I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you know who Tom Selleck is. I mean, it’s hard to forget a character like Thomas Magnum from Magnum, P.I or Dr. Richard Burke from Friends. Throughout the decades of being onscreen, guys wanted to be him, and girls wanted to date him. Even if you didn’t watch those two shows, you’ve seen him on his countless other projects or at least know him for his infamous mustache.
Regardless, Selleck is one of the biggest names in Hollywood and has been for decades. Despite his fame and onscreen performances, there are plenty of things fans don’t necessarily know about the handsome actor, who’s now 75 years old (as of 2020), by the way.
So, let’s take a closer look at the personal life of the living legend.
He Was Raised Well
Tom Selleck’s family moved from Detroit to California when he was a little boy. His father, Robert Dean, was a real estate investor, and his mother, Martha, was a housewife. They both taught him the importance of having a good work ethic. He would take this lesson with him for the rest of his life and eventually pass it onto his daughter.
When his mother died in 2017, he said, “She’s always been there and always been very fair, even when she said, ‘Wait till your father gets home,’ which usually was for a good reason.” Selleck has mentioned that he and his three siblings enjoyed an idyllic childhood.
From Basketball to Acting
Selleck graduated from Grant High School in 1962. He then went to Los Angeles Valley College while he lived at home and saved money. During his junior year, he transferred to the University of Southern California thanks to a basketball scholarship. There, he played for the USC Trojans basketball team. He became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity as well as a member of the Trojan Knights.
Selleck majored in Business Administration, but a drama coach suggested that he try out acting. In his senior year, he decided to drop out of college to study acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse under Milton Katselas. As a side hustle, Selleck earned some cash working as a model.
Serving His Country
Did you know that Selleck served in the army? Tom Selleck isn’t the kind of guy that just sits back and relaxes; he’s a “getter done” kind of guy. When he received a draft notice during the Vietnam War, he joined the California National Guard. He then served in the 160th Infantry Regiment of the California Army National Guard, between 1967 and 1973.
Selleck has spoken about his time in the military proudly: “I am a veteran, I’m proud of it. I was a sergeant in the U.S. Army infantry, National Guard, Vietnam era. We’re all brothers and sisters in that sense.” Due to his military background, he turned into a highly disciplined individual who’s not afraid to roll his sleeves up and get his hands dirty.
A Turning Point
Selleck said that turning 70 was a turning point in his life. Apparently, it was the first time that he felt like a true grown man – that is, ever since his father passed away. “I had had a lot of leadership positions, I had been in the military. But you know, in my case, when my father died, I said, ‘There’s nobody to go to for fatherly advice. You’re on your own, pal’,” Selleck admitted.
Speaking of epiphanies, Selleck has recently revealed why he quit Magnum, saying that the fame got to be a bit much. “I quit Magnum, not because I didn’t like it or I was tired of it… I was tired from it.”
His Modeling Gig
He continued: “I wanted a three-dimensional life because I didn’t have one.” He mentioned to People Magazine that his relationships and his ranch keep him sane. It makes sense that he came to his senses, considering he spent so many years working in Hollywood. We know that Selleck had an early modeling gig, but did you know that he was on the show The Dating Game?
As it turns out, his drama coach and fraternity brothers were the ones who encouraged him to try out for the reality show. After his appearance on the dating show, Pepsi got in touch with the young and good looking man. And they booked him for a commercial. It made him into an overnight sensation.
An Overnight Sensation
His modeling, the TV show appearance in 1965 (and again in 1967), and his new Pepsi commercial was the beginning of a promising career, yet no one really knew it at the time. Selleck eventually attracted the attention of Twentieth Century Fox, which is never a bad thing. The production company was clearly invested in snatching him up.
The good thing for Selleck was that he knew how to recognize an opportunity when he saw one. He agreed to sign a contract with Twentieth Century Fox, and, just like that, he immediately started getting an acting role, literally the next day. He appeared on The Young and the Restless, where he played a minor character named Jed Andrews.
In addition to his soap opera days, Selleck’s early career consisted of roles in smaller movies, like Myra Breckinridge, Coma, and The Seven Minutes. He was in several TV shows, mini-series and made-for-TV movies. Selleck also became the face of Marlboro cigarettes for a while, as the Marlboro Man, as well as for Revlon’s Chaz cologne.
Selleck was in a commercial for Right Guard deodorant in 1971. In 1972, he appeared with Farrah Fawcett in a Dubonnet commercial, and in 1977 he acted in another for a toothpaste label called Close-Up. In 1972, he had a role in the B-movie Daughters of Satan. He was struggling as an unknown TV and commercial actor, but he managed to land a recurring role in the 70s as private investigator Lance White in The Rockford Files.
Becoming Magnum P.I.
It was when Selleck turned 35 that he landed the biggest role of his career. Of course, we’re talking about Thomas Magnum from Magnum, P.I. After his menial acting jobs, he was finally given a chance to make a dent. And, with this new role, he would be propelled to a new level of fame.
He went to Hawaii for shooting, but production was stalled. Why? Apparently, it was due to a writers’ strike, and so they had to delay filming. During his time off, as he waited for filming to resume, Selleck did some work as a handyman. Hey, at the end of the day, he needed to make ends meet! Magnum P.I. became a huge success. But after eight seasons, and a total of 162 episodes, it came to an end.
A Mustache, Hawaiian Shirt, and a Baseball Cap
Selleck had his infamous mustache (and still does), his Hawaiian Aloha shirt, that Detroit Tigers baseball cap, and his Colt MKIV/Series 70 Government Model handgun. While he was busy playing Thomas Magnum, the show’s producers wouldn’t release him to work on other projects, so he had to pass on the opportunity to play Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
As we know, the role went to Harrison Ford instead. The Magnum, P.I. writers’ strike lasted six months. So, technically, he would have been able to complete shooting in time. But, whatever! In the end, he “made a deal with Magnum, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Selleck stated.
A Hot Ride
Of course, no one can forget the hot red Ferrari Thomas Magnum drove around. Here’s a fun fact: The character was actually supposed to be driving around in a Porsche, but Selleck was simply too tall for those little sports cars. So a red Ferrari it was! And hey, it’s good publicity for Ferrari.
Other than the car, another notable prop was the gun Thomas carried around with him everywhere. The prop from the series was a 9×19mm Parabellum, (serial number 70L33101 – for the gun buffs). It was used for its reliable functioning and its readily-available blanks. The original gun, however, was a traditional .45 ACP 1911. Thomas also used a Star Model B and a Detonics Pocket 9 during the series.
Nothing But Respect
Selleck’s Magnum costar, Larry Manetti, published a memoir titled Aloha Magnum in 1996. Typically, these kinds of tell-alls are filled with scandals; however, such a thing didn’t apply to Tom Selleck at all. In fact, Manetti not only had good things to say about his costar, he even praised Selleck’s amazing work ethic.
Beyond that, Manetti said how much of a great friend he was to the rest of the cast and crew. Manetti also applauded Selleck’s ability to shoot for hours in the midday Hawaiian sun (that can’t be easy), as well as his side work with Hawaiian charities. Not to mention his willingness to support the cast and crew.
Getting His Star
Is it really surprising that Tom Selleck has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? With a career like his, it only makes sense. He earned it, after all! He was given his designated spot back in 1986, and it clearly wouldn’t have happened without Magnum P.I. If you’re curious and want to check it out for yourself, you can head to 6925 Hollywood Boulevard to see it!
Speaking of earning recognition, on April 28, 2000, Selleck received an honorary doctorate degree from Pepperdine University. Not too shabby, right? He was chosen due to his outstanding character and ethics. He’s also a board member of the Joseph and Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics, a non-profit organization.
Could Have Been
Really, it’s hard to imagine anyone else as the infamous Thomas Magnum. So it might be of interest for you to know that the role of Thomas was reportedly supposed to go to actor Kevin Dobson. Let’s just be thankful that he declined the role in the end. I mean, maybe he had some serious reason behind it, but, hey, it worked out for Selleck (and us).
By 1988, the show was the top-rated one-hour TV show in the history of syndicated reruns (until 1998). Selleck was the most popular choice by Magnum fans to play the same role in the once-rumored Magnum, P.I. film.
Sex Symbol? No Thanks
Here’s a fun fact: Selleck was offered to play the role of Mitch Buchannon in Baywatch, but he turned down the role because he wasn’t interested in being seen as a sex symbol. Can you believe it? David Hasselhoff obviously wasn’t as concerned. Since we’re on the topics of missed opportunities, here’s another one.
In 1982, Selleck was approached by the production team of Victor/Victoria (a musical comedy film that deals with transvestism and sexual identity). He was apprehensive, at first, and debated whether or not to take the role. He eventually decided that he did want to work on the film, but unfortunately, it was too late since Magnum already began shooting.
An Average Joe
Selleck was quite outspoken when it came to his character. Thomas Magnus was originally written in a different way than the one we saw on television. The writing team initially had the character as a charming and suave guy, kind of like James Bond, but Selleck spoke to the writers and gave them his opinion.
He managed to convince them to make Thomas more like an average Joe. It was a clever move, and we’re glad he was able to change the character. I’m sure the production team is too. Selleck went on to win an Emmy in 1984 for his portrayal of the character. Who knows if it would have worked out so well if he was supposed to be more Bond-like?
For 11 years, from 1971 to 1982, Selleck was married to the model Jacqueline Ray. They married after just one year of dating. Their relationship, though, was not without its problems. Due to the pressures of stardom, it was hard for them to keep their relationship afloat.
But before they eventually filed for divorce, Selleck adopted Ray’s son, Kevin Shepard, from her previous marriage. Selleck and Shepard remained close even after the separation. Shepard (born in 1966) is the former drummer of the American rock band Tonic.
After his bitter split from his wife, Selleck had a lot of time to think his life over. He wondered if he was ever going to remarry…
Men and Mustaches
Let’s be honest: it’s tough to picture Tom Selleck without the mustache. Similar to Sam Elliott, the man and the mustache go hand in hand. It’s a facial feature that is internationally known after all. The mustache is pretty much a celebrity in its own right.
Having such an iconic facial feature, Selleck has been mistaken for other celebrities. Elliott and Selleck aren’t the only famous men with mustaches. There’s one actor in particular that Selleck was compared to: “There was a time I could have been mistaken for Burt Reynolds. I had a mustache, and so did he. But he was the number one star in the world, so there wasn’t really much confusion.”
Meeting the Mustache
Stephen Colbert was excited to have the one and only Magnum PI on his show, but it seemed like Colbert was even more excited about getting to meet the mustache! The two of them joked about his mustache having its own agent. Colbert hilariously said, “It [the mustache] precedes you into the room by about 30 seconds.”
Colbert went to even further lengths when he had Selleck on the show. He asked Selleck: “I know you have never expressed any desire to run for public office, but what about your mustache because I would vote for that thing!” The audience, including Selleck, loved the joke. And who knows, maybe Selleck will become a governor one day.
A Man and a Baby
Before Magnum even finished its run, Selleck appeared in the comedy Three Men and a Baby with Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg. I’m sure you saw it. And sure, Selleck had Magnum, P.I. to thank for how amazing his career was going, but the movie only boosted his popularity. The movie went on to be the biggest box office hit that year. Not bad!
Film critic Roger Ebert actually praised the film. “Because of Selleck and his costars, the movie becomes a heartwarming entertainment.” When Selleck was on Jimmy Fallon’s show, Fallon questioned him about a rumor that a boy once died in the house they filmed Three Men and a Baby in. Selleck didn’t buy it. Why? Because the movie was shot on a set, they built for the movie.
In 1983, a year after he split up with Jacqueline Ray, Selleck met Jillie Mack. They met by chance in London, when he happened to catch her in an appearance in the musical Cats. The hesitant Jillie was hard to win over at first. Selleck knew right away that he would need to put some effort into making their relationship work.
His hard work paid off. They got married in 1987 and have been together ever since. The two also have a daughter named Hannah. But during their marriage, Jillie found herself constantly suspecting that her husband was unfaithful. After all, it is Hollywood, and the heartthrob had his fair share of fans.
Jillie got extremely flustered when she found out that Sophia Loren was their neighbor. Although Selleck was a married man, Loren certainly had some fun with the famous actor. “If I was on my way to Home Depot, and she was out on the driveway in her bathrobe, she said exactly these words: ‘Thomaso, would you like a cappuccino?” Selleck recalled.
But as far as we know, Selleck has never been unfaithful to Jillie, and her fears have never been proven. In an interview with the New York Daily News, Selleck explained how his marriage has lasted so long: “Jillie and I have a pretty good partnership. We don’t do anything or make any decisions without consulting each other.”
Getting Her a Part
Since there was really no Magnum P.I. without Tom Selleck, he wasn’t naive by any means and understood just how much influence he had over the producers and storylines. Considering how hardly anybody would dare to say no to him and risk ruffling the main star’s feathers, Selleck was allowed to assist in casting.
He decided to allow his dear wife to be a part of his show. And so, Jillie Mack guest-starred as an English girl in one particular party scene in the episode called “Rembrandt’s Girl.” Jillie wasn’t the only family member to make an appearance on the hit show; he got his parents a minor role, too. It’s all about spreading the love, right, Selleck?
A Proud Republican
Not all artists, let alone Hollywood actors, are willing to divulge their political affiliations. In today’s ultra-sensitive world, leaning one direction can make or break a career. That said, Selleck is not one of those celebrities. He has mentioned that he is a proud Republican and endorsed John McCain in 2008.
Aside from that, he’s also a member of the National Rifle Association and is on the Board of Directors as well. Selleck chose to keep quiet about who he voted for in the 2016 election. The actor wrote a letter to the Dallas Police Department’s Chief, David Brown, to express his appreciation for his leadership during the police shooting in Dallas that year.
Throughout his career, Selleck has been in over 50 movies and TV shows. His net worth has been estimated at $45 million. It sure sounds like a lot of money to us regular folk, but when you think about it, it’s kind of on the lower side when it comes to top Hollywood celebrities, especially for someone who’s been in the industry for decades.
In addition to acting, Selleck earns money from producing and writing. He produced 11 episodes of Magnum P.I. himself, from 1987 to 1988. In 1988, he produced five episodes of the series The Closer. Then, in 1989 and 1990, he produced 12 episodes of the series B.L. Stryker. He’s also been an executive producer on several TV movies, like Crossfire Trail (2001), Monte Walsh (2003), and the Jessie Stone series.
Dr. Richard Burke
Everyone loves Friends, and that includes Selleck’s recurring character of Dr. Richard Burke, who appeared in 10 episodes. His decision to star in Friends was actually seen as a digression from film back to TV and even considered a mistake by his career advisers. Selleck then recruited a new agent and decided to accept the part.
But in the end, being the ophthalmologist that Monica dates earned him an Emmy nomination in 2000 for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. I don’t think that an Emmy nomination is a bad career move if you ask me. And let’s be honest, of all of Monica’s lovers, Dr. Burke was by far the dreamiest.
A Funny Story
Speaking of Dr. Richard Burke and his influence on pop culture and Friends fans alike, during an interview with celebrity chef, Rachael Ray, Selleck described a rather funny story involving an unusual fan. When he was visiting the eye doctor (yes, quite ironic no doubt!), the woman who was sitting behind the desk mentioned how she just couldn’t figure out where she knew him from.
Amused, Selleck offered a bunch of TV shows that he’s been in and that she might remember him from. But he finally hit the nail on the head when he suggested that it might be his role as Dr. Burke from Friends. I guess the secretary wasn’t a fan of his other work!
Playing Frank Reagan
In more recent years, Selleck has appeared on the small screen as Frank Reagan, the police commissioner on Blue Bloods. As it turns out, Selleck is often saluted by actual police officers when he steps out of the set. It’s because officers are meant to salute every police commissioner they see, so it’s really a testament to his acting skills that he gets mistaken for a real commissioner.
His fellow costar, Donnie Wahlberg, had a lot to say about the actor, who is a lot like the dad on set. “He can [be funny], yes, usually after he makes sure everyone understands what’s important. It would feel like Christmas on a Tuesday night in August when my dad started telling jokes. And it’s the same thing with Tom when he starts with his oddball jokes and his weird rhymes that he tells from 1930 that are so funny. Everybody feels so much lighter and happier.”
An Affair to Remember
We’re happy to hear that Tom and Jillie have a great marriage, but, during his bachelor days, the man was quite a heartbreaker. According to the former model Marie Helvin, who wrote a memoir, she and Selleck were involved in a steamy fling. An excerpt reads: “When I visited Hawaii once, Tom Selleck was shooting for Magnum PI….”
“We met, and a bit of an affair started. Then Selleck came to London, we had dinner, and went back to his hotel. But the next morning, I sent him a letter to break off this relationship because I was worried about my married life. Later on, after a week, he joined the musical Cats backstage and met his wife-to-be.” After that fling, he also dated Mimi Rogers (who went on to marry Tom Cruise).
Getting Grilled By Rosie
Selleck went on Rosie O Donnell’s show in 1999 to promote the film The Love Letter. Or at least that’s what he thought the interview would be about! Instead of focusing on the movie, O’Donnell just grilled him the whole time about his beliefs on gun ownership. He wasn’t having it, though. He told her: “It’s your show, and you can talk about it after I leave.”
A year later, he was in the film Killers with Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl. Kutcher, who was one of the producers, knew which kind of actor he wanted to play the character of Mr. Kornfeldt. According to Kutcher, “I call Mr. Kornfeldt ‘Sir’ in the script a lot. And I was thinking, ‘Who am I going to call Sir?’ Who’s a bigger guy, who’s got an intimidating thing, but doesn’t have to try to be intimidating?” That’s when Tom Selleck was considered perfect for the part.
Taking a Much-Needed Break
Look, everyone needs a break every now and then, especially those who work years and years doing the same role. Selleck realized this when he was unable to make the necessary time for his wife and daughter while working on Magnum. And it’s quite admirable to prioritize his loved ones over his work. (It’s not always a given).
In an interview with Closer Weekly, Selleck talked about his plans to leave Magnum P.I.: “I was tired from it because I was in every shot,” he explained. Blue Bloods, on the other hand, was not as demanding because not every scene was focused on his character. But really, it was about being present for his family.
Words of Wisdom
Selleck might have been through a divorce, but here it looks like his second marriage is in for the long haul. They have been together for over 30 years now. How do they do it? According to Selleck, “It’s important to nurture your marriage. I think wanting time away from work has been good for that.”
In 1987, the two surprised both the public and the media by tying the knot secretly. Selleck’s brother, Bob, was the one who organized it all in a Lake Tahoe chapel. And get this: they didn’t even use their real names on the registrar! The couple reportedly pretended to be “Tom Jenkins” and “Suzie Mark.” Even the minister didn’t know of their identities until the ceremony.
A Heartfelt Ceremony
“They were both nervous, like any other couple about to get married. He was very concerned that the service be heartfelt, very concerned for her that the service be meaningful. He is a very warm, caring man,” the minister said. Well, that doesn’t surprise any of us. The man cares a lot about his family. As a father, Selleck adores his daughter Hannah.
He and Jillie wanted their daughter to experience a regular childhood – unlike other Hollywood kids – so they tried to avoid publicity whenever possible. These days, Hannah is an equestrian! She also does some occasional modeling for her sponsors and friends. Refreshingly, Hannah wasn’t raised to be a socialite. In fact, she spends most of her time on the family farm.
Living on the Farm
Hannah was able to learn about hard work being on the farm. And it was there that she fell in love with horses. “As a kid, they tried to raise me as normally as possible, given my dad’s line of work. Those horses have been a great way for me to have my own accomplishments outside of whatever my parents had done,” Hannah said.
It looks like living on their 65-acre farm was the right decision. “We both thought it was the best environment for [Hannah] to grow up,” Jillie stated. Hannah’s love for horses is apparent. She has a small breeding program in California, where she develops young horses to bring along and sell. “It’s a business that so far has been really great and a great experience,” Hannah said.
What it Takes
The Selleck family lives on their farm, which is a huge place to run, so it’s essential to ensure that everything is always in order. Not too long ago, California experienced a rough drought. Tom Selleck did something rather questionable during this period: He hired a truck to transfer water worth about $1.4 million from a water hydrant.
The authorities found out about it later on. In 2015, a lawsuit was filed by the Calleguas Municipal Water District against Selleck. A private investigation later revealed that he hired a tanker truck to transport the water from the town. Over two years, Selleck apparently did this 12 times. He had previously been sued, but he simply ignored the case. He later settled for $21,000.
A Nice Bonus
Here is more proof that Selleck is a generous man and truly one of a kind. When the last season of Magnum, P.I. aired on TV, Universal Studios gave Selleck a nice bonus of $350,000 to treat himself. Sure, he used the money to buy expensive cars and watches, but he also gave $1,000 bonuses to every member of the cast and crew. How sweet!
In a 1980 interview, Selleck was asked why he didn’t want to appear in the film version of Magnum P.I. “I’ll tell you what worries me — because I love Magnum and we have loyal fans — is they take these TV show titles, and they buy them, and they spend $100 million on special effects, and then they make fun of them and trivialize it. Then they try and get the actor who used to be in it to do some ridiculous cameo to prove to the audience that it’s OK. And I will not do that.”
A Volleyball Player, Too
Did you know that Tom Selleck is also a skilled volleyball player? As it turns out, he played indoor and beach versions of the sport. He’s also the outside hitter of the Outrigger Canoe Club in Honolulu. According to one of his teammates, Dennis Berg, “Tom was a great teammate, appreciative of being included with such a talented and experienced group, practicing and playing hard when his Magnum schedule permitted.”
“He was very patient with all of us, and we relished the big crowds that replaced the usual sparse number of players’ friends and spouses at the national tourney matches.” Selleck’s stepson Kevin went to Selleck’s alma mater, USC, and became a volleyball player himself on the All-American team in 1990.
A Memorable Year and Look
1997 was a memorable year (and look) for Tom Selleck fans. Why? Because it was when the actor decided to shave off his mustache! He starred in the movie In & Out, which required him to go without it. It was also his first time portraying a gay character. After that role, though, he wouldn’t shave it unless it was necessary for a role.
Speaking of roles, Selleck’s acting isn’t limited to the screen. He has also appeared on Broadway. He played the main character in the show A Thousand Clowns. Unfortunately for him, the critics were harsh because they believed that actor Jason Robards, Jr. was able to do more justice in the role.
Surprising Dolly Parton
On an episode of Dolly Parton’s show back in 1987, she and her audience were pleasantly surprised when a mystery guest suddenly stood up to ask a question. When Parton realized who was actually standing there, she immediately invited him onto the stage. What happened was memorable, to say the least.
Parton joked that it was difficult for her audience to recognize Selleck with his long pants on since he typically wore shorts when shooting Magnum PI. Without missing a beat, she then suggested that he take them off so that he can feel at home. Selleck started blushing as the crowd cheered and laughed. I guess Dolly Parton can make the man blush in ways others can’t.
We know about Selleck’s innate kindness, so it comes as no surprise that he’s a philanthropist. As far as philanthropists go, he’s a big one! The actor loves to share his blessings. And, at the moment, he works at The Joseph & Edna Josephson Institute of Ethics, the National Fatherhood Initiative, the Character Counts Coalition, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and New York City’s Student/Sponsor Partnership Program.
Thanks to his personality and acting skills, in 2000, Selleck was given an honorary doctorate by Pepperdine University. Oh, and there is an artifact at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History that might be fun for his true fans. The display features the iconic Hawaiian shirt from Magnum, P.I. Yes!
The Lucky Winner
The iconic red Ferrari from Magnum was in an auction in Arizona for an asking price of $250,000. The winner was able to take home the authentication certificate as well as the vehicle. How much did it go for in the end? The car was sold for $181,500.
Fun fact: Selleck made headlines on August 11, 1997, and, in a way, he made history too. What did he do? His appearance on the show The View was the first celebrity guest appearance.
Another fun fact: since he was born on January 29, his zodiac sign is Aquarius. For those confused about the horoscope, Aquariuses are known for being affectionate, curious, imaginative, and truthful. Sure sounds like Tom Selleck if you ask me!