Tom Selleck talks Stone tough

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Tom Selleck starred in one of TVs great detective shows, Magnum P.I. From its Hawaiian locale to its hero's mustache, the show is an iconic symbol of 1980s television.

Selleck went on to a successful career in movies and a recurring role on the popular show Friends. Now, Selleck returns with Jesse Stone: Death in Paradise, airing Sunday, April 30 at 9 p.m. Stone is a creation of novelist Robert B. Parker, who also created the TV character-turned-show Spenser, For Hire.

In this, the third Jesse Stone TV movie, Stone is now a New England sheriff who runs afoul of the Boston mob. Selleck says he loves working in TV because he likes the history that can be built with a recurring character.

"The opportunity to examine a character on an ongoing basis is something I enjoy," the actor said over the phone Thursday. "With these shows, we try to make them stand on their own, but for regular viewers there is an added bonus. We found that with Magnum there was a wonderful cumulative narrative."

Selleck laughed when remembering a story in the press about him telling CBS that he wasn't sure if he "fit in into the movie of the week category."

"The story only had that part, but not the second part of what I had said--that CBS really took a chance and allowed us to make a real movie. They let [director] Robert Harmon and all of us tell a real movie-style story. I just wanted to set that straight. I am very proud of these movies."

Selleck admits he doesn't rush out and buy the latest hardcover from the Stone book series--but only because he is too busy.

"In this case, I was too busy to read it. We shot Night Passage and Death In Paradise back to back, filming them both in Halifax. As soon as I was done with them, I caught up with Sea Change. I am a big Robert Parker fan and I am always anxious to see where he is going with the character. Sea Change opened very well on the bestseller lists, and right now there is a Sea Change script in the works."

Selleck says fans of the books have been pleased with the movies.

"We don't get too many angry letters from people saying we cut this or we cut that. Also, Robert [Parker] is really great about letting us do what we need to do. He understands that movie storytelling is different from book storytelling."

When asked if he would return to series television, the actor says he would consider it.

"Never say never. Magnum went off the air as the number one show, so it's not like we were fired. I quit to have a family. I always weigh things against my family. But if I was king then there would be twenty more of these movies."

Death In Paradise goes up against a tough Sunday-night crowd of Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, and The Sopranos. Selleck says he isn't worried about the competition.

"Last time, in January, we went up against Desperate Housewives and the premiere of 24, but people found us anyway. When we ended up a top 20 show, I was pretty pleased."

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