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How These Blue Bloods Stars Really Behave On The Set

From "Dragnet" to "Law & Order," cop dramas have been a staple of television for decades and are frequently among the most popular programs on the air. While they often follow a familiar formula, the 2010 series "Blue Bloods" reinvented the concept of what a police procedural could be. Centered on the Reagans, a tight-knit family of law enforcers, the show is about much more than just catching crooks as it also explores interpersonal family drama that often plays out in weekly family dinners.

One of its biggest strengths in its decade-plus run has been its sparkling cast of actors, led by TV legend Tom Selleck, rapper-turned-actor Donnie Wahlberg, and big-screen sensation Bridget Moynahan. However, many TV ensembles have had their share of off-screen drama, with tensions between stars occasionally spilling over into the public eye. This has led some to wonder if the on-screen chemistry between the "Blue Bloods" cast is as strong in real life as it is on the screen. 

To find out, we've poured over a plethora of interviews and taken a peek behind the scenes to find out just what the cast of "Blue Bloods" is really like on set. 

Donnie Wahlberg is a human blooper reel

Donnie Wahlberg got his start as a founding member of the iconic boy band "New Kids on the Block." He made his acting debut in the 1996 film "Bullet" and has since found his niche playing tough types. None have been more iconic than his role on "Blue Bloods" as Danny Reagan, the oldest son of Commissioner Frank Reagan, a role he's held for nearly 300 episodes. Despite the no-nonsense demeanor of Detective Danny Reagan, he's actually the show's resident jokester on the set.

That's right, Wahlberg is the king of bloopers on "Blue Bloods." Not because of a penchant for intentionally ruining takes with tongue-in-cheek antics but instead for his uncanny ability to make mistakes while the cameras are rolling. One look at the "Blue Bloods" blooper reels shows that the actor has a knack for botching scenes by flubbing a line, and he's well-known among the cast for his many screw-ups. When Entertainment Tonight caught up with series star Tom Selleck and asked which cast member made the most mistakes, the former "Magnum P.I." actor confidently confirmed this. "Oh, that's Donnie," Selleck said. "He's kind of the king of them." 

Thankfully, Wahlberg isn't fazed by the label of blooper king, happily agreeing with his co-star. "I gotta be in the top two! It's pretty equal but I think I do try to have fun."

Bridget Moynahan can handle her co-stars jokes

In "Blue Bloods," Bridget Moynahan stars as Assistant District Attorney Erin Reagan, the only daughter of Tom Selleck's Police Commissioner Frank Reagan. A film industry veteran, she might be best known today outside of "Blue Bloods" for her role in the "John Wick" franchise as the late wife of Keanu Reeves' suave assassin. On the set of her hit police procedural, Moynahan is a true professional, just like her character, but she's also been known to mix it up a bit and have a little fun.  

On some occasions, she's even struggled to maintain her facade as the cool, collected legal eagle she plays. As showcased in a Season 5 blooper reel, a scene involving Erin and her brother Danny (played, of course, by Donnie Wahlberg) was supposed to end with a friendly sibling peck, but Wahlberg had a little more fun than expected. Instead of playing out the scene as scripted, the actor leaned in for a passionate lip-locking that threw the crew for a loop. Moynahan smoothly played along, wrapping her arms around her co-star until the cameras cut. 

Though she's known for playing inscrutable characters like ADA Reagan and Mrs. Wick, Moynahan has proven on the set of "Blue Bloods" that she can be a lot more laid back than the women she brings to life on screen.

Len Cariou has fun at dinner time

The Reagan family, a deeply loving group of fathers, sons, and daughters, has a close kinship. The series sees them sharing their hopes, dreams, and tough conversations about life week after week, usually over a hearty meal. The eldest Reagan, former commissioner Henry Reagan, is played by actor Len Cariou. Around the set, Cariou is known for making sure everyone is relaxed, particularly when filming those intense family dinner scenes.

"We have to [have fun]," Cariou shared with Looper in an exclusive interview. "We're there for a long time. There's nine of us, so the scene takes a long time to film. We're all sitting around and we all joke and carry on."

As a longtime acting veteran, Cariou also wanted to guide his fellow cast members, and that started on day one of filming the premiere episode. "When we filmed the pilot, it was the very first scene that we did," Cariou recalled. "And I said to Leonard Goldberg, our founding executive producer, 'Why are we doing this first? We hardly know one another.' He said, 'Well, I want there to be one of these scenes in every episode. So, I figured baptism by fire. Let's see if it works.' He came back the next day and said, 'It works like gangbusters.'"

Jennifer Esposito's health problems went ignored

The Reagan family is a big one, and their roles are spread across the law enforcement community, from detective to district attorney. However, every show needs its supporting cast, and not everyone in the series can be a member of the family. Jennifer Esposito starred as Detective Jackie Curatola, partner to Donnie Wahlberg's Detective Danny Reagan, for the show's first three seasons before leaving the series after a conflict with the production. Based on her comments, it doesn't sound like her time on set was always positive.

Though Esposito hasn't said anything negative about her co-stars, she did throw shade on the network. According to the actress, CBS wasn't willing to accommodate her unique medical needs and ignored them during filming. "CBS put me on unpaid leave [and] has blocked me from working anywhere else after my doctor said [you] needed a reduced schedule due to celiac," she said on Twitter after the network announced her departure. She also claimed that the studio was trying to paint her as a demanding star.

"CBS didn't listen to my doc and I collapsed on set. Which everyone saw! After a week off, my doc said I could return to work but CBS implied that I was not truly ill and this was a scheme to get a raise! It's been almost two months without [bringing] me back to work + keeping Me from working anywhere else! ... Absolutely shameful behavior."

Abigail Hawk sees the set as a real-life family

Assisting Commissioner Frank Reagan is Detective Abigail Baker, his primary aide and a member of his personal security team. Baker is played by Abigail Hawk, and while it's easily her biggest role, she's also branched out into independent films and other minor parts on TV. Still, she's expressed that nothing can compare to her home on the "Blue Bloods" set, and her time filming with the cast and crew has been precious. While promoting another project in 2019, Hawk talked about what it's like filming the series.

"Working on such a powerhouse as 'Blue Bloods' for a decade, it's lovely to show up to set because you know exactly what you're going to get," she told Hamptons. "It's a huge family that we created, we all feel safe and secure there. It's wonderful to have something stable like that." It seems the rest of the cast — from Tom Selleck to Donnie Wahlberg and beyond — live up to their reputations as welcoming stars who embrace the family atmosphere behind the scenes.

She also compared the differences between working on a big network series and her smaller films, telling the outlet she sees advantages to both. "I'm 37-years-old, and I love having the freedom to do both. The beauty of 'Blue Bloods' is that I work off of Tom Selleck's schedule. So, I have sometimes two weeks off at a time, and I'm able to dive into these other projects."

Vanessa Ray is the class clown

While "Blue Bloods" may be focused on the family of Police Commissioner Frank Reagan, his clan isn't all family by blood. The Reagans got a little bigger with the addition of Officer Eddie Janko, played by Vanessa Ray, who married Frank's son Jamie after an extended courtship. She'd been a recurring character for years but officially became a Reagan in Season 9, pulling up a chair to the table as a part of the clan. It's those dinners that Ray has found to be her favorite part of filming, mostly because of how fun they can be. That's because, as Ray revealed in a fan Q&A with TV Insider, those scenes are when she gets the most laughs.

"I don't want to name names," she wrote, "but historically there is a certain end of the table that gets the church giggles around Hour 2 of filming the dinner scenes ... I may or may not be on that end of the table." She then admitted, "I'm absolutely on that end of the table." Given the long hours required to film such scenes, it's likely a necessity to keep things light. Considering that more than one actor has commented on doing just that around the Reagan table, it sounds like these scenes may be more than just a big appeal of the series — they might just be the best part of the show's production, too.

Marisa Ramirez got emotional over those iconic dinner moments

Danny Reagan's partner is Maria Baez, who is played by Marisa Ramirez. In the series, they share a quasi-familial connection that transcends mere friendship. Baez eventually got invited to the show's famous dinner scenes, and Ramirez told Pop Culture it was Wahlberg himself who fought to get her involved in the weekly meals.

"It's eight years I've been there now, and it was actually very emotional for me on so many levels, which I didn't share with anyone at the time," Ramirez said. "Because first of all, it was emotional and a little nerve-racking for me, as it was the first time I was in a room with so many people without masks on." Beyond the pressure of sitting down with the Reagan family, Ramirez was also starstruck at sharing a scene with Tom Selleck. "I so badly wanted to say something to Tom about the fact that, 'My grandmother was such a huge fan of yours.' But I knew I wouldn't have been able to get out the words without crying. ... [I] didn't want to look like a basket case at family dinner." 

It was also those memories of her late grandmother that helped her relax, though. "I kept thinking about her while I was there. And it almost made me feel more comfortable and calm, and just was able to really take in the surroundings and the warmth and the fact that they welcomed me there."

Sami Gayle looks up to series star Tom Selleck

The fourth and youngest generation is led by Nicky, the daughter of Erin and Commissioner Frank Reagan's granddaughter. Like most Reagans at her age, she starts her run on the show following the path to becoming a police officer. She joins the force in Season 8, making her the first woman in the family to do so after her mother went into law. She's played by Sami Gayle, who joined the cast at the age of 14. Having practically grown up on the set of "Blue Bloods," Gayle used her unique opportunity to learn from her experienced co-stars.

Gayle says that she's always eager to learn while filming. She can do that just by observing those around her, particularly series star Tom Selleck. "Tom is the best," Gayle told Outsider Magazine in 2021. "Tom, I feel like you can ask him any question about anything in the entire world and he will have the answer within one second." The way Gayle tells it, it sounds like Selleck has become something of a mentor to her over the years. "He is just so encouraging of everything that I do," she explained. "He is like a real grandfather to me."

Beyond that, Gayle has long appreciated the family atmosphere on the set of the series. "We have a real familiar bond between all of us on set that is amazing." 

Will Estes hates forgetting his lines

There's also the youngest Reagan brother, Sgt. Jamie Reagan, who is played by Will Estes. The star got his career started as a child and has appeared regularly in a number of shows over the years, including "Kirk" and "Meego" in the mid-'90s, "The Secret World of Alex Mack" not long after, and "American Dreams" in the early 2000s. Since 2010, though, he's played the youngest Reagan of his generation, but Estes explains that he has a bad habit during those dinner scenes that sometimes make things uncomfortable for him on the set of the police drama.

"It's a scary room to forget a line at because it's a really long scene to shoot and you're surrounded by consummate professionals," Estes said in an interview with WFSB in 2018. However, it seems those infamous dinner scenes, the ones that everyone else in the cast seems to love so much, aren't easy for him as they perhaps should be. "When you go up on a line at that table it's a lot of people watching you mess up. Literally, they will snore at you." 

Despite the friendly teasing, Estes holds a deep respect for his castmates, while co-star Vanessa Ray described Estes as being supportive, too. After joining the show, she remembered Estes as being as encouraging as Selleck was to him. "I had my friend here to help walk me through it."

Tony Terracianos loves to learn

Jack, son of Danny Reagan and his late wife Linda, is one of the youngest members of the Reagan family. Jack is a good kid but has gotten into some trouble as he's gotten older, from drinking to failing classes. He is played by Tony Terraciano, whose brother Andrew plays Sean. The two were just 10 and seven when the show first aired in 2010, and like their on-screen cousin Sami Gayle, they've spent their childhood on the set of "Blue Bloods," soaked up as much knowledge as they could from their older co-stars.

"Donnie [Wahlberg] is always helping me alongside [on-set coach] Matt [Newton] and the director," Tarraciano told Backstage in 2019. "Donnie's always giving me a different tip, he's always helping me out, and he's always giving me another way to think about my lines." 

Growing up on a TV series means balancing acting and school, which sometimes complicates things for the young actors. "Typically we work once a week, and that one day a week is about six or seven hours." That meant early days on the set for the youngsters, who'd miss the mornings at school before catching up in the afternoons. "Most of my teachers are very supportive and they're always willing to help me after school and catch me up on the work that I missed." 

Tom Selleck sets the tone on the set

Tom Selleck was one of the biggest television stars of the '80s, right up there with David Hasselhoff and Don Johnson. He may have struggled in the '90s to find another hit, but in 2010 he came roaring back with "Blue Bloods," leading a cast of talented stars that by all accounts have become a tight-knit group of actors who have a real connection on set. Like his character, New York Police Commissioner Frank Reagan, Selleck is a father figure to the cast who sets the tone with his knowledge and experience.

"Tom isn't that different than the commissioner," Estes told Looper exclusively back in 2021. "You come on set, and you know you're working with somebody who's very well studied and very professional and executes time and time again, every scene. You need to be on your toes when you work with him, which makes it a lot of fun." 

More than just a leading man, Selleck helps guide the cast to get the most out of them and make "Blue Bloods" as good as it can be. Estes explains Selleck finds ways to "architect the scenes that he's in. Things like, 'we need to stay ahead of the audience. We need to make sure that we don't tell them what we're going to do before we do it, whenever possible.' Just a ton of things like that. ... He could write, produce, and direct the show."

Donnie Wahlberg is an on-set mentor

Although television icon Tom Selleck is the biggest star on "Blue Bloods," he's not the only veteran actor who serves as a mentor on set. Donnie Wahlberg, who plays Danny Reagan, has also become well-known among his cast mates as another such guiding influence — in addition to being a jokester between takes. That's not just an industry rumor, either, as his co-star Marisa Ramirez has gone on record for her respect and admiration for the actor. 

During a Country Living interview, Ramirez opened up about what Wahlberg is like around the "Blue Bloods" set. "Other jobs I've had... I'm three years with this person or three months with this person, but this is now... We're at eight years, and I think our relationship has definitely evolved more so this year," Ramirez said. At the core of her experience on the series — which goes all the way back to Season 3 when she began playing Detective Maria Baez in a recurring role — has been her close relationship with Wahlberg. 

"We just love each other," Ramirez continued. "I'm so excited to be at work with him and to feel safe with someone who knows me, because I feel like I keep my guard up with other actors, or crew, or whoever, and this is a place where I can let it down ... It feels very safe and comfortable."