Tom Selleck Reflects on His ‘Lucky Life,’ ‘Accidental’ Career and 4 Decades of Loving Wife Jillie (Exclusive)

Tom Selleck Reflects on His ‘Lucky Life,’ ‘Accidental’ Career and 4 Decades of Loving Wife Jillie (Exclusive)

Tom Selleck shot at home in Thousand Oaks, CA on 3/20/2024
Tom Selleck stares silently over 63 acres of land rolling out from a hillside on his ranch.

A few things have changed since he bought the Ventura County, Calif., property in 1988. Droughts destroyed almost all the farm’s avocado trees and decimated about 25 oaks that were more than 100 years old. “That just breaks your heart,” the actor, 79, tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “But with the rain we’ve had, the sick ones are getting better, and they’re all sprouting a lot of healthy growth.”

When he’s home every two weeks from shooting his long-running hit CBS series Blue Bloods — which is now in its final season — in New York City, the actor likes to start his days reading the papers and then riding around the ranch on his ATV to check on all his wildflowers.

“I’ve planted them for years and they bloom in cycles,” he explains. “When it’s coldest, one of them blooms and then another one comes in. I know it sounds stupid, but I just watch them grow.”

After more than five decades in Hollywood, Selleck is more than content leading a serene life. Having finally found mega-success at age 35 starring as a Vietnam veteran-turned-private investigator on the ’80s smash hit Magnum, P.I., which won him an Emmy, the 6’4” star never relished being in the spotlight or pandered to the heartthrob hype, despite his rugged handsomeness.

Even as he continued to dazzle audiences for years in films such as High Road to China and Three Men and a Baby, as well as TV shows like Friends and Las Vegas, he maintained his self-effacing nonchalance. Now he’s ready to share his journey from struggling actor to TV icon in a new memoir, You Never Know, out May 7.

The idea of ​​writing his life story gave the ultra-private star more than a bit of trepidation. “I don’t have the hooks that a lot of people do,” he says. “I didn’t rehabilitate myself or have this tragic life. I had my own share of certainly ups and downs, but I’ve been very lucky.”

Taking a chair in a restored 1910 hunting lodge on his property — which has long been his refuge from the industry — Selleck is the very picture of a family man. His wife, Jillie, 66, along with their daughter Hannah, 35, and his adult son, Kevin (whom he shares with ex-wife Jacqueline Ray), are his priorities.

His memoir, which he wrote out in longhand and took four years to finish (delayed by COVID), “is a lot about failing, endless failures,” he explains. “If you’re going to get in the acting business, you better get an appetite for it. And I tried to communicate that… Because it was kind of a long road.”

For Selleck, who won a full basketball scholarship to USC while majoring in business administration, acting wasn’t even a thought. He lucked into his first job — portraying a basketball player in a Pepsi commercial — and got tapped as a bachelor on The Dating Game. “It is really the story of an accidental career,” he insists. “I’d never taken an acting class. I had no training, no desire.”
In 1967, he did a stint on The Young and the Restless, appearing in several Western movies and landed small parts on shows like The Rockford Files before his breakthrough role on Magnum came along in 1980. “People would say, ‘Oh, he was bitten by the acting bug’ or, ‘He wanted to be a star,’” Selleck says. “I’ve never talked that way in my life. I just wanted to get a job and work.”

The actor met his wife Jillie in 1983 in London when she was performing in the musical Cats and the two got married in 1987. They welcomed daughter Hannah the following year. Selleck says he most loves “the friendship” between him and his wife, adding, “And Jillie’s sense of humor.”

These days, the star — who is definitely not an avid TV watcher — prefers to spend his free time going over Blue Bloods scripts with Jillie by his side. “I’m one of the last guys to see it, and I’m a good editor,” says Selleck, who’s also an executive producer on the series.

And in the quieter moments? “A cigar and a glass of whiskey is a nice way to end the day,” he added. “I’ve had a very good life, a very lucky life. I don’t know if it’s what I figured I’d be doing, but it’s with a lot of gratitude.”

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