Blue Bloods

The Untold Truth Of The Reagan Family Dinner On Blue Bloods

People who want to watch cops catching bad guys and lawyers prosecuting them have plenty of shows to choose from. But what sets Blue Bloods apart are the close bonds between the members of the family at its center, the Reagans. While most family drama comes from relatives who have nothing in common, the Reagans are all in law enforcement, but still find plenty to lovingly squabble over.

With each of the Reagans off working on their own cases during the week, the place where those bonds get to grow — and occasionally fracture and repair — is over the table at the weekly Sunday dinner. Conversation and debates range from family issues like Nicky’s (Sami Gayle) tattoo and Erin’s (Bridget Moynahan) parenting style, to advice on tricky cases and the politics of police life.

Many shows about police work mostly ignore the officers’ private lives, to the point where you could be forgiven for thinking they all sleep under their desks or in their cruisers. Returning to the family home every week makes the Blue Bloods characters feel more like real people: they could be your hot-tempered uncle or your straight-laced, wryly funny grandpa. This is why the Sunday dinner scenes have become the heart of the show — even though they’re harder to shoot than you might expect. This is the untold truth of the Reagan family dinner on Blue Bloods.

The regular family dinner on Blue Bloods was inspired by a classic painting

Those weekly family dinners were envisioned as a centerpiece of the show since before Tom Selleck was cast as family patriarch Frank and the first script had been written. Creator Leonard Goldberg, who died in 2019, told TV Guide in 2010 that he wanted to create a drama that combined two of his favorite genres. “I thought about two kinds of shows I always loved doing: police shows and family shows, and I thought, ‘No one’s ever done one that combined both,'” he said. TV viewers aren’t the only ones who appreciate this more nuanced representation of the lives of cops: part of the untold truth of Blue Bloods is that some of the show’s biggest fans are New York police officers.

The idea of showing a weekly family dinner in every episode came to Goldberg when he was looking through a book of paintings by American nostalgia king Norman Rockwell. Specifically, it was “Freedom from Want,” the artist’s rendering of a family seated at Thanksgiving dinner. “That painting was our family,” Goldberg told TV Guide in a later interview. “There would be a police story — to keep CBS viewers happy — but it really would be a character piece.” In the earlier interview, he described the dinners as, “the cornerstone of the family side of our show.” We come for the crimes, we stay for the family banter and the piled-high plates.


Shooting a Blue Bloods dinner scene is harder than you think

The Blue Bloods actors want you to know that they work hard to make those dinner scenes look cozy and delicious. Each Reagan family dinner scene takes five to six or even up to eight hours to shoot. Tom Selleck told TV Insider that this is because they have to shoot all the characters in wide-shot and close-ups. And since this is a dinner, a big part of the acting is eating — or pretending to. Will Estes, who plays Frank’s son Jamie, added that the food is as delicious as it appears on our screens — but less so six hours into the shoot.

The actors have figured out ways to pretend to eat. Selleck has claimed bread-buttering, while Gayle (as granddaughter Nicky) and Amy Carlson (as Frank’s son Danny’s now-dead wife Linda) would go between drinking water and cutting up the food. (For an extra tasty behind-the-scenes morsel, wait until you learn the real reason Danny’s wife was killed on Blue Bloods.) If they have to eat, there’s a strategic favorite. Vanessa Ray (as Frank’s daughter-in-law and fellow officer Eddie) favors cucumbers, since they’re quiet and not as filling as, say, chicken parmesan. (But don’t worry: Estes told TV Insider that any uneaten food goes to the crew.)

Despite the long hours and large amounts of food, Selleck told TV Insider that the dinners are his favorite part of shooting because the cast, like the Reagans, are close: “I get to see my friends… This format is like a weekly reunion,” he said. The eating is fake, but the affection is real.


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