To play the role of a cop, you’ve got to do more than just put on the uniform. And if anyone knows how to transform into an authoritative badass, it’s Will Estes of Blue Bloods on CBS. In the past Will has played a cop, a corporal, and a marine. He didn’t stop there though; now he plays Jamie, a New York City police officer somewhat new to the game–he’s basically a kid with serious guts. After graduating from Harvard, Jamie decided to go a different route and follow in the footsteps of his father (Tom Selleck) and brother (Donnie Wahlberg).
Not a stranger to the armed forces, Will sat down with MF and told us why uniforms attract him (and women).
MF: You’ve played a few servicemen. What draws you to roles like this?
WE: I enjoy it. The Sopranos was a show about villains. But [Blue Bloods] is a show about heroes, real-life heroes that wear uniforms. They are firemen and police officers, and that’s what the show’s about.
Tell me how you trained for the role mentally and physically.
We have an incredible technical advisor on the show who was a detective with the NYPD for 24 years. He did homicide, and has seen it and done it all. I go to him for everything, and I just try to soak it all up. For me as an actor, what helps me are the finer points, the small nuances and the things that give insight into the mentality and the emotional content of the work, of the job, of being a police officer.
I try to train based on the role. I played a marine once so all I did was running, pushups and boxing. I did anything that was combat-oriented. I would go shoot and box and just sort of get into the whole mindset. In general I just like to run around and stay active. I did a little gymnastics when I was a kid so I’ll run around and find a bar and try to do as many pull-ups as I can do. In terms of nutrition, I just try to eat clean.
Can you give an example of something small you took from your research?
You have to deal with people in a way that no one else does. I mean, you learn to come in and control an isolated situation with other human beings for your safety and for their safety. You learn to deal with people and the roughest elements of society in a way that nobody else really does. That’s why I think when you look at somebody who’s a cop or military personnel not in uniform, you can just feel it. You don’t know what it is, but you can tell that they’re a cop or military person, and I think it’s because the job changes you.
What qualities do you think a person has to have in order to pursue that career?
I think you’ve got to have thick skin. It’s true that police are really scrutinized these days. I think that it’s a frustrating part of the job. I mean, if you discharge your weapon in self-defense, you’re guilty until proven innocent.
Playing this role, what’s been the biggest challenge for you?
Probably the winter in New York. No, I’ll be honest with you. I read this pilot and it was my favorite thing that I’ve read in a long time. I’ve always wanted to play a cop on television.
Why is that?
I saw myself in a suit, not in the uniform. Like a detective. But I love the uniform, too. They say that all songs are love songs. I think 90% of great stories are stories about heroes. And I think a cop in a uniform or a detective in a suit is a quintessential hero. It’s about justice. And I think there’s a reason that there are a lot of cop shows on television. Justice is often a really interesting story and there are a lot of different stories within the element of right and wrong and where you draw the line and the gray area. They make for good stories.
Why do you think the NYPD is admired by some, but hated by others?
I don’t know why that is. My guess is that its because New York is the biggest fastest city in the world. And it is, I think in a lot of ways, still the front door to the United States of America for more immigrants than anywhere else that want to visit here or want to be Americans. So its a super fluid, dynamic situation to police. There is sometimes a negative connotation for NY police officers among New Yorkers, but those people haven’t had to police New Yorkers either. It’s one of the toughest jobs in the world. It’s just a really dynamic situation. Just running around and trying to film NYC, you get a sense of what it would be like to police it. It’s intense.
We were shooting right near Times Square and these two guys came up and they were wearing suits. And I knew they were detectives just because I know what a detective in a suit looks like after working on this show. I was in my uniform and I was standing on the sidewalk. It’s a real uniform, so anyone would assume I’m a police officer from five feet away. So one of the detectives starts to ask me about what it is like being on duty while there’s a shoot going on. The other detective stopped him and said, “He’s not a real cop,” and he says “What are you talking about”? and he says “The collar brass.” He’s talking about the collar brass on my uniform, which says 12, but there’s no 12 precinct in real life. It’s like a 555 phone number for the movies.
What do you think it is that women love so much about a man in uniform?
I don’t know. That’s like, one of those eternal questions. Your guess is as good as mine.
All you know is you’re lucky to be wearing it for a job.
All I know is I’ll wear that uniform ’til the day I die.
See Will in action every Friday at 10/9c on CBS.
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