The Transformation Of Tom Selleck From 22 To 76 Years Old

Tom Selleck has had fans swooning for decades, and he still gets heart rates rising at the age of 76. Midlands Directory detailed Selleck was born in Detroit, Mich. in January 1945 and he grew up with his parents, Martha and Robert, along with three siblings. Brother Robert was born in 1944, while sister Martha came eight years later. Younger brother Daniel completed the family in 1955.

In Michigan, the family patriarch worked as a carpenter. However, he made a big change and moved the family to Sherman Oaks, Calif. to pursue a career in real estate when Selleck was in middle school. He told AARP, "He worked for his realtor brother on straight commission and bought a 1,000-square-foot house for $10,000 on the GI Bill." His mother urged her kids to take risks, and he explained his parents "walked their talk. I don't have any tragic stories of parental rejection. They taught me everything I know."

Selleck attended Grant High School and played sports while there, graduating in 1962. He hoped to attend the University of Southern California, but it wasn't in the budget right out of high school. Instead, he spent a couple of years at Valley Junior College before landing a basketball scholarship and transferring to USC. While in college, Selleck studied business administration as he played basketball and joined the Sigma Chi fraternity. He also modeled to earn extra money, and he showed an interest in acting after a drama coach gave him a nudge.

Tom Selleck's early career included commercials and two Dating Game appearances

In addition to modeling to help cover his college tuition, Tom Selleck told AARP he appeared on "The Dating Game" twice, in 1965 and 1967. "Humiliating and embarrassing," he said of the experience. "I lost. Twice. I wasn't particularly funny or glib," he recalled.

Despite failing to score the dates, Selleck did snag an opportunity. In 1967, he was given a spot in a new talent program for 20th Century Fox, and focused on it for two years. "I was on my own with no frame of reference, no connection. I'd never done a play in my life. I started at about thirty-five bucks a week, and every six months you either got fired or renewed," Selleck detailed of the program (per Midlands Directory).

In the midst of that program, Selleck left in order to serve in the California National Guard. He ultimately served for six years, from 1967 to 1973, during the height of the Vietnam War. After an active duty stint of six months, Selleck returned home to learn he'd lost his spot in the talent program. Despite that, he started landing commercials, first for SafeGuard and ultimately doing dozens of advertising spots.

Director Robert Sallin, who did the SafeGuard spot, noted on YouTube "This was Tom's first and he was so terrific, I gave him the wardrobe. He told me many years later that it was his only suit and he wore it for every casting interview."

A big break came at the age of 35

Tom Selleck had some success in commercials, but he also had six television pilots that weren't picked up (per AARP). In 1980, Selleck landed "Magnum, P.I." Although this was Selleck's first big role, he asserted himself in molding his character. That meant making Magnum less flashy and more ordinary, and incorporating mentions of Magnum's Navy SEAL experience.

"I don't want to get too emotional, but I am very proud of this," Selleck explained. "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 their collection" at the Smithsonian.

Selleck tackled a couple of movies and a "Playgirl" magazine during his run on "Magnum, P.I." as well. He told Midlands Directory he had to turn down the lead in "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark," but sticking with "Magnum, P.I." earned him an Emmy Award, four People's Choice Awards, and a Hollywood Walk of Fame star. He was an executive producer toward the end, and he showed a comical side of himself with 1987's "Three Men and a Baby." 

On the personal side, Selleck was married to Jacqueline Ray from 1971 to 1982, and found love again soon after his divorce. He saw Jillie Mack in a London production of "Cats" and was immediately smitten. She didn't know who he was, but the two clicked and married in a small Lake Tahoe chapel in 1987.

Tom Selleck made a major change in his life

About a year after marrying Jillie Mack, Tom Selleck and his wife welcomed their daughter Hannah, detailed People. That drove him to make a significant decision regarding his work schedule. "I worked 90 hours a week and did a movie every break," Selleck said. "I quit 'Magnum, P.I.' to have a family. It took a long time to get off the train, but I try very hard to have balance," he explained of the decision. He also told People he quit the series "not because I didn't like it or I was tired of it. I was tired of it. And I wanted a three-dimensional life because I didn't have one."

Selleck didn't necessarily intend to stay away from acting for an extended period of time, but at the time, he "didn't like what I was being offered." His IMDb page showed he did a few projects in the years after "Magnum," but he became more prominent again in 1996 when he took on the recurring role of Dr. Richard Burke on "Friends." In addition to that role, he joined "The Closer" in 1998.

The actor admitted he was "scared to death" when he started on "Friends" and noted that "it was intimidating." Selleck continued to pop up on "Friends" until 2000, and he did a string of television movies after that while still living on a ranch with his wife and daughter miles away from Hollywood.

New opportunities bring a higher profile once again

In 2005, Tom Selleck began a series of television movies based on the "Jesse Stone" books by Robert B. Parker (per IMDb). Selleck played Stone, a police officer from Los Angeles who relocated to New England to become the chief of police. As Fox News detailed, Selleck pursued creating the movie series after reading "Stone Cold." That became the first movie in the series, although it wasn't the first Stone novel. "I just read it and said, 'I have to play this guy.'" Selleck explained.

"Jesse was just so wonderfully flawed," he said. "As Robert Parker, who became a friend, put it, the thing that keeps him from self-pity, which is not a color you want to play very often as an actor, is Jesse's sense of irony. And, I think, it was that that really made me want to play him."

In addition to doing about one "Jesse Stone" movie a year, Selleck scored roles on "Boston Legal" and "Las Vegas." On "Boston Legal," Selleck appeared as Ivan Tiggs, the ex-husband of Candice Bergen's Shirley Schmidt (per Deseret News). "Las Vegas" featured Selleck in the role of A.J. Cooper, the new owner of the Montecito casino during the fifth season. He found the character to be an interesting one and he embraced the challenge of "developing a character on the fly," he told The Morning Call.

A new drama casts Tom Selleck in a central role

Tom Selleck was tapped to play Frank Reagan for "Blue Bloods" when it debuted in 2010, shared Parade. "I love the show. 'Magnum' I never tired of, but I got tired from it, though. I was in every shot. But this show, the only thing I'm tired of is the commute," Selleck explained of "Blue Bloods" after 10 seasons. The series films in New York, while Selleck's home remains in Los Angeles. He manages it by filming every other week, telling People, "My first priority is time with my family."

The success of "Blue Blood" means Selleck's television career surpassed the 50-year mark. He told Parade, "I've got a job right now and it's a job I love. That caused me to reflect a little bit on how fortunate I've been." He added, "Look, I know what I'm doing. I studied, I was out of work for a long, long time. I didn't really have success until I was 35, which was 'Magnum.'"

Selleck always tries to "push the envelope" and feels "my talent may happen to be where my dreams are and that seems to be a rather large ballpark that the audience wants to see me in." He feels "very fortunate and I feel I've earned it. That's just as important for me." Ultimately, "I'm proud of my work, I still love what I do, and I have my family. I've been extremely fortunate" (per People).