It’s been seven months since we shared Sunday dinner with the close-knit Reagans on Blue Bloods, CBS’s long-running hit. The May 1 meal turned out to be a very special occasion: Officer Joe Hill (Will Hochman), the newly discovered grandson of NYPD police commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck), won the honor of sitting at the family table.
“It was really a special room to find myself in,” recalls Hochman, who now recurs on the drama, of shooting that scene. “It was quite the departure from the most recent thing I’d done, which was a two-person show on Broadway!”
During the lengthy hiatus, lots of unsettling stuff has been happening in the real world, and Blue Bloods won’t ignore the issues that affect the police force. Stressing that this “show about a family of white cops” was “never politically driven,” executive producer Kevin Wade explains, “In the season going forward, we try to provide the points of view of the people who are charged with protecting and the people who sometimes charge them with stepping over boundaries in that protection. Those are both true and fair stories to tell.”
Adds Selleck: “We’re staying true to Blue Bloods. We deal with the changing political environment, but my sense of it is that people need to escape a bit from everyday life right now, and we’re going to deliver on that. We’re very much in touch, but not in a ripped-from-the-headlines sort of way.”
Here’s a preview of what’s on the Blue Bloods family’s docket.
Frank’s Challenge…and His Second Chance
Season 11 really gets inside Frank’s head, beginning with a low point. Reveals Selleck: “Frank is seriously considering resignation. The job is so wearing on him. He’s looked for ways out before, but this time it’s serious. He doesn’t think he’s being effective in this antipolice climate, and he can’t protect the rank and file. So maybe it’s time for new blood.”
Making things worse, Mayor Chase (Dylan Walsh), a former ally, is distancing himself from the police, and activist city council speaker Regina Thomas (Whoopi Goldberg, back for a third time) publicly attacks Frank and the department, calling for defunding and retraining. “They’ve always been able to talk,” Selleck notes, “but now, he’s unable to move her off her rigid point of view.”
Closer to home, getting to know Joe Hill — the secret son and namesake of his eldest, who was killed by corrupt cops before we met the Reagans in 2010 — “is stunningly huge and very emotional for Frank,” says Selleck. “Frank has always carried a certain amount of guilt [over son Joe’s death] because of his sense of responsibility. Though he didn’t give the order for the job Joe was on, he [feels he] ordered him into harm’s way. So meeting his grandson is kind of a second chance.”
Joe’s Good Deed
The young officer “is a shining star of the newcomer cops,” Selleck explains. Why that’s so is quickly revealed in the season premiere, when Joe undertakes a very personal search-and-rescue mission with his uncle, Sgt. Jamie Reagan (Will Estes), and again in the December 11 episode. “Joe is caught on camera doing something heroic while off-duty,” reveals Hochman. (Side note: To avoid confusion between Estes and Hochman, castmate Donnie Wahlberg jokes, “I now refer to the two Wills as ‘Will’ and ‘Will Not.’ I won’t say which is which!”)
With the spotlight on him, the question for Joe is whether he wants to carry the burden of being a Reagan — really, the first family of New York City law enforcement — as a rising officer in the department. “Frank understands Joe’s dilemma, having been the son of a dad who was the PC [Len Cariou’s Henry Reagan],” Selleck says. “He got a lot of crap for it and charges that things were easy. It made him very sensitive about showing favoritism to his kids. So does Joe want to let people know [who he really is], which will change his life, or do we keep that secret?”
Adds Wade: “It’s a very clear choice that Joe has to make — but it’s a difficult one.”
Danny’s New Leaf
With Wade’s input, Wahlberg has been rethinking his brash character of Frank’s elder son, Det. Danny Reagan. The result: “Danny is more aware on a personal level that being the kind of rogue cop who breaks rules and steps on boundaries, if it was ever cool, is really not cool now,” says the producer. “Many of the [early] stories revolve around him making choices based on the fact that the climate has changed, that public opinion of police has been influenced by some brutal behavior.”
Danny will get some help this season from his new commanding officer, Lt. Mike Gee (recurring star Eric B., of the hip-hop duo Eric B. & Rakim). According to Wahlberg, the CO “is a little older and wiser and gives Danny the latitude he needs to keep his intensity while encouraging him to try new approaches to solving cases. I guess you could say he teaches Danny to play chess instead of checkers.”
Offscreen, the actor adds, “Eric B. is a close friend I trust for guidance and have tremendous respect for. In that way, Danny and Mike’s relationship mirrors [ours].”
With scandal surrounding the corrupt district attorney, Samar Charwell (Aasif Mandvi), Erin Reagan (Bridget Moynahan) — currently the bureau chief of the Manhattan DA’s office — is more than ready to take over the job if required. A Reagan in the position could be controversial but also helpful to mediate tensions between law and order. There’s another strong candidate, however: Kimberly Crawford (Roslyn Ruff, Madam Secretary), recently an assistant district attorney in Atlanta. It would be up to Mayor Chase to choose an acting DA.
Whatever happens, Erin’s professional life will change dramatically — especially in terms of her interactions with the mayor. “She has [an existing] relationship with him,” the producer adds. “We will look to harvest stuff there.”
Based on his Harvard law degree and his quick rise to sergeant, it will be no surprise if Jamie keeps climbing the NYPD ranks. “As the seasons go on, Jamie becomes more like Frank,” Wade says. He may not be aiming for One Police Plaza like his dad and granddad, but Jamie is “probably headed in that direction to take the lieutenant’s exam. He has a leadership quality that includes diplomacy and cool heads prevailing.”
The Reagans’ Surprise Guest
Joe may have been an unexpected attendee at the Season 10 finale’s family meal, but he is still, at least by birth, a Reagan. In the premiere, a place is set for another guest with no blood ties. For those who haven’t yet seen the episode, we won’t spoil who it is — but we will hint that fans have said for many years that this popular character deserves the honor.
“I’m excited to have more faces at the table,” Wahlberg says. “We should have tried it sooner because many passionate and wide-ranging conversations happen at the Reagan dinner table. But the table was always too full.”
Blue Bloods, Season 11 Premiere, Friday, December 4, 10/9c, CBS
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