May 8, 2006

Hard-boiled Stone is a natural fit for Selleck

By Cynthia Littleton

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Nearly 20 years after he
parked the Ferrari for the last time on "Magnum, P.I.," Tom
Selleck has finally found a small-screen persona that he'd like
to live with for a while in Jesse Stone.

Selleck scored for CBS last week with "Jesse Stone: Death
in Paradise," the third installment of his hard-boiled police
drama franchise based on the novels by best-selling mystery
scribe Robert B. Parker. His character is a tortured soul, a
former Los Angeles cop who flees the big city to become the
police chief of the fictional hamlet of Paradise, Mass., after
battling a drinking problem and the pain of a broken marriage.

Selleck earned a co-writer credit on the movie and has been
a hands-on executive producer of all three alongside his
frequent producing partner, Michael Brandman. "Death in
Paradise" earned the best reviews of the three movies so far,
and it ranked as CBS' second-most-watched movie of the season
with nearly 15 million viewers.

"What I love about Parker is that he has infused this guy
with so many flaws, but you still want to root for him,"
Selleck says. "He's a decent guy with a lot of problems. He
cares about every case that comes into this town. He doesn't
care about doing it by the book. He invents his own rules and
is rather ruthless about it. He doesn't care so much about
proof, so long as he's convinced he knows who did it. That's a
lot of stuff to work with, especially when the audience is able
to get to know Jesse over more than one movie."

At a time when the made-for-television movie seems all but
extinct on broadcast television, Selleck is hoping to be the
exception to the rule by continuing with the Jesse Stone films
as a recurring franchise for CBS, which is understood to be
strongly considering dropping its regular Sunday 9-11 p.m.
movie slot after years of declining ratings.

As of last week, Selleck said he had a script order but no
firm commitment from CBS for additional Stone pictures; a CBS
spokeswoman said the franchise was "important" to the network
and that it intends to produce more.

Selleck hasn't stopped working in television since he
served his apprenticeship at the Universal Television factory
in the 1970s. He earned his own detective's license in the
1980s with CBS' underappreciated "Magnum." For the past 18
years, he has been taking care to not be overshadowed by the
iconic Vietnam vet-turned-Hawaiian gumshoe Thomas Magnum
character by seeking roles that show off his versatility.

Selleck romanced Courteney Cox on "Friends" in its early
seasons, and now he's romancing Candice Bergen on "Boston
Legal." He made three top-flight Western telefilms at TNT a few
years ago, including the 2003 remake of "Monte Walsh" that
ranks among the best work of Selleck's long career.

Indeed, like all good actors, Selleck gets better with age.
And like all good leading men, Selleck, 61, is wearing his
autumn years well.

Although he's always been known for being strong-willed
with writers and directors, Selleck is quick to give CBS credit
for allowing him to make the kind of movies he wants to make
with the Stone franchise at a time when disaster flicks and
campy shark-attack vehicles seem to be the only things working
in longform.

"I don't think you need an explosion in the first 10
minutes," Selleck says. "You don't need to do
ripped-from-the-headlines stuff. If the audience likes the
character enough, they'll go with you when he goes into a dark
room at home alone, pours a scotch and sits down to think a

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter