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Will Estes Reflects On 12 Seasons Of Blue Bloods And Working With Tom Selleck - Exclusive Interview

It may be hard to believe, but CBS' hit series "Blue Bloods" is already in its 12th season. Equally amazing is that the core cast — Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynahan, Will Estes, and Len Cariou — has stayed intact the entire time. That may be part of the secret to its success.

"Blue Bloods," which airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on CBS, revolves around the tight-knit Reagan family, the majority of whom have chosen law enforcement as their career path. Selleck stars as patriarch Frank Reagan, the New York City police commissioner; Wahlberg plays eldest son Danny, an NYPD detective; and Estes portrays youngest son Jamie, an NYPD sergeant. While it can be argued that "Blue Bloods" is a police procedural, at the heart of the series is the Reagans' weekly family dinners where they all sit down to catch up on life.

In that same spirit, Looper recently sat down to exclusively chat with Estes, who dished on working with Selleck and Wahlberg, almost meeting Christian Bale, and how he hopes the series will eventually end.

Tom Selleck is very professional and precise on the set of Blue Bloods

It's hard to believe that we are already in the 12th season of "Blue Bloods." What do you think the secret of its longevity is, and what sets it apart from other procedurals?

I think it's slightly intangible. There are some great shows that didn't go very long — some of my favorite shows didn't go very long, as I think back. So, there's got to be a little bit of luck and a little bit of kismet in there. But I think that what sets us apart from other procedurals is that we're not really a procedural. We definitely have a lot of procedural elements, but I think we're a character-driven drama. Our show is more so about how these character's lives affect their work and how their work affects their personal lives and their inter-familial relationships and friendships. So, it kind of lives and breathes in that space as a drama, and that's part of its longevity — that and Tom Selleck as the consummate leader and commissioner and patriarch of the family. I think people want to see Tom, and then we are rounded out by a great cast and great writers and a great crew too.

What's it like having Tom play your dad?

It's awesome. You know, it's funny, Tom isn't that different than the commissioner. He is really so professional. He's so studied. He knows his character inside and out, and he does a lot in small ways to architect the scenes that he's in. 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. So you need to be on your toes when you work with him, which makes it a lot of fun.

What have you learned from him over these years, whether personally or professionally?

A ton of stuff. 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. There's 101 things. Just a ton of things like that, how certain things, certain dialogue can be trimmed if it's expositional or it's not getting us where we need to go or it's not progressing the story or the character arc. So I've just tried to soak up as much of that as I can. But he's very good. He could write, produce, and direct the show, but maintains that he just wants to perform as an actor.

Donnie Wahlberg is 'one of the most engaging people' Will Estes has ever met

What about working with Donnie Wahlberg, what's he like?

He's a huge pain. No, I'm kidding! It's fun. It's probably as much fun as I've ever had as an actor. I just got to do an episode where a hit gets put out on his character from some bad guys that he dealt with, and my character gets assigned through Lieutenant Gormley, and probably our father as well, to protect him. So baby brother comes over to his house and is assigned with kind of keeping Danny safe. And, as you can imagine, he's not that excited about his little brother coming over to his house to try to keep him safe and watch his back and help him take down the bad guys. So that was a lot of fun. Whether we're fighting or getting along, it's always a blast working with Donnie.

Any funny or memorable moments that stand out to you with either Tom or Donnie from the set recently?

Oh gosh, I don't know. You know, with Donnie, we laugh constantly between takes. It's kind of how we stay alive. We're always making jokes, and even when we've got a long day, we're always having fun and up to some antics one way or the other. I can't think of an example offhand, but it's how we keep the day moving, you know?

Anything with a Donnie or Tom fan that's ever surprised you — I know Tom has a lot of fans, but I'm guessing the Donnie fans probably show up at set a lot more often...

They'll show up at the crack of dawn in a crowd and wait half a day, a full day, just to see him and say hi. And Donnie is something that I've never seen before and experienced. He just completely engages with people. It's really incredible. I almost didn't know you could do that before I saw Donnie do it. But, you know, he'll go out and talk to people and he's friends with them and he's one of the most engaging people I've ever seen with his fans.

As for me, I had a great fan experience the other day. It was 5:30 in the morning. We all had just gotten to work. It was just before dawn and people were exhausted; we had a couple early days in a row. And this woman was driving by and she rolled the window down and yelled, "Jamie Reagan, I love you, 'Blue Bloods!'" And we went, "Yeah! That's the way to start a day!" And I was like, "Woo!" And it was just awesome. You know when you're there at like 6 in the morning and everybody's been up since 4:30 ... They're usually yelling for somebody else, so it was nice to get one. But, yeah, that was pretty funny.

He thinks Jamie and Eddie are finally ready for kids

Do you guys ever, as a cast, sit down and have dinner like the Reagans do?

We don't really have time. Everyone sort of has a different schedule. Some of us will go out of town on the weekends to be with family and whatnot. But we have on about three occasions, unless they're all doing it without me, which is possible. But, as far as I know, it's not happening on any regular basis.

This is kind of a broad question, but what's been your favorite storyline so far?

Anything I get to do with Donnie, and it was fun to get promoted [to sergeant]. So I've just been having fun with that. The stuff I really loved was in the very beginning, when I got to research my brother's death and try to find out what happened to him. He was murdered by crooked cops. So that was a really fun storyline, and just anything I get to do with Donnie and Vanessa Ray [who plays on-screen wife and fellow police officer Eddie].

On the flip side, do you wish there was a storyline that your character would tackle that he hasn't before?

I don't make a habit of wishing for things that haven't happened, but that's a good one. Not yet. I sort of feel like we've done it all, but certainly we haven't done it all just yet. I'll have to think about that.

Well, one thing that hasn't happened yet, in terms of Jamie and Eddie's relationship, the obvious next step would be children. Are they, the characters, ready for that?

Yeah, I think Jamie could do it. I think Jamie is ready for it. I definitely think Eddie could do it. The trick would be, like a lot of people find these days if everybody's working, who's watching the kids? You can obviously hire people and get help. And a lot of people do, but depending on your hours, that can be an intense situation. I know a lot of people find it's difficult to have a dog holding down a full-time job. So, you know, a kid is the next level, but are the characters ready? Could the characters do it? Absolutely, yeah. I haven't thought too much more about it, but I think so.

Estes hopes the characters 'walk off into the sunset'

Over the years, the show has had some memorable guests stars. Who has been your favorite guest so far?

There's been so many. We had Chazz Palminteri. I thought Whoopi Goldberg was fantastic playing opposite Tom. William Sadler playing Vanessa's father. I was honored and excited to be working with him. And gosh, so many others. It's hard to just pick one.

Do you have a dream guest that you hope will appear on the show someday?

Yeah, let me think who. I don't know. There's so many people I would like to work with. We've had such amazing guests, I don't know if it would sound presumptuous for me to start throwing out names. I don't have one ready to fire off. There's so many. I'm fans of so many people it might sound ridiculous if I start listing them all.

Now, 12 seasons is a long time and quite a respectful run for a series, but all good things must come to an end at some point. What do you think is a fitting ending for the show? Have you thought about that at all?

Yeah, I've thought about it. I've thought about it personally, because I've been on the show for so long, but I haven't thought about it much creatively. I don't know what that will look like creatively. I hope that we have some notice, you know? Donnie said they can't end the show without saying this is the final season or some version of that. And I think he's right. I hope we get that warning. We might not. But, yeah, I hope we know that it's coming and wrap it up so in some ways it can be like a movie, you want a fitting end to a story. And so I do hope we get a chance to know it's coming and to wrap things up and watch these characters walk off into the sunset, so to speak, when the show goes down. But maybe it just never will. Maybe we'll just ride on into the "Law & Order" sunset, you know?

He didn't want to bother Christian Bale

Switching gears a little, and I know it was a small part and has been a while, but I wanted to ask you about your work on "The Dark Knight Rises." What did you learn from that experience?

I only have stories I can't tell. [Laughs.] But it was a tremendous experience. Difficult, but tremendous. It was a lot of fun. If you blink, you miss me in the movie, I'll just put that out there. I auditioned with a big scene and when I got there, they said here, that's your line. And I was like, isn't there more? Where's the scene? And they were like, that's your line, and that was it. But it was obviously really exciting just to be there.

I was standing next to Christian Bale in the bat suit one time. I think the suit was really uncomfortable, but I really wanted to talk to him because, you know, he's Christian Bale. And he's Batman. And so I was going to talk to him when he was standing there but he just seemed really uncomfortable. So, I went to talk to him and I decided against it. But then I went to talk to him again, and then a third time, and he raised a juice box — I guess that's like the only thing he could drink out of on the set. He took a sip out of like a little kid's juice box, you know? And I said, you know what, I'm not going to bother Christian Bale today. The guy is Batman. And so I never met Christian Bale, but I stood about 10 feet from him, and that was exciting. I was close. I was very close.

On your Twitter account, you tend to post socially and environmentally conscious statements, and I've read that you're a vegetarian. Why are those things important to you?

I'm not completely vegetarian. Some people would say I'm close, but I do eat some fish and eggs. But it's important to me because we've only got this one planet. And I don't think that you can divorce the idea of a healthy planet and a decent quality of life for any of us. We don't have clean air, we don't have clean water, we don't have good food. I don't see how anybody thinks they're going to have any quality of life. So, I just can't divorce the idea of protecting our natural resources in our wild places and the health of our planet from the health of us and our wellbeing, all of us.

I think that people made a mistake in the beginning of the environmental movement, thinking that we can make it about protecting the trees and people will get it. Of course, it's about not deforesting the planet because, you know, the Amazon, other places like that are sort of the lungs of the planet, our oceans as well. But it's not just about that. It's not just about protecting a tree. Yeah, they make oxygen, so we have to protect the trees. But I just believe in the preservation of biodiversity and wild places and think our wellbeing and our very lives depend upon it.

"Blue Bloods" airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS and is available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.