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Blue Bloods' Len Cariou Reflects On Working With Bruce Willis On Death Wish – Exclusive

While Len Cariou may be best known for playing Henry Reagan on the hit series "Blue Bloods" and originating the title role in "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" on the Broadway stage, the veteran actor has a long, impressive résumé in between those two career-defining characters. In addition to winning a Tony Award for "Sweeney Todd," Cariou has starred in dozens of Broadway productions. And as a screen actor he has had memorable roles in "Murder, She Wrote," "Spotlight," and "Bumblebee," among other projects.

In 2018, Cariou appeared alongside Bruce Willis in the Eli Roth-directed remake of the vigilante action thriller "Death Wish," playing Willis' renegade character's father-in-law. Just four years later, the world was recently shocked to learn that the 67-year-old Willis was suffering from the brain ailment aphasia, which impairs language and speech, alongside his announcement that he was retiring from acting.

During an exclusive interview with Looper, Cariou — whose current series "Blue Bloods" airs Friday nights on CBS — fondly recalled working with Willis on "Death Wish," revealing the unusual connection they once shared from a time before Willis was famous.

Bruce Willis used to serve Len Cariou drinks at a bar in New York

The 82-year-old Len Cariou worked closely with Bruce Willis on "Death Wish," portraying his father-in-law in the film, which is a remake of the 1974 movie of the same name starring Charles Bronson. The two actors immediately hit it off, remembering a surprising connection they had decades earlier, before Willis' acting career took off.

"We had a good time," Cariou told Looper. "Bruce, I knew from when he was a bartender at the West Bank Café in [the Theater District in] New York. I hadn't seen him in years and years, but we had a few laughs about that. He even remembered what I drank." Beyond that serendipitous link, Cariou added that nothing out of the ordinary happened on the "Death Wish" set.

"It was fine," he shared. "I was amazed to hear of the problems that he's had, and that he's pretty much been forced to retire. That's a shame. He had an incredible career, so it can be ... 'bang,' one day. Apparently, it had been going on for quite some time, as this turns out. People said they were recognizing it years ago. I certainly didn't when I did 'Death Wish' with him. I didn't notice anything."

You can watch Cariou's current series, "Blue Bloods," which is in its 12th season, Fridays at 10:00 p.m. ET on CBS.