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The Untold Truth Of Blue Bloods

Reliably airing on Friday nights since 2010, "Blue Bloods" is an understated police drama about the Reagans, a tight-knit, salt-of-the-earth family of good guys who also just so happen to basically run law enforcement in Gotham. TV legend Tom Selleck portrays police commissioner Frank Reagan, his father is retired commissioner Henry Reagan, and Frank's three kids are all involved with the law: Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) is a detective, Jamie (Will Estes) is a police officer, and Erin (Bridget Moynahan) works in the District Attorney's office. In other words, their blood runs blue. Here's a look behind the scenes of the hit CBS drama.

Its ratings are surprisingly huge

It doesn't get a lot of media attention or social media chatter, but the numbers don't lie: "Blue Bloods" has long been one of the most popular shows on TV. As TV Insider reports, ratings for the series started strong and stayed there, making this long-running hit one of the more quietly durable phenomenons on the airwaves over the last decade-plus. Like a lot of CBS hits, "Blue Bloods" isn't necessarily drawing in a ton of younger viewers, but that could be partly due to its slot on Friday nights, when many members of the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic aren't home watching TV. That being said, the show has long ruled the roost on Fridays in terms of overall viewership — as of its twelfth season, it was still reliably pulling in roughly six million households a week.

Secrets of the Reagan family dinners

Probably the best known and most popular constant of "Blue Bloods" is the family dinner. Almost every episode has one, and it helps to maintain the sense of family that's really a through-line for the series. But the family dinners also take a tremendously long time to film — as long as five hours. Getting closeups and coverage of as many as nine different characters takes time, as does re-setting the table (and food) after each take in order to maintain continuity.

The actors tend to get a little stir crazy during the long shoots and react in different ways: Bridget Moynahan gets the giggles, while Donnie Wahlberg has to take a nap on a couch in the living room set next to the dining room set because he eats the prop dinner food all day long. "It's dinner, right? I gotta eat," he told Access Hollywood. Tom Selleck, on the other hand, tries to eat all the meat but uses a spit bucket for the rest of the meal.

Selleck also employs one other trick to get through the filming of the dinner scenes with his digestion intact. When he's delivering a line or the camera is otherwise trained on him, he'll often pick up a knife and start buttering his bread. This way, he doesn't eat too much food and continuity of his food props is maintained. And while the food is real, the flatware is not. Propmasters populate the Reagan dinner table with plastic knives, forks, and spoons. Early episodes of "Blue Bloods" utilized actual metallic silverware, but all the banging against plates proved too loud, according to CBS 58.

The show's creators were fired from The Sopranos

"Blue Bloods" was created by married writing team Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green. After penning episodes for "Northern Exposure" and "Party of Five," they reconnected with David Chase, who they'd worked with on the short-lived 1988 series "Almost Grown." He hired them in 1999 to write for a little mob drama he'd created for HBO called "The Sopranos." Burgess and Green helped craft the show in its early seasons, and were instrumental in helping develop it — that is, until they left under murky circumstances in 2006.

Chase had reportedly grown frustrated that the duo weren't writing enough episodes anymore, and that what they did write indicated that they didn't understand "the wiseguy mentality" of the characters. Green says he grew alternately distant (Chase moved her chair at the writer's table to a far corner where she says he wouldn't have to look at her) and hostile (he gave the duo a list of grievances going back 20 years) until they were essentially fired. It's probably not even the weirdest job Green ever had, though: in the late '60s, as a teenager, she worked as the personal receptionist for Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee.

It was almost filmed in Toronto

"Blue Bloods" is a show very much about New York, and very New York people. It's hard to imagine why, or if it would even be possible, to film the show anywhere else. But just shortly after it started shooting in 2010, the production almost packed up and moved north to Toronto. Massive city and state tax rebates meant to lure film production companies had expired, and the show would've been hard to film with its budget in the very expensive Big Apple. The show's production company negotiated a deal with the state and city governments at the last minute, keeping "Blue Bloods" in New York and out of Canada.

Behind cast member Jennifer Esposito's controversial exit

Jennifer Esposito was an original cast member on "Blue Bloods," portraying Detective Jackie Curatola. But early into filming of the show's third season in 2012, she collapsed on the set. It was a flare-up of Celiac disease, a condition she'd had for years. (It's a severe allergy to gluten, found in bread and grains, which leads to a number of ailments — such as passing out.) Esposito's doctor recommended she go on medical leave, and she immediately took a week off.

According to Esposito, CBS didn't think she was really that sick, and was just staying away from work as a ploy to get a raise. She asked for a medically necessary reduced work schedule, which the network responded to by firing her and issuing a statement which read, "Jennifer has informed us that she is only available to work on a very limited part-time schedule. As a result, she's unable to perform the demands of her role." The press release also said that the sudden disappearance of her "Blue Bloods" character, Det. Curatola would be explained by saying she took a leave of absence. To vill the void, actress Megan Boone was cast to play a new detective; Esposito weighed in on that news on Twitter, saying that "CBS got rid of the only minority cast member so they can have an ALL WHITE CAST like CSI."

The Catholic League protested an episode

Catholic advocacy organization the Catholic League once praised "Blue Bloods" as "one of the few TV shows to treat Catholicism fairly." That's mainly because strait-laced Frank Reagan has been depicted as a devoted churchgoer. That all changed in 2014, when Catholic League president Bill Donohue claimed his organization had been "bombarded with complaints" because of an episode in which Frank said that the Catholic Church was "a little behind the times" regarding its positions on homosexuality. The episode also featured a cardinal struggling with his sexual identity as well as an out lesbian nun. Donohue suggested that CBS was "turning on its audience" and that CBS was "committing suicide" with what he felt was an attack on Catholics.

A few more fun facts about the cast and show

When he was starring on the '60s-set NBC drama "American Dreams" in 2003, "Blue Bloods" cast member Will Estes played in the annual "Celebrity Jeopardy!" tournament, and he won. Estes beat country music star Brad Paisley and "Star Trek: Enterprise" actor Linda Park, securing $50,000 for New Leash on Life (a no-kill dog shelter) and CARE (a charity that fights poverty around the world).

At the 2014 PaleyFest NY, Tom Selleck noted that, unsurprisingly, some of the biggest fans of the show are real New York City police officers. He says they're so appreciative of the show that he'll even get a salute once in awhile, as if he's a real police commissioner.

Len Cariou (a Broadway icon who originated the title role in "Sweeney Todd" in 1979) plays the father of Tom Selleck's character. The age difference between the two actors: a little over five years.

When the show entered production in 2010, producers considered putting Selleck on the air without the mustache that helped make him famous. Selleck says executives from CBS specifically made him keep the facial fur.

Bridget Moynahan and Donnie Wahlberg were already friends before "Blue Bloods," as they once shot a pilot together. (It didn't get picked up.) But the rest of the cast bonded in a very particular way — they all went and saw a reunion performance by Wahlberg's old boy band, New Kids on the Block.

A recurring actor is a real-life EMT

A Jersey City, New Jersey, emergency medical technician named Adrian Matilla appeared as an extra and background actor multiple times throughout the first few seasons of "Blue Bloods," including the pilot. He liked the process of making TV so much that he decided to moonlight and began pursuing more acting gigs. Oddly enough, the real-life public servant got one of his first speaking roles on "Blue Bloods," the show about public servants. But his part in 2014 wasn't that of an EMT or police officer — Matilla played a drug dealer.

Some people think Blue Bloods is a little too pro-police

While the Catholic League has claimed that the show exhibited a liberal bias when it came to the Catholic Church and the LGBT community, left-leaning pundits claimed a different bias: that a 2014 episode was excessively "pro-cop" or was even "fascist-cop" propaganda. In the episode in question, Danny Reagan (Donnie Wahlberg) chases an African-American suspect, who then jumps out of a third-story window. Danny is beset with cries of police brutality and even a conspiracy by African-American leaders to try and take him down for this, and past violent actions toward suspects. In a thinkpiece for Slate, Laura Hudson wrote that while the Reagan family "think of themselves as good people" who "believe deeply in the ideas of justice and equality," the privileged Reagans "exist within a system that is rigged to favor them, and to erase the problems experienced by people who don't look like them."

How Tom Selleck prepared for the role of Frank Reagan

On "Blue Bloods," Tom Selleck plays New York City's police commissioner. To prep for the part, he didn't have to go far, as he's known real-life New York City police commissioner Bill Bratton for years. Selleck said that he considers Bratton's viewpoints to inform and provide depth as he portrays Frank Reagan's handling of difficult police and social issues. Selleck also read Bratton's book "Turnaround," which covers his years as police commissioner under New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. "Though they were on the same page philosophically," Selleck says, "there was a lot of conflict between the mayor and his police commissioner," a scenario that plays out often on "Blue Bloods."

The show's creators were fired

Not only were Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green fired from "The Sopranos," they were fired from "Blue Bloods," too — a show they created together. Despite the show being a smash hit right out of the gate, CBS parted ways with the creators at the end of Season 1 of "Blue Bloods." Why? CBS wanted the show to be more of a formulaic police procedural show — like "Criminal Minds," "CSI," "CSI: Miami," "Hawaii Five-O," "NCIS," "NCIS: Los Angeles," "The Mentalist," or any of the other formulaic police procedural shows airing on CBS in recent years. The show's creative staff and actors wanted it to be more of a blend of family drama and exploration of the broad issues facing police in modern society. Ironically, one of the show's first bosses, showrunner Ken Sanzel, left the show a few months earlier because he tired of fighting with star Tom Selleck ... who often complained that the show's scripts were too formulaic and procedural.

Amy Carlson didn't like how her character was written off Blue Bloods

Amy Carlson was part of the original cast of "Blue Bloods," portraying Linda Reagan, an emergency room nurse married to the oldest Reagan son, Danny (Donnie Wahlberg). Bumped up to a series regular from recurring status in Season 2, Carlson decided to leave the show after Season 7 when her contract with the series ran out, according to Deadline.

The show explained her absence with a shocking revelation in the Season 8 premiere: It's mentioned that Linda Reagan had died in a helicopter crash offscreen. Viewers were shocked and livid, and Carlson didn't much care for how her character exited "Blue Bloods" either. "I feel badly that she dies the way she dies," Carlson said. "I did not know they would do that, I was surprised. I wouldn't have done that." Carlson said that had she had the choice, she would have filmed a death scene.

The demise may have given an aging show new life. "What I think it has done is opened up a whole new bottle of storylines," "Blue Bloods" co-star Bridget Moynihan told TVLine. "I know it's sad to see somebody go, but it has reignited some beautiful, creative juices."

Will Estes didn't think Blue Bloods would last or his character's romance would work

Since "Blue Bloods" started its long run in 2010, Will Estes has played Jamie Reagan, youngest son in the Reagan brood and an officer-turned-sergeant in the New York Police Department. Estes was previously best-known for two series with relatively brief runs, the 2002-2005 NBC family drama "American Dreams" and the quickly canceled 2005 Fox mystery "Reunion." When "Blue Bloods," got going, he thought this new show would suffer the same fate as his other ones. He told PopCulture that he had no idea the show would last as long as it has, more than 11 seasons and counting.

Estes also arguably knows the character of Jamie Reagan better than anyone, and he balked when "Blue Bloods" writers decided to make a romantic couple out of Jamie and his professional partner, Eddie Janko (Vanessa Ray). "I never wanted them to get together. I hated the idea," Estes told Glitter. "I thought it would be the end of the storyline, and we would be missing the lesson from shows like 'The X-Files' — where the two characters wanting to be together but not wanting to cross the line provided tension and drama to explore. But I don't think that now."

Tom Selleck urged a Blue Bloods writer to revisit and resolve a storyline that irked him

"Blue Bloods" often explores the ethical issues facing police officers, particularly how New York City police commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) balances doing the right thing politically, morally, and personally. It's a complex puzzle that often doesn't have an easy answer, and that all played out in the 2018 episode "Legacy." Rookie officer Rachel Witten (Lauren Patten) detains a jaywalker who acts shifty and nervous, and she asks for his ID and then immigration status. The situation escalates as observers record it on their phone cameras, and it all makes headlines because it appears that Witten racially profiled the jaywalker. Even though she followed current police procedure to the letter, Frank Reagan has to fire Officer Witten for making the NYPD look bad.

According to TV Guide (via CBR), that ending didn't sit well with Selleck, so much so that he persuaded "Legacy" writer Allie Solomon to write a new episode a year later. "Milestones" gave Officer Witten a happier ending. Frank goes to a diner and finds that his server is Witten. As a New Year's resolution, he promises to admit when he's wrong, and in that regard, he re-hires the fired officer and assigns her as a partner to his daughter-in-law, Eddie Janko. Witten's reinstatement also brought Patton back to the show — she's appeared on more than a dozen episodes in the now-recurring role.

Blue Bloods cast members were embroiled in a New York City scandal

It's very difficult to get a license to carry a handgun in New York City, but "Blue Bloods" stars Tom Selleck, Bridget Moynahan, and Will Estes all managed to get one, according to two sources who spoke to the New York Daily News. The production maintains a close relationship with the New York City police department and government, which faced a corruption scandal — Lt. Paul Dean was sentenced to prison for bribery conspiracy in 2019. He alleged that his supervisor, Deputy Inspector Mike Endall, pulled strings for certain cast members of "Blue Bloods" who, if the rules had been properly followed, wouldn't have received a gun permit. For example, Selleck didn't meet the residency requirement, while others didn't provide proper documentation. All of it was also reportedly approved by ex-police commissioner Bill Bratton, whose wife, Rikki Klieman, appeared as a judge on a 2014 "Blue Bloods" episode. Additionally, a production supervisor, Paul Cabbad, had his license renewed (and then hand-delivered to him on the "Blue Bloods" set) despite a 2012 domestic violence arrest that should have led to a revoked license.

On behalf of its actors, CBS issued a denial of bad behavior. "The 'Blue Bloods' cast members believed they were following the appropriate application process," a CBS spokesperson said. "None of them are accused of any wrongdoing."

Blue Bloods adapted quickly and thoroughly to the coronavirus

The cast and crew of "Blue Bloods" was nearly finished producing a full season of episodes for the 2019-20 season, its tenth overall, when production was shut down in the spring of 2020 over coronavirus spread concerns. Only 19 installments were made, and writers had to shift a planned resolution of a major plot arc from Season 10 up to Season 11 — the re-emergence of long-lost relative Joe Hill. "We regrouped, brought him back in the beginning of this season. It was funny to start a season with this new character and then to sort of let it go away," showrunner Kevin Wade told Deadline.

"Blue Bloods" also had to redefine itself. Because of coronavirus shutdowns and protocols, Wade says the show was "bound to our sets" and couldn't film on location in the streets of New York as much as they'd done so in the past. "Blue Bloods," at least for a while, became less of an action show and more of a character drama. "It really turned into writing for our cast and to their relationships," Wade said.

One other way "Blue Bloods" responded to the coronavirus: According to The Hollywood Reporter, the production strongly considered purchasing a $125,000 robot that uses cutting-edge light-based technology to kill the COVID-19 virus.

Blue Bloods could have ended at 11 seasons

Owing to various production difficulties brought on by pandemic-era restrictions and guidelines, Season 11 of "Blue Bloods" consisted of just 16 episodes, far less than the usual 22 a broadcast network series generally produces. Ratings had also fallen to their lowest point in the show's run, so when showrunner Kevin Wade got word from CBS executives in November 2020 to prepare to write and produce a double-length season finale, he presumed the worst. "I immediately took [that] as they're planning to wrap up the series," Wade told Deadline. And so he prepped for the two-episode, back-to-back-airing season finale as if it were a series finale. The plot concerned an uncharacteristically high-stakes mission for the Reagan family, with everyone coming together to protect previously long-lost nephew Joe, an undercover ATF officer, so that his cover isn't blown.

The episode did leave some plot lines open or unresolved — which was fine, because CBS decided to renew "Blue Bloods" after production on Season 11 ended.

Which Blue Bloods cast members are actually from New York?

New York is a palpable and vital element that sets "Blue Bloods" apart from other police procedurals. Plots often focus on the issues faced by the NYPD and Big Apple residents specifically, and the show is filmed on location in New York. Adhering to the old acting trick of using real experiences to inform character building, some "Blue Bloods" cast members are actually from the New York area. But who are we talking about?

Bridget Moynahan (Erin Reagan) was born in Binghamton in upstate New York (per Us Weekly), and she's not the only local working on the show. Real-life brothers Tony and Andrew Terraciano play "Blue Bloods" brothers Jack and Sean Reagan. The siblings are from Pelham, a town in Westchester County, New York. This suburban enclave is about an hour outside of New York City. Growing up, they were like any other New York teens and could be spotted out and about in the city. "Sometimes I'll be at the movie theatre and someone will recognize me and my friends will be like, 'I always forget you're a movie star,'" Tony told CBS New York in 2016. "I'm like, 'Come on!'"

As for the rest of the main cast, Len Cariou is from Winnipeg, Tom Selleck is from Detroit, and Donnie Wahlberg was raised in the Boston area.

JFK's grandson made his acting debut on Blue Bloods

John F. Kennedy, the only member of the dynastic New England political family to ascend to the office of president of the United States, resided in the White House from early 1961 until his assassination in November 1963. He left behind two children, Caroline, born in 1957, and John F. Kennedy Jr., born in 1960. Kennedy Jr. died in a small plane crash in 1999, leaving no direct heirs, while Caroline Kennedy gave birth to John Bouvier Kennedy Schlossberg — or Jack — in 1993. Jack Schlossberg is the only grandchild of the late president.

Schlossberg studied history at Yale, lived in Japan where he worked for the Suntory whiskey company, then enrolled at Harvard Law and Harvard Business School. But just in case law or business don't work out for him, he can always give acting another shot. In 2018, Schlossberg made his acting debut in an episode of "Blue Bloods." His first and — as of this writing in 2022 — only role is that of New York City police officer Jack Hammer in the Season 8 finale of the popular procedural.

A long-serving cop helps make Blue Bloods realistic

"Blue Bloods" aims to tell compelling stories about law enforcement from the point of view of various individuals at different levels of the New York City Police Department. It's an entertainment series, but writers and producers strive to make it as realistic as possible. Producer James Nuciforo — who also has a recurring role on "Blue Bloods" as Detective Nuciforo — has served as the show's official technical advisor for police matters. He brings knowledge acquired across two decades of work in law enforcement to the table. "Let's say [it's] a 56-page script, I'll give them anywhere between five to ten pages of notes on the script, just plugging in dialogue with more jargon," Nuciforo told CBS 58.

Nuciforo keeps up to date with current NYPD scuttlebutt, meeting daily with members of the police force who also serve as bellwethers to determine if he's doing his job well. By and large, real-world police officers think "Blue Bloods" provides an accurate and measured portrayal of their profession. "We get a lot of positive response from police officers," Tom Selleck said, and his castmate Len Cariou has also experienced this. "They say, 'Thank you for your show, we love it because it makes us look like human beings,'" Cariou said. According to Vanessa Ray, getting positive feedback from cops is "the coolest part" of being on the show. "The NYPD guys are like, 'Are you Eddie Jenko? Can I get a picture?!' And I'm like, 'Can I get a picture with you?'"