Tom Selleck says he's scared.
He has spent so much of the winter holidays working on the script for the next "Jesse Stone" that he's afraid he's lost touch with Frank Reagan, the character he plays in the CBS hit police drama "Blue Bloods." So he's flying back to New York, where "Blue Bloods" is set and filmed, a few days early to immerse himself in Frank's world.
"It's been a while since I've had to juggle," he said.
He doesn't look scared.
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He looks like Tom Selleck, only bigger. In the entertainment world, where the most formidable-looking actor can turn out to be 5-foot-6 and 160 pounds in real life, Selleck, at 6-foot-4, occupies a lot of space. When "Blue Bloods" premiered last fall, he was the big draw; a television star returning after years away.
He wasn't the only one - Ed O'Neill is on "Modern Family," Ted Danson is on "Damages" and "Bored to Death," Ray Romano stars in "Men of a Certain Age" - but he is the most unchanged. Whereas O'Neill and Romano have done 180s from their famous roles and Danson twists his former lover-boy persona into quasi-satire, Selleck's performance as Police Commissioner Frank Reagan is but a variation on a theme: The big man in the room, plagued by enough heartache to make him interesting but still a force of decency, capable of nailing a serial killer with one shot and manly enough to flash the occasional dimple.
This doesn't mean Selleck is one-note - Magnum had a much lighter touch, and heart, than Jesse Stone, Robert Parker's depressed detective whom Selleck portrays in CBS' popular ongoing movie series - while Frank Reagan is layered with the years he has spent as a New York cop. But with that square jaw and barrel chest, Selleck is not built for the sardonic or fey antihero that has recently been in vogue. At 66, he is a true baby boomer, but he doesn't do snark or angst; he isn't post-modern, post-Jungian or post-anything. He's Tom Selleck. He rolls old school.
He just had to wait awhile for television to catch up.
Created by "The Sopranos'" alumni Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green, "Blue Bloods" is a modern revamp of rock solid network programming. It's a police procedural that does not wallow in gore wrapped in an ongoing family drama that does not shy away from sentiment. Selleck's Frank is the anchor of four generations who sit down for Sunday dinner every week to discuss life as experienced by a family that includes four police officers and a district attorney.
"I was offered a lot of slam-dunk procedurals which were so boring I would go bananas," he said, talking in his publicist's Beverly Hills office. "Or really marginal shows that maybe weren't that good but they figure if they get a name they could sell it."
When he saw the "Blue Bloods" script, he was struck by the ensemble nature of it. "We're getting back to the roots of television," he says. "The best stories are always character-driven, but we can show you the highs and the lows, the big moments and the quiet ones. That's unique to series television - getting the audience to really invest, to pay attention."