Len Cariou

(About the actor, with only a bit about language in it.)

A few days ago, Ion Television was re-playing a string of episodes from the drama series Blue Bloods, which I hadn’t experienced before. I missed the intro, and was plunged into an early scene from one of those episodes, with the Reagan family around the dinner table. And there was a very familiar face I couldn’t quite place. Second from the left in this cast photo:


(Yes, that’s Tom Selleck in the #3 slot, and Donnie Wahlberg as #5. Plus Will Estes as #1, and Bridget Moynahan as #4.)

#2 is Len Cariou, one of the hardest-working and most versatile actors in the country, with a long career (he’s coming up on 76 years old) in serious stage acting, musical theatre, movies, and tv, though you might not know his name. (I specialize in admirable actors who aren’t famous as stars.) A boiling-down of highlights from his Wikipedia page:

Leonard Joseph “Len” Cariou (born September 30, 1939) is a Canadian actor, best known for his portrayal of Sweeney Todd in the original cast of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. He currently plays the patriarch, Henry Reagan, NYPD Police Commissioner (retired), in the multi-generational television series Blue Bloods on CBS.

Lansbury and Cariou in the original cast of Sweeney Todd

… In 1968, Cariou made his Broadway debut in The House of Atreus. Two years later, Cariou landed his first starring role opposite Lauren Bacall in Applause, a musical adaptation of the film All About Eve. It earned him a Tony Award nomination as Best Actor in a Musical and won him the Theatre World Award. In 1973 he garnered his second Tony nod for A Little Night Music; he repeated the role for the 1977 film version opposite Elizabeth Taylor.

… From 1985 to 1992, Cariou was seen on multiple episodes of the popular television mystery series, Murder, She Wrote opposite his good friend and former Sweeney Todd costar Angela Lansbury. Cariou portrayed the recurring character of Michael Hagerty. Hagerty was an Irish international man of mystery who worked as a secret agent for British MI-6. He would get Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury), the title character of the show, involved in mysteries involving international intrigue. [Lansbury and Cariou played off well against one another.]

A nice head shot of Cariou from an appearance on The West Wing

[Digression on Tom Selleck. I was much struck in one of Selleck’s scenes by how thick his speech is with vocal fry. Struck because author Naomi Wolf has been publicly castigating young women for their use of this phonetic feature, which she takes, bizarrely, to be a sign of weakness, Linguists, meanwhile, have been observing to Wolf, in strong terms, that vocal fry in male speakers has long served as a mark of highly competent masculinity — in people like Selleck.]

Addendum: the Blue Bloods plot and cast, from Wikipedia:

Blue Bloods is an American police procedural drama series shown on CBS in the United States and Canada and on Sky Atlantic in the United Kingdom. The series is filmed on location in New York City with occasional references to nearby suburbs. The show premiered on September 24, 2010 … On May 11, 2015, CBS renewed Blue Bloods for a sixth season. The Season 6 premiere date is scheduled for September 25, 2015.

The series follows the Irish-American Reagan family of police officers with the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Francis “Frank” Reagan (Selleck) is the Police Commissioner. He was a U.S. Marine Corps officer and a Vietnam veteran before he joined the NYPD. He is a 9/11 First Responder, a widower whose son Joe was murdered in the line of duty, and has three other adult children — Danny, Erin, and Jamie.

Danny (Donnie Wahlberg) is a top NYPD detective, holding the rank of Detective First Grade, but is sometimes hard-nosed and does not always go by the book. Danny is also a Marine Corps veteran, having served in the Iraq War in Fallujah. [He has had series of partners on the job, most of them women.]

Erin (Bridget Moynahan) is an assistant district attorney in Manhattan who prosecutes many of the criminals Danny arrests. She is promoted to Deputy Trial Bureau Chief in season three. As unorthodox as her brother Danny is with departmental policy and tactics in making arrests, Erin is conversely legalistic and careful in making sure she gets prosecutions that will stick. The disagreements between the two of them on points of law versus moral and practical considerations generate a lot of dialog for the show.

Jamison “Jamie” Reagan (Will Estes), Frank’s youngest child, has a law degree from Harvard, but, after working in a law firm for some period of time, he chose to leave the practice and join the NYPD. He is graduating from the police academy in the pilot episode…

Henry (Len Cariou) is Frank’s father, and is called “Pop” by his great-grandchildren. He is a former NYPD beat cop who rose through the ranks to Police Commissioner, the position now held by his son Frank. Henry is a United States Marine Corps vet who served in the Korean War. Henry often provides his decades-long perspective to his son, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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