Throughout its 13 seasons and 250-plus episodes, “Blue Bloods” has leaned on its omnipresent family dinner scenes to provide insight into the personal and professional lives of the Reagan family. (per IMDb). These scenes allow viewers to learn more about the main characters while also providing the writers an avenue to develop them and shed light on the daily ethical dilemmas that law enforcement personnel deal with.
The Reagans’ intergenerational squabbles will seem familiar to many families, whatever their backgrounds. Still, the workplace challenges faced by the family provide a forum to introduce the topical discussions and moral conflicts that have helped “Blue Bloods” stay on the air and relevant since 2010.
It’s at the dinner table where we learn most about the different Reagan family members and what motivates and concerns each of them, from patriarch Henry (Len Cariou) to his grandsons Jack and Sean (Tony and Andrew Terraciano). The youngest Reagans still struggle to find their voices at the table. Still, in a 2017 talk, Cariou revealed that at the outset of filming in Season 1 of “Blue Bloods,” every actor faced a similar challenge in establishing their identities.
Caiou and his fellow cast members weren’r given any character background before shooting the first dinner scene
In a 2017 panel discussion at New York’s 92nd St. Y with other “Blue Bloods” cast members, Len Cariou revealed that when the cast of “Blue Bloods” gathered for the first time to film Season 1, Episode 1, they were told that the first scene to be shot would be the family dinner scene. Cariou, who brought an extensive theater background to “Blue Bloods,” said the cast was puzzled at the choice, and “we all said to [producer] Leonard Goldberg, ‘Why are we doing this first?’ I mean, we don’t even know one another. So, on the spot … we made up a backstory about what we’d done.” And I said, “Well, I guess I was a cop, too. We were all Marines’ – the three of us were Marines.” (via Outsider).
Tom Selleck chimed in that at that early juncture, the show had no “bible” — the Hollywood term for the book kept by producers that holds essential background knowledge of the characters and that writers and actors use for reference when a character’s history needs to be called on. “The show just didn’t have one, Selleck said. “It had no background.”
After 264 episodes, the “Blue Bloods” show bible no doubt fills several volumes, but some of the information within has come from the actors themselves instead of the usual source — a smoke-filled writer’s room. Perhaps relying on the experienced and talented cast to provide character background and development is a large part of what gives “Blue Bloods” its unique charm. By now, the actors are intimately familiar with their characters, and bringing life to those dinner scenes is likely a far less intimidating task than it was in that first filming a dozen long years ago.