You’ll likely know Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum from the 1980s’ TV smash Magnum, P.I. However, if you’re younger, you may recognize him instead as Dr. Richard Burke from Friends. In any case, the actor and producer keeps a tight lid on his personal life. Yes, the 72-year-old has no social media presence, so you’re unlikely to ever see him post selfies online. But when he does shed light on private stuff – his marriage, for instance – it’s rather illuminating.
Believe it or not, Selleck actually started his working life as a male model – he was a good-looking guy in the 1960s. But like many others in that profession, he had dreams of making it in the acting world. And Selleck slowly built up some success. In between stints serving in the California Army National Guard, he made small appearances on television’s The Dating Game as well as commercials for Pepsi-Cola.
Then, as the 1960s turned into the 1970s, Selleck scored a considerable break in befriending a Hollywood icon. That’s because the famous actress Mae West picked him for a small role in the notorious sex comedy Myra Breckinridge, which was released in 1970. “I escorted her to a couple of premieres and she did hundreds of interviews where she mentioned me in the same sentence as Cary Grant,” Selleck told Pennsylvania newspaper The Morning Call in 1997.
At around this point, the actor got married to model Jacqueline Ray. However, Selleck divorced Ray in 1982 – just a couple of years after accepting the role that would change the course of his entire career. That, of course, was the lead role in the comedy drama Magnum P.I.
Magnum P.I was a colossal hit, and the series took Selleck to the top tier of TV acting talent. Indeed, to this day, Magnum is arguably the role for which he is best known. But it was while Selleck was on the show that the course of his personal life completely changed. Yes, in 1983, while filming a movie in London, he decided to see the famous stage musical Cats.
In fact, Selleck’s co-stars on the film he was shooting – 1984’s Lassiter – couldn’t help but notice something strange about their leading man. Selleck seemed to be utterly obsessed with Cats. Indeed, he went to see it performed dozens of times. But little did the Lassiter cast know that it wasn’t the show itself that had hooked Selleck. The dancer who played Rumpleteazer, 25-year-old Jillie Mack, had completely won Selleck’s heart.
So Selleck and Mack began dating, and gradually it got more and more serious. For instance, once Mack’s contract for Cats had run out, she moved to Hawaii to be with Selleck while he filmed Magnum P.I. And for the next few years, Mack was frequently seen at Hollywood parties and events with Selleck, standing by his side and looking wonderfully happy.
Then, in September 1987, big news hit: Selleck and Mack had secretly got married. In fact, the work that the bride and groom had done to keep the occasion private was reminiscent of a spy operation. Indeed, they’d used the false names “Tom Jenkins” and “Suzie Mark” to keep people off the scent, for example. And even the presiding official at the wedding ceremony had been unaware of who he was really marrying until the very last moment.
Furthermore, Selleck’s brother, Bob, had made all the wedding arrangements so that no news would leak. Also, the wedding photographs were taken on a Polaroid camera so that nobody could steal the negatives and sell them to the press. And even Selleck’s publicists were told to deny any suggestion of the marriage if asked. But eventually, 27 days later, the good news got out.
“In a Nevada Chapel, Under a Veil of Secrecy, Tom Selleck Marries His Kitten from Cats,” People magazine reported on September 21, 1987. The celebrity periodical also mentioned that the man who conducted the ceremony, one apparently unscrupulous Rev. Immel, had shamelessly offered to sell them details of the event.
Though they didn’t actually pay him for the information, Immel told the magazine, “They were both nervous, like any other couple about to get married. [Selleck] was very concerned that the service be heartfelt, very concerned for her that the service be meaningful. He is a very warm, caring man.”
What’s more, People reported that Selleck’s family were there, and that he and Mack had arrived at the chapel in casual clothes to maintain their secrecy. But despite the incredible stress it must have caused Selleck and his bride-to-be to keep everything under wraps, it was now done. Magnum and Rumpleteazer were spliced.
A year later, the happy couple had a little girl, Hannah. She was actually a second child for Selleck, as he had adopted his first wife’s son, Kevin, years prior. Subsequently, the new family settled down to life on a ranch in Ventura County, California. And Selleck continued to work as an actor – albeit in more low-key roles than he had played previously.
Today, Selleck and Mack actually have one of the longer-lasting Hollywood marriages, with 30 years under their collective belt. So how do the couple do it? Well, although Selleck remains an incredibly private person, he has nevertheless revealed a few things over the years as to why his marriage works so well.
One of these tidbits can be found in a 1999 newspaper interview with the New York Daily News, appropriately headlined, “A Shy Guy Speaks His Mind.” There, Selleck said, “Jillie and I have a pretty good partnership. We don’t do anything or make any decisions without consulting each other. And if one of us makes a decision involving Hannah, the other parent completely supports that position, even if you disagree.”
And in 2007 the question of how he maintained his excellent relationship was put to Selleck directly. Good Housekeeping magazine asked the actor “Can you tell us the secret to your successful marriage?” He answered, “Hopefully you marry someone who you not only love, but who you like as well.”
Selleck went on, “I just still enjoy my wife’s company enormously. She’s hilariously funny, and we make a point, no matter how busy we are, to stop and spend time together. We make sure we sit down and enjoy a nice long dinner.” The interviewer asked him what his Valentine’s Day plans were.
The actor answered wittily, “Well, this is going to sound terribly unromantic, but the thing is, Jillie and I just aren’t that sentimental. We don’t like to emphasize one day of the year. We try to celebrate the fact that this is a daily commitment, and pay attention to each other every day. I promise I’m not just saying that so I can get out of giving her a gift.”
Also Good Housekeeping asked about Selleck’s relationship with his daughter Hannah. And the actor said, “We’ve always had a very strong bond, because luckily, I was spared most of the adolescent drama in our house. My wife and daughter tended to butt heads more, whereas I just got a lot of eye rolling.”
Selleck went on, “When the two of them would clash, I would sort of recede into the background. These days, we still see a lot of her, because she continues to be a very accomplished equestrian, and we travel around to attend her competitions. In that world, I’m not the celebrity, she is.”
Then in 2012 Selleck granted an interview to People in which he revealed that he’d left Magnum P.I. to concentrate on his personal life. “I quit Magnum to have a family,” he said in the article. “It took a long time to get off the train, but I try very hard to have balance… I think wanting time away from work has been good for that.”
And Selleck revealed that he’d been working less hard these days, recording his show Blue Bloods every other week to allow some time away from the cameras. To add to that, he’d been recording his yearly Jesse Stone TV films. He said, “My first priority is time with my family. It’s important to nurture your marriage. ”
But it was possibly a National Enquirer piece in 2014 that gave the best insight into Selleck’s marriage. This quoted a “pal” who said, “Tom dotes on Jillie. He gets up early every morning, makes her a cup of tea and takes it to her before she gets out of bed,” they claimed. And according to the same source, the couple never argued anymore as they “decided long ago that fighting was a waste of time.”
The source continued, “[Selleck] also leaves little love poems he’s written around the house for [Mack] to find while he’s in New York every other week, filming Blue Bloods. And he’s constantly texting her sexy messages. He’s also on a first-name basis with the local florist because he’s always sending her flowers.”
And the apparent insider added, “Jillie and Tom agree that although it’s nice to have some shared interests, people need to have their own individual interests, even if it means doing things on their own. They say when they come back together again after time away, the sparks fly – so it works out great.” Although none of this was ever backed up by the secretive Selleck, it all doesn’t seem beyond the realms of possibility.
Now, Selleck himself happened to give an interview later that year, speaking to GQ in September 2014. Of his marriage he said, “There’s just not a lot of bulls**t. We know we love each other. We both keep busy with stuff. Both of us get mid up with whether our anniversary is 8/7/88 or 8/8/88. Jillie doesn’t get offended.”
The 1980s’ heartthrob went on to explain, “I think some of that comes with age; some of that comes with the good part of the familiarity. I don’t think the infatuation stage of any relationship lasts forever, but it can grow into something. I just find that – I had no problem with the infatuation stage with Jillie, but I think it’s probably our relationship’s more satisfying.”
Then the interviewer asked the actor a very personal question – what about sex? Unsurprisingly, Selleck didn’t share much in that regard. He said, “Most of that stuff’s private, but I think it’s fair to say you don’t have sex as often as you did when you were 30. That’s a good generalization.” And that was that.
But most celebrity married couples have divorce rumors swirl about them at some point – and Selleck and Mack are no exception. However, in 2016 Selleck spoke jokily about the whispers on The View. “We’re not getting a divorce!” he protested. “I know there’s that silly tabloid story running around. I don’t want to shock anybody, but they make this stuff up.”
Selleck continued, “I love my wife dearly, I think she loves me. She wrote me a great note on Valentine’s Day.” The star added that the couple found divorce rumors so laughable that it was a running joke between them. He continued, “I said, ‘Did you hear? Is there something I don’t know?’ and Jillie says the same thing. But we’re kind of used to it, they make stuff up.”
So where do Selleck and his wife stand now, having been married for such a long time? Well, they still seem to be as healthy as ever, and their daughter is doing great, too. Hannah is now a champion equestrian who breeds horses in a business that she runs with her dad. In 2015 she told The Hollywood Reporter that her parents have always supported her fully in her career.
Yes, Hannah told the publication, “I started at four and my parents just encouraged me to try all different things – dance, ice skating, soccer, lots of things that kids do. Around the time I was 12, I was getting more serious. Then around the age of 14, I was very good at ballet and riding. At that point I had to choose if I wanted to excel at either one. My love was with the horses. That’s when I became very serious about it.”
Regarding her childhood Hannah said, “My parents encouraged me to stay in school and not do the home-schooling route, which many younger riders did. I stayed in school regularly even though I missed quite a bit of class to travel and compete, but I attended school dances and went to prom and I was able to balance it. I am happy about that. Some of my friends that rode missed out on that.”
Hannah went on, “As a kid they tried to raise me as normally as possible given my dad’s line of work. Those horses have been a great way for me to have my own accomplishments outside of whatever my parents had done. People like to [criticize] and say that you’re able to buy expensive horses and all of that, but when it comes down to it, it’s just you in the ring who has to perform.”
Although Hannah didn’t say much to The Hollywood Reporter about the marriage of her parents, a few years later Selleck himself would confirm that everything was still going smoothly. Yes, he sat down with People magazine in April 2020 and told them about how he was managing his life and career.
Right away Selleck told the interviewer, “I’m a fairly private person. And I’ve always treasured the balance between work and time with my family. It’s always about them.” He added, “My relationships and my ranch keep me sane. I do grunt work and I make the rounds. I like watching things grow. It’s a retreat.”
Selleck talked about what he considered the price of fame. For you see, he’d found it difficult once Magnum P.I. made him a superstar. He told the magazine, “I knew intellectually what it would mean in terms of being a public person, but until you’ve lived it, there’s no way to understand it. I had a feeling of, ‘I don’t think I’m cut out for this.’”
The actor explained, “I quit Magnum, not because I didn’t like it or I was tired of it. I was tired from it. And I wanted a three-dimensional life because I didn’t have one.” So he spent some time away from Hollywood, and though he was still very much in demand, he didn’t like the job offers he was getting.
Selleck said, “I put up with the articles that said ‘he’s disappeared, he’s done.’ And you do get done, I’m well aware of that. It was a big lull, but it put a lot of things in perspective.” But, he went on, “I’m proud of my work, I still love what I do, and I have my family. I’ve been enormously fortunate.”
Nevertheless, Selleck and Mack are so private that we’ll probably never know the truly intimate details of their lives. Even what the couple did for their 30th wedding anniversary may forever remain a mystery. But it is nice to see a Hollywood marriage go on so long – never mind the rumors. For Tom and Jillie, it might be a genuine case of “until death do us part.”