The mustachioed ''Magnum, P.I.'' star's hit CBS series ''Blue Bloods'' (Fridays at 10 p.m.) wraps up season 2 on May 11, and CBS' latest Jesse Stone movie,'' Benefit of the Doubt,'' airs May 20 at 9 p.m. Here the actor, 67, discusses some of his most notable roles

By Rob Brunner
April 13, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

Blue Bloods
As an NYC police commissioner surrounded by a big law-enforcement family, Selleck tries to keep the peace at work and at home. ”Blue Bloods was the first really character-driven script I’d seen in a long time that wasn’t real sweet-saccharine. I mean, these were life-and-death issues. The job of New York City police commissioner is about as hard as any job probably in the world, and to get a chance to pay homage to that character and play the patriarch of a family was appealing. We’re not preaching to anybody. I’m not very religious. This family says grace; they’re Catholic. I think it’s interesting that the show isn’t afraid of that. I fully expected, the first time I saw the scripts, that the network would cut it out. But it’s not a religious-values show. The family dinners have to be earned by the emotion and drama of the rest of the show. They can’t just be saccharine: ‘Oh, we love each other and let’s say grace.”’

Selleck appeared in one episode as a customer picked up by Elaine Nardo (Marilu Henner). ”Taxi was a big deal. Scared the hell out of me. They shot through the front windshield of this taxi, and all I could see out the windshield was the audience, which just freaked me out. I started getting flop sweat. Marilu’s trying to calm me down. When you get flop sweat like that, like Albert Brooks did in Broadcast News, the more you try and stop, the worse it gets [laughs]. ‘I can’t sweat! I gotta stop!’ Anyway, I got through it, and it was pretty good. It was a real nice experience with a great ensemble.”

Jesse Stone
Selleck stars as a hard-drinking small-town cop in this series of unusually contemplative TV movies. ”I really got the character in the Robert Parker books. I said, ‘I gotta play this guy.’ Our theory was you don’t worry about not having an explosion in the first 20 seconds. If you tell a story interestingly, you can hold [”viewers”] until they invest in the characters. That’s more of a feature-film technique than what TV movies have evolved into. I’m not putting them down; they’re just different. [The first Jesse Stone film] aired between Spring Break Shark Attack and Category 7: The End of the World. We made a very different movie, and we’re the only one left [laughs].”

His recurring role as Monica’s (Courteney Cox) boyfriend Richard remains a fan favorite. ”The good things you do usually involve a risk. I loved the show and I was very flattered, but they pitched this idea in the room with no script. But I knew how good the writing was on that show. I got a couple calls from people saying, ‘You can’t do this. It’s a bad choice.’ I had very few people call and say, ‘What a great idea!’ I was doing features. The common advice was ‘Don’t say you’re crawling back to TV. You can’t guest on somebody else’s show. It has to be your show.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s too bad.”’

Three Men and a Baby
At the height of Magnum‘s success, Selleck signed on for this film, directed by Leonard Nimoy of all people. ”It made people cry as well as laugh. That’s hard to do. Leonard was a huge help. He was very smart about how to handle a baby, because he had twins. I don’t think Leonard gets the credit he deserves for that movie.” Selleck’s wife gave birth the year after Three Men came out. ”The movie was heightened reality. I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble [laughs]. Actually, my parenting skills were pretty good. I changed diapers and all that stuff.”

In & Out
Selleck plays a gay reporter who famously makes out with Kevin Kline’s character. ”I went, ‘Boy, I don’t know how I’m going to do that.’ We were going to shoot a bunch on Monday, and Kevin and I came into work on Friday and rehearsed all that stuff. We got rid of the butterflies. We shot it in an intersection out in the country. Some guys in the crew were telling me this traffic cop who we had hired saw the first take and he went, ‘What kind of movie is this?”’

Magnum, P.I.
The show that made him a star. ”I like character-driven stuff. Magnum is still in a hundred and some countries, not because of my too-short shorts that are out of style but because it’s a character-driven show. Magnum was very perfect in [the first] script. He was kind of James Bond. I said, ‘I won’t do that. I want to do something like [The Rockford Files‘ Jim] Rockford, a fallible guy.’ They were saying, ‘Who the hell do you think you are? You’ve never been on the air.’ I said, ‘Nobody, but this is not what I want to do.’ [Eventually] Don Bellisario came on and wrote this great two-hour movie of this very flawed character who was the kid who never grew up. It worked out, but it was a huge risk.”

Charlie’s Angels
Selleck got to kiss Jaclyn Smith in this one-episode appearance, in which something’s missing. ”Oh, my mustache! I’m hardly wedded to it. That was probably one of the ones that said, ‘We don’t see the boyfriend having a mustache,’ and I said, ‘Sure, I’ll shave it off.’ This was early in the show, and I was going to be Jaclyn Smith’s boyfriend. I lasted an episode. They got rid of me.”