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Tom Selleck Paid ‘Magnum P.I.’ Crew From His Own Salary After Studio Refused

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: CBS / murraymomo / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: CBS / murraymomo / MovieStillsDB

When you think of Tom Selleck, you think of his substantial mustache; when you think of his substantial mustache, you think of the complimentary Hawaiian shirt. All this leads you to remember him in his most iconic role in the Magnum P.I. television series. In his memoir, You Never Know, Selleck explained how he made sure the crew received their well-earned bonuses despite pushback from the studio during the final season of the show.

Magnum P.I. was a major hit series

Tom Selleck crouching by a red car.
Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum in Magnum P.I. (Photo Credit: CaptainOT / CBS / MovieStillsDB)

Magnum P.I. was a massively successful television series of the 1980s. The crime drama ran from 1980 to 1988, including eight seasons and 162 episodes. The face of the series was Tom Selleck, who played private investigator Thomas Magnum who lived and worked in Oahu, Hawaii, best known for his thick moustache and Hawaiian shirts. The role became the most iconic of his career, and turned him into one of the most popular stars of the decade.

During its first run being broadcast, the show consistently ranked in the top 20 US television programs and, not surprisingly, was nominated for several awards. These included 13 Golden Globe nominations with two wins and numerous Emmy nominations. Selleck himself won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 1984.

Audiences enjoyed the show so much that in 2018, the franchise rebooted, with Jay Hernandez in the title role. As could be expected, even the reboot was successful, airing for five seasons including 96 episodes between 2018 and 2024.

Negotiations with the studio weren’t going as intended

Behind-the-scenes of 'Magnum P.I.,' Tom Selleck seen shirtless in shorts, several crew members surrounding him.
Selleck tried to negotiate bonuses for the crew with the studio. (Photo Credit: CBS / CaptainOT / MovieStillsDB)

While the series was intended to wrap up in the seventh season, fans pushed for a more satisfying ending to the show, resulting in an eighth and final season. Selleck himself was hesitant to go forward with another season, as he “didn’t want anyone to think that last season was just a ploy to get more money.” Regardless, the show was to continue, though Selleck had some demands he wanted met in his contract.

During negotiations, Selleck pushed the studio to give the crew members each $1,000 bonuses should the show come in on time and under budget. However, he was met with resistance, as the studio “responded that they could not under any circumstances talk about crew bonuses, that it would set a dangerous precedent.” This didn’t sit well with Selleck.

“They always invoked precedent when you had an original thought beyond their contractual boilerplate,” Selleck wrote. “Honestly, that pissed me off.”

Selleck found a loophole to pay the crew

Headshot of Tom Selleck.
Tom Selleck issued the bonuses from his own bonus to ensure the crew got paid. (Photo Credit: Paul Zimmerman / WireImage / Getty Images)

Selleck took matters into his own hands, finding a loophole that ensured he could get the crew those $1,000 bonuses. During negotiations, instead of getting the studio to issue those bonuses, he made the studio give him a “substantial” personal bonus for joining for another final season. Then, he got to work with his agent and his lawyer, Bettye McCarty and Skip Brittenham, respectively, to issue the bonuses on his own.

“I called Skip and Bettye and told them to tell Universal — not ask them tell them — to issue thousand-dollar checks to every regular member of our ‘Magnum’ company in both Hawaii and L.A.,” Selleck wrote. “And that since it was coming out of my bonus money, there was no precedent involved.” Of course, the crew was extremely grateful for the generosity.

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“When the checks came out, I got a picture from our L.A. crew standing on a bleacher with big smiles on their faces,” he added. “In front of them was a very big oversized check for a thousand dollars. The caption below read, ‘Thanks, Tom. What a ‘grand’ gesture.’ That made me happy.”

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Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!