Currently in its 11th season on CBS, Blue Bloods—a police procedural that follows the Reagans, an Irish-Catholic multi-generational family of cops who are dedicated to New York City law enforcement—is still going strong. And with the backdrop of a global pandemic, Blue Bloods star Vanessa Ray, who portrays police officer Edit “Eddie” Janko, said that filming this season definitely had its challenges, but also had some silver linings.
“A scene is so collaborative and everyone has their thoughts and opinions, so it’s hard when you’re trying to talk about a scene and you have masks and shields, and everyone is shouting so you can be heard,” she said. “That part was a little tricky, but some of the fun things were that a lot of people were able to be seen more in the episodes that have never been seen before. Because casting directors were able to see a lot more actors, they could get through the sessions a lot faster. We had a ton of people who had their first guest stars on the show and that’s always fun because they’re excited. They didn’t know they were going to get a job in the middle of a pandemic. The funnier thing is that we rehearse the scenes with masks on and we don’t see the guest stars until the cameras are rolling. We were shooting a scene where Eddie and [her partner] Witten are pulling over some kid and I go up to the car and I ask for their license and registration. I look at the guy’s face on the license and I say, ‘He looks familiar’ and I finally look at the actor and it’s this kid Jimi Stanton who was just in Your Honor. I had just finished the series the night before and I lost it. I was so excited and everyone started laughing. You don’t even know who you’re working with until the cameras are rolling.”
On the show, Eddie is married to NYPD Sergeant Jamie Reagan, who is portrayed by actor Will Estes. Dubbed by fans of the show as “Jamko,” Eddie and Jamie, who were once partners in the same police precinct, haven’t always had the picture perfect relationship. Even now, Ray said that the newlyweds are still navigating through their new stage of life together.
“What I like is that Eddie and Jamie are from different worlds and they have always seen things very differently,” Ray said. “They’re not afraid to challenge each other. They kind of push each other’s buttons and they force each other to see things differently. While they argue or disagree a lot, I hope that the audience sees it as love and respect that they have for one another.”
And with the Black Lives Matter movement and a shift towards police reform happening throughout the country, Blue Bloods has never shied away from depicting sensitive topics on the show and addresses police reform and Black Lives Matter throughout the season.
“We would be doing a disservice to our fans and to law enforcement that respect our show if we didn’t tackle those issues,” Ray explained. “Being a beat cop is interesting because you’re in it—you’re in the streets. Even talking to real-life law enforcement on the streets in New York has been super insightful and a blessing. We had to come at the situation where we play heroes on our show and we’re playing people who love their job and being a part of law enforcement and they love their communities. They’re literally protecting and serving their communities. We had to be honest and have uncomfortable conversations. I think our show is better for it. What I love about our show is that we tell the truth and we let the chips fall where they may. We don’t tell anyone what to think or what to believe. We just present you with challenging topics and conversations.”
Out of all the episodes that have aired so far this season, Ray said her favorite episode was “The New Normal,” which involved Eddie and Witten doing a ride along with a social worker.
“That was a pretty cool storyline just in general to tackle this concept of merging law enforcement with social work,” she said. “Every ride along that I’ve done with real cops that’s been a big topic of conversation—so much of what cops do is social work. I was really proud of the show for tackling that and also my best friend played Claire [the social worker]. We haven’t worked together since we did Hair on Broadway together. It was fun to get to work with her and see how we’ve grown and changed as actors. I thought it was a powerful episode.”
And speaking of episodes, Blue Blood’s season 11 finale is airing this week. So what can fans expect to see?
“It’s a super nailbiter,” Ray said. “We get to see every aspect of what you love about the Reagan family. You get to see their love for family, you get to see what happens when the stakes are really high when one of their own is in trouble, whether that be a police officer or within the family, and you get to see a lot of different family members work together in different ways. People I think are just going to love it.”
And there’s good news for Blue Bloods fans. It was recently announced that the series was picked up for season 12, which will premiere later this year.
“I hope that we continue to see her kind of find her voice within the family,” Ray said on what she hopes for Eddie next season. “I think she has a confidence now that she hasn’t had necessarily early on at the family dinner table. She was taking it all in and figuring out where she fit and where her voice was. It’s fun to see her now be outspoken at the table, be confident in the fact that she’s different than the rest of them. She started out as a rookie and now in the situation on the streets with Whitten she has to find her own confidence and stand on her own; the buck stops with her. Whenever something is going awry, whatever call she makes she can’t look to Jamie. I hope we continue to see how that affects her having to use her own voice and stand on her own two feet.”
When she’s not working on Blue Bloods, Ray also has a charitable side to her as well.
“I work with a Young Actors’ Theater Camp in northern California,” she said. “It’s really wonderful. I actually worked for them when I was between jobs about 10 years ago. They just get incredible actors who donate their time to work with kids who just love the arts. When I was a kid, I would have loved to be apart of something like that. Young Actors’ Theater Camp is very special place and I really look forward to them being able to open their doors again hopefully this summer.”
The two-hour season finale of Blue Bloods airs Friday, May 14 at 9 p.m. on CBS.