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Why Stephen Hill's 'Great Relationship' With Roger E. Mosley Had Early Resistance
Hill also revealed how he honors Roger E. Mosley's original take on the character of T.C. in a small easter egg on Magnum P.I.
Magnum P.I.’s Stephen Hill enjoyed a “great relationship” with Roger E. Mosley, who played his character Theodore “T.C.” Calvin on the original series — but Hill has admitted Mosley wasn’t initially eager to pass the torch.
Hill told NBC Insider’s Stephanie Gomulka he reached out to Mosley after first booking the job to play T.C., Thomas Magnum’s buddy and a former US Navy Seal, but the veteran actor wasn’t exactly welcoming — at least, at first.
“I reached out to him and, you know, he said, ‘Yeah, you don’t even know if you have a show yet. I’ll give you my advice when you have a show. Let me know when you got Season 2,’” Hill recalled. “I couldn’t believe it went like that, but if you know Roger, you know he could be a little ornery like that.”
Hill believes Mosley may have been rightfully hesitant to mess with the solid legacy of the original series, which ran from 1980 to 1988 and also starred a young, mustached Tom Selleck.
“The thing is those guys blazed a trail for us so that torch that he was going to pass over to us, it didn't come very easily,” Hill said. “He made me earn it a little bit.”
Mosley’s resistance didn’t last long. After watching the first few episodes of the reboot, which stars Jay Hernandez in the titular role, Mosley was impressed by the way the new cast made the series their own and agreed not only to help Hill out, but to guest star in the new rendition himself.
“He ended up becoming a mentor of mine, you know. I got to take him around the island. We did some local press here together,” Hill said. “I hung out with him in L.A., you know, so we had a great relationship and I am very appreciative.”
Mosley appeared in the first season of the reboot as T.C.’s barber, John Booky, providing the helicopter pilot with some sage words of wisdom and enlisting him in an impromptu dance party in the middle of the barbershop. He reprised the role in Season 3.
Mosley also gave Hill another bit of advice. He encouraged Hill to use his time as the fictional owner of the popular helicopter tour company Island Hoppers to learn how to actually fly a helicopter — a goal Hill admitted he’s still working on after his initial plans to get certified were hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although he’s gotten a few “mini-lessons” while he is up in the air filming, he’s yet to become an official pilot himself.
“I don't have a license yet, but I do know the ins-and-outs and … hopefully if I had to go rescue someone I might kind of know what I'm doing, hopefully,” he said.
Mosley died in August 2022 at the age of 83 from injuries suffered in a Los Angeles car accident, according to The New York Times.
“Roger E. Mosley, my father, your friend, your ‘coach Mosley,’ your ‘T.C.’ from Magnum P.I., passed away at 1:17 a.m.,” his daughter Ch-a Mosley announced on Facebook at the time. “He was surrounded by family as he transcended peacefully. We could never mourn such an amazing man. He would HATE any crying done in his name. It is time to celebrate the legacy he left for us all.”
For Hill, that meant trying to find a way to incorporate one “iconic T.C. look.” As T.C., Mosley often wore colorful striped suspenders.
“You know, they don’t really work in 2023, right? So, I’m like how do we figure that out?” Hill told NBC Insider. “I had bought overalls — and I love wardrobe, that’s a great way to bring … ideas of how you could bring elements of the old show into the new show — so I bought these overalls from Patagonia, I think, and I said, ‘Maybe we can make the straps on the overalls have the stripes or the rainbow?’ and that’s what they did. I have an episode where you see me with the stripes on the overalls that gives you that hint of nostalgia.”
The Hawaiian shirts prominent throughout the original also made their way into the reboot, along with that iconic red Ferrari Magnum uses to cruise around Oahu.
Fans have come to know and love Hill’s tough-but-sensitive portrayal of T.C., but Hill told NBC Insider he almost ended up on another NBC drama television series. Hill had booked an audition for the role of a co-pilot on Manifest but at the last minute they asked him to go audition again with another casting director.
Hill arrived without even having a script, but luckily, he was able to borrow one from another actor who he often ran into at auditions. That same night while running on the treadmill at the gym, Hill began to doubt himself.
“I said to myself, ‘There’s no way I’m gonna book that job,' and as soon as I heard that negative thought, I literally grabbed it and took it and ripped it up and said, ‘No, why not me?’” he recalled. “Ten minutes later, I get a phone call and it said, 'Stay by the phone, we might have good news for you.'”
Hill believed the call might mean they were expanding the limited role on Manifest — but instead he was given the part of T.C. on Magnum P.I.
“They go, 'Pack your bags. You’re going to Hawaii,’” he said. “I was in Hawaii within 48 hours of having the audition and I was going to set within 72 hours. How crazy.”