‘Magnum PI’ Star Tom Selleck Wanted to Portray Veterans in a Positive Light on Show

by Joe Rutland

People who watch Magnum PI see Tom Selleck playing a private investigator. Behind that Magnum character is a Vietnam veteran.

This might not seem like a big deal in today’s TV world. Back in the 1980s, though, showing a different side of them was unique. Many of the portrayals had shown soldiers who were shell-shocked, unstable, and could go off the rails.

Let’s get a little more information from Looper on how the CBS crime drama handled this matter. Not only was Thomas Magnum a Vietnam War veteran, but Magnum PI star Selleck served in the military before becoming an actor.

‘Magnun PI’ Star, Show Creator Both Came From Backgrounds In Military

In fact, Selleck simply disagreed with how veterans were portrayed in pop culture. Another factor: Donald Bellisario, who created the show, previously served in the U.S. Marine Corps. What these two guys did was to make sure Thomas Magnum was a Vietnam War veteran character who is heroic over damaged goods. 

In an interview with AARP, Selleck admits that he didn’t “want to get too emotional, but I am very proud of this.” What was he proud of at the time of the interview? “Magnum was recognized as the first show to portray Vietnam veterans in a positive way. My silly Hawaiian shirt and Detroit Tigers cap are in [the Smithsonian] collection.”

The hard work of both men on Magnum PI led to a positive change. Thomas Magnum’s past became something to be honored and not rejected or put down.   

Selleck, Wife Appeared Together In ‘Magnum PI’ Episodes Before Getting Married

Here’s a little personal Tom Selleck history. Ready? He and his wife Jillie Mack actually appeared together in a couple of episodes from the OG show.

In an article from Country Thang Daily, Mack appeared in Rembrandt’s Girl in 1984 and Professor Jonathan Higgins in 1985. For the first episode, Mack was cast in the role of an English girl at a party. In Professor Jonathan Higgins, she played Sally Ponting.

IMDb informs us that these Magnum PI episodes aired sometime before Selleck and Mack were married. They also were on CBS two-plus decades before Blue Bloods premiered on CBS in 2010. They were wed on Aug. 7, 1987, in a secret ceremony. 

Interestingly, the actress does have some credits to her name. Sure, they are not as deep or extensive as her Blue Bloods star husband’s ones. But among her credits are playing Rumpleteazer in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats.

While she was appearing in this famous musical, she met Selleck. He went to Cats in London. There, he saw Mack. After the show, he asked her out. She accepted and they would then fall in love.