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Tom Selleck and Robert B. Parker Chat About TV Movie 'Jesse Stone'

For one generation Tom Selleck will always be Magnum. Images of his robust mustache, a red Ferrari and tacky Hawaiian shirts instantly leap to mind. But for another generation he is Monica's boyfriend on 'Friends' and now thanks to tough-guy character Jesse Stone, Selleck is forging a new image for a new generation of TV viewers.

'Jesse Stone: Night Passage' is the prequel to last year's ratings success 'Stone Cold' and in it we learn about Jesse's past as a LAPD cop and how he came to be police chief in a small town in Massachusetts.

Tom Selleck and Robert B. Parker, the author of the Jesse Stone novels, recently chatted with AOL Television editor Sean Doorly about what makes Jesse Stone tick, Selleck's famous mustache and 'Spring Break Shark Attack.'



Why do you think the first movie was a big ratings success?
Selleck: I'm not sure. (Laughs). I do know we were up against 'Desperate Housewives' and they can do no wrong. I know we are not curing cancer and I thought if I talked about 'Desperate Housewives' and that how I had friends on the show, then maybe people would sample us for a change. It at least let people know what night we were on and what time.

What did you learn from the first movie?
Selleck: We got a real positive response from Bob [Parker] and to me, that meant we were on the right track. While we cannot follow his book letter for letter, my obligation as the executive producer and actor was to capture the spirit of these books and the voice of the character. That he was happy in those aspects gave me more confidence that we could really undertake a series of these books and probably be on the right track.

Were you happy with the movie?
Parker: 'Stone Cold' got the characters as good as I have ever seen in 30 years of this business. Tom nailed that character and I'm thrilled. I actually cried during 'Stone Cold.'

What makes this series of movies different?
Selleck: I praise CBS for taking a risk, which is always the price you pay for opportunity. This is not standard movie of the week storytelling. I think movies of the week have fallen into a niche and that isn't my niche. I said that I wanted to make something that looks like a feature film and used those storytelling techniques. I don't feel the obligation to have a big explosion in the first 20 seconds so the audience doesn't turn on another channel. We are trying to make something that looks like a feature film that was bought for television and I think we are succeeding.

Parker: The big explosion at the beginning of the film is Tom. You tune into to see Tom Selleck. This is not just some standard boom boom.

What were some of the challenges?
Selleck: It is scary for an actor when you get hired as a lead. No matter what the plot is, it is your job to do something interesting enough to make them want to get inside the lead character's head. It is so different that it appears new. We didn't invent this, but we have a really good director Robert Harmon who has established a visual style. We have the rare privilege of having him directing the first three movies.

What makes Jesse Stone tick?
Parker: Jesse Stone is a guy for whom life has not gone well except for police work and the police work is all he has. He pursues it grimly, with integrity, with skill and with an ironic sense that he knows that this is all he has and he better damn well do it because otherwise he will have nothing but the bottle. He can sit quietly and you know there is a struggle. There is always tension and strain between the wreckage of his personal life and his near-impeccable performance as a cop, which he has to have in order to survive.

Selleck: You've got a guy who has a tendency to brood but the audience has to watch him. That is a big challenge to show the humanity of the guy -- to earn the moments when he is sitting alone thinking. We have the arrogance to think the audience will want to watch that. I'm not knocking other movies of the week, but we were preceded by 'Spring Break Shark Attack' the week before and we are not that.

It's great to see mustaches on TV again. Have you seen 'My Name is Earl' and what do you think of his mustache?
Selleck: Earl's mustache is coming along well and when he reaches puberty, it will really fill in. (Laughs) That's a joke. I have my mustache now when people want it or when it is OK for that character. I have thrown plenty of spoofs at my mustache on 'Conan O'Brien.' Every time I go on 'Conan,' we make fun of my mustache.