Tom Selleck has been very busy.
Having successfully launched the CBS police-family drama series "Blue Bloods," the Emmy winner is continuing his recurring and typically high-rated "Jesse Stone" movies, based on the late Robert B. Parker's novels about a personally troubled small-town lawman. CBS debuts the seventh film -- "Jesse Stone: Innocents Lost," on which Selleck also is a writer and executive producer -- Sunday, May 22.
No longer police chief of fictional Paradise, Mass., Stone is grappling as usual with liquor and his ex-wife when he's rocked anew: A teen he tried to help go straight is found dead, and he independently probes the tragedy while consulting on the case of a possibly innocent murder convict. Gloria Reuben ("ER") joins a cast that also includes returnees Kathy Baker, William Devane, Stephen McHattie, William Sadler and Saul Rubinek.
"It was quite a while ago," Selleck says of making the movie. "If I were king of the network, I would run two 'Jesse Stones' a year, so it was hard waiting for this to come out. Audiences don't seem to mind, though. I think we work very hard on making each movie stand alone, but those who have seen the others get a real bonus. I don't want to put off new viewers, but this particular one might be Jesse's low point. Things have been going downhill for him for a while."
The "Jesse Stone" dramas notably rely on words more than action, which isn't to say "Innocents Lost" lacks such moments; one such scene involves night-vision goggles.
"We don't feel an audience has to work a lot," Selleck says, "but we do say, 'You have to listen. And if you listen, you're going to be entertained.' These are mysteries, and television is so dedicated to explaining everything before the audience has a chance to figure it out, that's been the key to our success here. The audience gets that chance.
"I think these things hark back to 1940s detective stuff. When we're doing them right, we're channeling Robert Parker in terms of the dialogue and the spirit. That's very important to us, especially now (after Parker's death)." Indeed, in "Innocents Lost," Stone speaks such distinctive lines as, "I'm working on the new me" and "I'm not a good basket to put all your eggs in."
Since Jesse Stone remains rough around the edges, Selleck appreciates the contrast with his "Blue Bloods" character, the police commissioner of New York.
"By necessity, he has to be straight-arrow," he reasons of Frank Reagan. "He probably has to enforce laws he doesn't agree with, but Jesse is a different guy. Increasingly, I think of him as a small-town sheriff who makes up his own rules. Has he paid the price? Yes, but he's very effective in getting the people he thinks should be gotten, sometimes by less-than-legal rules."
With production partner Michael Brandman (who also is writing new Stone novels), Selleck has a commitment from CBS for an eighth "Jesse Stone" movie titled "Benefit of the Doubt," now filming during the "Blue Bloods" hiatus. The Stone capers also have proven popular on DVD, another source of satisfaction for Selleck.
"I'm rather stunned," he says. "The week the sixth one was released, with virtually no promotion, it was No. 2 in sales competing against feature films. Once they're hooked, people seem to want them all, and I'm delighted. I'm proud of the work."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun