Magnum P.I. – from Hollywood to Hawaii

Medallion Man

Actor Tom Selleck is best known for his iconic role as the 1980’s detective Magnum P I. In the part, Selleck looked like the typical ‘medallion man’ playboy of the era wearing open-neck Hawaiian shirts and driving a red Ferrari. The show ran for eight years from 1980 until 1988, establishing him firmly as an ‘A list’ actor.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Selleck received a basketball scholarship and attended the University of Southern California where he played for the Trojans men’s basketball team. It was while there that a drama coach suggested he should try acting. He subsequently dropped out of the university and went to study acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.

Tom is a committed Bible-believing Christian. He has always tried to lead his life in the way he sensed that God wanted him to go, but he freely acknowledges that his faith journey, like his early acting career, has not always been a smooth road. 

In his student days, the basketball player Selleck managed to get occasional acting jobs in commercials for wealthy promoters including Pepsi Cola. But following his training at acting school, Tom was sure that he wanted to take acting seriously and make a career out of it. Twentieth Century Fox even offered him a contract, but there was something else he had to do first. 

Military service

As a child he had grasped something of the importance of military service from his parents. In addition to this, as a Christian, Tom tried his best to hear from God about every step he should take in life. Convinced that a spell in military service was right for the moment, he joined the 160th infantry regiment of the California National Guard and served from 1967 to 1973. This was right in the midst of the Vietnam War, and the cool actor even got the job of appearing on California National Guard recruiting posters. He says, 

I am a veteran, I’m proud of it. I was a sergeant in the U.S. Army infantry, National Guard, Vietnam era. We’re all brothers and sisters in that sense.

After his army service, Tom returned to acting. He sensed that this was God’s direction for him, so he went for a number of auditions. Hi did a number of smaller roles in film and TV series including Marcus Welby MD, The Streets of San Francisco, Charlies Angels, and The Rockford Files. Then, quite suddenly, he landed the lead role as Thomas Magnum in the detective series Magnum P I. It was this role that changed his life forever and took him from small time actor to big time star. But Tom didn’t let it draw him away from his all important faith, as sadly happens to too many people in the limelight. He continued to worship God and to pray for direction and guidance. He adds, 

“As good as this business has been to me, that’s not what life is about. Life is about more important things. You know, we’ve all struggled as we get successful in this business to balance that, I certainly have,” 

Tom Selleck credits his success successful acting career to Jesus Christ, his Lord and Saviour. Quoting the Bible, he says, 

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
(1 Peter 5:6)


Story by Ralph Burden

Photo: Tom Selleck in 1980  (Public domain)

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