‘Magnum PI’: Who Was the Real Robin Masters?

by Joe Rutland

Remember when Thomas Magnum had to go to work for his boss on Magnum PI? OK, so who in the heck was the real Robin Masters?

Magnum, the Detroit Tigers hat-wearing private investigator, was played by Tom Selleck. Still, who was Masters supposed to be and whom? We get some help on this matter with a little boost from Looper.

There never was an actual face-to-face meeting with the two characters. Oh, but there is a very interesting surprise for longtime fans.

‘Magnum PI’ Had Voice of Cinematic Legend Represent Masters On CBS Show

Would you believe that Masters’ voice was provided on Magnum PI by one of the movie industry’s most powerful individuals? Of course, it depends on your own perception of what the term “powerful” means. Yet we would like to have you consider that Orson Welles was a cinematic legend.

By the 1970s, Welles had, sadly, at times become a bit of a sideshow with his television ads. But his work on the big screen, especially with Citizen Kane where he played newspaper giant Charles Foster Kane, cannot be ignored.

For the purpose of this story, Welles’ voice will suffice. His was the voice that Magnum heard while talking with Robin Masters. If you recall, on Magnum PI, Thomas actually thought Higgins, played by John Hillerman, was the boss. Sorry, it’s not true.

“Robin Masters was never Higgins,” said show creator Donald Bellisario. In this same interview, Bellisario said that Welles needed to be carried in using an ambulance to record his lines for Masters.

Wouldn’t it have been really something to see Welles and Selleck in a scene together back in the day. It never happened as Welles died. Who was Robin Masters in the physical body? It’s a mystery.

While we are driving around in the world of Magnum PI, why did Selleck quit the show? It was still doing O on CBS, maybe not the same as when it first hit the TV screens.

Selleck found worldwide fame with his starring role and it was on from 1980-88. He opened up about why he quit. During an interview in 2020, Selleck talked about how fame wasn’t what he expected.

“I quit ‘Magnum,’ not because I didn’t like it or I was tired of it,” he says. “I was tired from it. And I wanted a three-dimensional life because I didn’t have one.

“I knew intellectually what it would mean in terms of being a public person, but until you’ve lived it, there’s no way to understand it,” Selleck says. “I had a feeling of, ‘I don’t think I’m cut out for this.'”