone Shares Continuity With Another Iconic Cop Show.

9 facts about Tom Selleck

In 2005, Selleck took on the role of alcoholic police chief Jesse Stone in a series of made-for-TV movies based on the Robert B. Parker novels.

The Jesse Stone stories share continuity with Parker’s Spenser novels, which were adapted for TV in the 1980s as Spenser: For Hire.

Sadly, star Robert Urich died before we could see a Spenser/Jesse Stone team-up. Coincidentally, Selleck and Urich had played partners in Bunco (1977), a failed pilot for a buddy cop series. Bunco creator Jerry Ludwig also wrote for Hawaii: Five-0 and Murder, She Wrote — two shows that share continuity with Magnum.

10. Bonus! Selleck isn’t just an actor.

Although he’s top-billed on Blue Bloods, Selleck doesn’t get the majority of screen time, and he planned it that way.

Simultaneous to that show’s run, he’s been doing double duty as the star, producer, and screenwriter of the Jesse Stone TV movies.

Before his death in 2010, creator Robert B. Parker wrote that Selleck “nails the character” and Emmy voters agree, nominating him for Best Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie in 2007. “I was dying to play him,” Selleck said in 2010. “(Jesse) has a lot of flaws, a lot of problems. That’s always fun for an actor. And I think it’s fun for an audience.”

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