‘Blue Bloods’: Why Tom Selleck Once Said John Wayne Would Be Better in His Roles

by John Jamison
(Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc for Variety Magazine)

John Wayne would probably be better than most macho actors in their roles, to be fair. And that’s not taking anything away from “Blue Bloods” star Tom Selleck. But by his own admission, the Duke brought a factor to the table that an actor can’t simply “play.”

For the past 11 years, Tom Selleck has been playing NYPD Commissioner Frank Reagan on the hit CBS show “Blue Bloods.” It’s a role that requires a certain gravitas, as Selleck’s character is a somewhat legendary figure in the world of the show.

Tom Selleck is a great actor. One can look to his career for evidence of that. But that’s not why he’s so good as the “Blue Bloods” character. With his 76 years of life experience and dignified look, he plays Frank Reagan believably. And that’s the most important part.

In a 2017 Q&A style interview Selleck did for the BUILD Series, he took a question that asked him why he gravitated toward characters in law enforcement. In his answer, he talked about how scary it is to get parts that you’ve already cast in your head.

“Is Frank Reagan a cop? Absolutely. To play a character that’s supposed to be iconic among his people. That’s very intimidating. But I don’t gravitate to any one kind of role,” Selleck said. “Well, I’ve now played something like ‘Quigley Down Under,’ which is a movie I’m very proud of. You know you get offered a part that John Wayne would be better in. That’s scary.”

According to ‘Blue Bloods’ Star Tom Selleck, There Are Intangible Things Actors Can’t Play

The reason Tom Selleck thinks John Wayne would be better in his roles is simple. The “Blue Bloods” star doesn’t see himself as iconic. And according to him, iconic is something that an actor can’t pretend to be. John Wayne, on the other hand, is an icon.

“I’ve been asked now to play a lot of characters who are iconic. I don’t consider me – and I won’t refer to me in the third person – iconic. That’s a result on an audience. You can’t play iconic,” Selleck continued in the interview. “You can’t play presidential, you can’t play mayoral, you can’t place commissioner-y.”

One has to respect Selleck’s humility. Of course, anyone calling themselves an icon isn’t a great look. But he’s achieved that status by this point, and it’s why he’s able to be presidential or mayoral in the roles that demand those things.

Whether or not John Wayne would be better in his roles is another question entirely. To some degree, that’s probably the case. For example, Wayne would have been a perfect fit for the 1990 Australian-set Western “Quigley Down Under.” If Duke was still around, though, would he play a better Frank Reagan than Tom Selleck?