Interview: Will Estes

by Ceylan Kumbarji

Will Estes has been on our radar for a long time, ever since the addictive Blue Bloods hit our screens and captured fans all over the world. A part of it since the very start, Will Estes has been playing Jamie Reagan, gracing our screens for seven seasons as the youngest brother of a cop family. With years of acting experience under his belt, Will has been involved in so many different projects, ranging from independent films to major blockbusters. Although many recognise him for his role in Blue Bloods, one of the most memorable parts for him was a film called Automative that he did a few years ago. Directed and written by Tom Glynn, it was independent with a very small budget.

“In that way you end up with a really pure story that doesn’t have any compromises. There aren’t a lot of cooks in the kitchen like a large budget project. We didn’t really have a lot of money but we got to do exactly what we wanted. I got to do things that I’ve always to do as an actor that are difficult to define in words. It’s a story about crime gone wrong, mistakes, regrets and trying very hard for something that’s maybe not possible to attain. The character worked well and it was a lot of fun as an actor.”

As well as a colourful acting career, Will is a keen environmentalist and practices this on a day to day basis, even driving an electric car! He talks to us about all things Blue Bloods, his favourite experience as an actor and how he feels about social media…

“The appeal of the show exactly? I’m not sure. I think it hits the sweet spot.”

Taylor Magazine: How did you get into acting?

Will Estes: I grew up in Los Angeles so in a lot of ways it picked me more than I chose it. When I started getting older and all my friends were picking what they wanted to do for work or going to school, I realised there wasn’t anything else I wanted to do. It’s a lot of fun and I feel like I learned a lot. There were just a lot of things about it that I really loved. I began to view it as a craft and as a career and I’ve been doing it ever since.

Taylor Magazine: How did the role for Blue Bloods as Jamie come around?

Will Estes: It was during pilot season, and it was probably my favourite script that I had read for a long time. Robin Green and Leonard Goldberg were the producers and they had been doing a show about anti-hero’s during the Soprano’s and they wanted to do a show about heroes. Flawed maybe, or people who try to be the good guys, so they wrote the pilot episode of Blue Bloods and it was awesome. They got Tom Selleck as the patriarch and commissioner of New York City and it was just a fantastic script. It all starts with the writing and the story. When the story is good everybody wants to be on board.

Taylor Magazine: Do you have anything in common with the character you play?

Will Estes: I’ve been asked this question over the years and I never knew quite how to answer it. I think it was Al Pacino that articulated it so well… “I’m not different from any of the characters I play at all. They’re all parts of my self.” Either scared or exemplified or magnified. 

Taylor Magazine: Now that you’re on season 7, how does it feel? 

Will Estes: You never know what you’re going to get at the end. The business is not synonymous with job security. In a way, it still isn’t. Even though we’ve been doing Blue Bloods for so long, you never know when your next episode is going to be your last. It’s been a terrific run and the longer we go, the more I feel like we’re doing something good and people tell us that they enjoy the show. That’s what it’s about. That’s what makes us feel great about it. There are still more great stories to tell about an NYPD cop family, so we’re all excited to keep doing it.

Taylor Magazine: It’s done so well the show. Even here in London, we watch it all the time. My mum nearly passed out when she heard I was interviewing you. What do you think it is about the show that appeals to so many people?

Will Estes: Your mum might be able to answer it better than me! There’s a lot of Tom Selleck fans out there and a lot of Donnie Wahlberg fans too. We have a great cast. The appeal of the show exactly? I’m not sure. I think it hits the sweet spot. There was an effort to make the show more procedural like Law and Order, and there’s a lot of creative forces on the show. I know that Tom for one really wanted to do a character driven drama. As an actor that’s much more fun to play. So, the show stayed more of a character driven drama where it’s about how people’s lives affect their work and how their work affects their lives.

I think there was a deficit in television there. There are a lot of shows on television that are fantastic but I don’t think there are many character driven dramas about heroes. People tell me often that their favourite scene is the family dinner scene and that’s where the real drama of the show plays out. It’s where people agree and disagree and find out new ways that they love each other and new ways which they disagree. That’s the reason why it resonates with people.

Taylor Magazine: Do you all get along like you do in the show?

Will Estes: Yeah well, we spend enough time together! People ask if we hang out outside of work and we’re always like, “Not really but we spend so much time at work together and we get along so well!” We are great friends. When Saturday comes around we’re not usually calling each other to hang out but we do get along great, we are like a family. Many of the cast and crew spend more time with each other than they do with their real families. It’s a very full-time job you know, 99.99% we all get along. It’s been a pleasure.

Taylor Magazine: What would you say is your favourite part of being on the show?

Will Estes: We have tremendous writers and as an actor, it’s just fun to be a part of the storytelling and the drama. I have a lot of fun with Vanessa Ray who plays my partner on the show and I love every scene I get with Tom, Donnie and Bridget as well. It will be a hard thing to one day leave because it feels like home but the best part is being able to do great work. As an actor be a part of great story telling.

Taylor Magazine: Do you have a favourite character on the show that when you watch makes you think, “I’d love to play that” or “That’s an amazing character they’ve created there?”

Will Estes: Well, the bad guys that we arrest always get to have all the fun! Sat at the table I’m surrounded by a lot of talent – Len Cariou to my right is such a great actor and film actor as well. He was just in the Academy Award winning Spotlight. Tom Selleck is probably one of the smartest actors I’ve every worked with in terms of story and character and staying ahead of the audience. He just knows telling the story with a camera so well, so I just try to soak it up as much as I can.

Taylor Magazine: Your character is moral and has his head screwed on. Would you want to venture out and play the opposite or play a bad guy or a criminal?

Will Estes: Yes, people don’t see it in me sometimes. I’ve had a chance to play a lot of characters similar to Jamie, but I’ll get a chance one day and I’m excited about it.

Although acting is currently his main focus, it’s not the only thing Will wants to try in the future. Story-telling is something he’d want to learn more about and with his acting experience, he’s become a bit of a producer by proxy.

I have a lot of friends who tell me “You gotta direct something.” I’m the last person, maybe, to believe that I can do things that I haven’t done before but I’m always looking to try something new. Nothing is on the books right now. I’m focused on other areas of my life, but work wise it’s just Blue Bloods. A lot of people think I have time for other things but when you work on a show that’s 1 hour on prime time, it’s pretty hard to get out and do other jobs.”

Taylor Magazine: Who would you say is a big inspiration for you when you think back to when you started acting? Who was someone you really looked up to?

Will Estes: Ewan McGregor and Julianne Moore. I had a chance to meet Mark Ruffalo recently and I was already a really big fan of his work. He’s such a gracious and cool guy, he made me an even bigger fan when I met him. Tom Hardy is a lot of fun. I would jump all over a chance to work with Tom Hardy. He’s a big talent. There’s a lot of great actors out there.

Taylor Magazine: When you’re reading a script what is it that attracts you to a role?

Will Estes: Two things – if I like it; is it fun or cool or tells a truth that hasn’t been spoken before? The other part for me is if I think I can do it well. I can come across a script that I think is really good but it’s not right for me. So it’s those components. I have to really like it to be excited about it and I obviously have to feel like I can execute it.

Taylor Magazine: If you weren’t an actor, is there anything else that you would be doing? I know that you’re a big environmentalist so is that something that you think you would be into even more?

Will Estes: Acting allows me to do more than I possibly could. I do things, talk about things that allow me to sometimes donate to causes that I do. I love to build things, I went to college and took a class on solar panel installation and ended up working with the guys. We put solar panels on my house in Los Angeles and I have a pure electric car that I drive so not entirely, but in part my car’s driving off the sun right now. Maybe I would build things, I come from a family of entrepreneurs. 

Taylor Magazine: Your jobs seems a lot of fun. When we watch Blue Bloods we think how fun it must be arresting people and fighting bad guys, but what’s the most challenging part for you?

Will Estes: That part is really fun, that’s my favourite part. Running around chasing bad guys – it really is a ball. Sometimes it’s a difficult pace. It can be a difficult schedule and you have to fit a lot in in a short period of time. We have to shoot as much as we can shoot in an 8 day schedule where we’re shooting an entire episode.

Winter in New York can be a big challenge. It’s hard to feel like you’re doing some of your best work when you can’t feel half your face and you think, “Oh no, I’m not a good actor anymore. Do I look right?” When your face is numb, the winter can be a big challenge. 

Taylor Magazine: If you had a day off how would you spend it?

Will Estes: The only thing I like more than working is not working. I do absolutely nothing and it’s wonderful. I always try and catch up on reading – I always wished that I was more well read. Being in New York I always miss the ocean. I miss the Pacific so when I get the chance I paddle out and do some surfing sometimes because I grew up in Los Angeles. My family watch The Big Bang Theory a lot and they watch Mom by Chuck Lorre. Those are a couple of good shows I watch.

Taylor Magazine: You’re new to both Twitter and Instagram. How come you’re now on these media platforms?

Will Estes: I avoided it because I don’t think I knew how to engage media. I didn’t want to tweet about what I had for breakfast. I don’t think I understood what my voice would be – I just sat back and said that I don’t want to advertise myself but the game has really changed. If you’re not a part of social media platforms, you’re at risk of being irrelevant.

In terms of being part of the conversation, I work with someone who looks at my tweets. I never tweet alone. In that way it stays more of a profession. My take on it is that Twitter is for shameless self-promotion and Instagram is where you can convince people that you’re interesting, but I don’t that that I’m big enough to even attempt to not be part of the conversation. Twitter and Instagram are my attempt to keep myself out there and keep myself hireable.

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Priti April 2, 2017 - 7:51 am

How handaome is he !!!

Lynn G. July 15, 2017 - 9:38 pm

I went to the 92y 150 episode celebration. Will was gracious and genuine. A nice guy. A real class act.


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