In 2012, when CBS passed on airing more telepics in the “Jesse Stone” series after the eighth installment, Tom Selleck never shopped the property.
Selleck was eager to continue playing the rough-hewn police chief created by novelist Robert B. Parker, but he never picked up the phone, never took a meeting. He waited for the right buyer to come to him.
Finally, the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel knocked on the door. Selleck wasn’t surprised, given that the cabler has run the sprockets out of the eight “Jesse Stone” pics made between 2005-2012.
“The ‘Jesse Stone’ movies aren’t cheap,” Selleck told Variety. “I basically said, ‘Here’s what I want.’ If anybody wants to do it, that’s what they have to give us. And unless somebody guarantees me a couple of pictures, where we can reinvigorate our audience and do something with production value, I’m not selling it again.”
Truthfully, Sony Pictures Television is the owner and ultimate arbiter of the “Jesse Stone” franchise. But Selleck is Jesse Stone. So any deal had to be on his terms. The actor loves the franchise so much that he squeezed an eighth pic out of CBS when the network courted him to star in “Blue Bloods,” the police drama series now in its fifth season.
Hallmark has struck a deal with Sony TV for at least two more movies. “Jesse Stone: Lost in Paradise” is set to begin lensing — with Nova Scotia again subbing for coastal Massachusetts — in early May, about a month after Selleck wraps on “Blue Bloods.” Selleck is co-writing the script with Michael Brandman, as he has on the last five installments. He and Brandman also exec produce.
“I’m at about page 65,” Selleck said Thursday during a break from filming “Blue Bloods.” “I know where the rest goes.”
The movie series has veered from the Parker novels over the past few installments. Parker, who died in 2011 after penning nearly 70 books, was “cool with that,” Selleck said. “We had kind of dismantled Jesse’s universe in the past. In (movie) No. 8 we started to put that universe back in order.”
In the next go-round, Stone will find himself with too much time on his hands in his small town of Paradise, Mass. Stone is a master detective, but he also battles issues with the bottle and his ex-wife, in varying degrees depending on his mood.
“Jesse’s problem is he’s done too good of a job of cleaning up Dodge. He’s not doing anything but writing parking tickets, which is not very good for him,” Selleck said. “He needs something. He goes to Boston, which is a little bit of a commute, and tries to find a homicide that they would like solved.”
Casting is now coming together, as is the director. Selleck is confident that the pic will score with the faithful. The CBS movies typically pulled up upwards of 15 million viewers (the last installment averaged 12.8 million in its premiere) without much promotion, although they skewed to an older demographic.
Selleck scored an Emmy nom for his work in 2007’s “Jesse Stone: Sea Change” without any campaigning. That told him that some people in the industry are paying attention.
“More than anything else people come up to me all the time asking ‘When can I see Jesse Stone again?’ ” Selleck said. “I’m very happy with the writing process. I think we will be able to reward the audience with our consistency. We have our deliberate film noir-ish style.”
With “Jesse Stone” back in action and “Blue Bloods” likely on its way to a sixth season, Selleck is in a good place career-wise. On “Blue Bloods” he commutes from the West Coast to New York City twice a month to film most of his scenes in four-day stints.
“That’s been nice because it gave me a way to have a life,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything harder in all of television than doing a network television hour. You see all these (cable) shows that do 10 episodes with twice the (budget). Network is really hard work, and I think the work we do is just superb.”