One of the biggest hurdles the rebooted “Magnum P.I.” has faced during its freshman season, is the fact that the new actors who portray the iconic characters of Magnum (Jay Hernandez), Rick (Zachary Knighton) and TC (played by Stephen Hill) are quite different from the original. Thankfully, the familiar imagery attached to the original character of TC have returned — his helicopter company Island Hoppers, and both his chopper and his van share a distinctive paint job. Yet Hill’s portrayal of Theodore “TC” Calvin is so natural and easy, it’s hard to find fault in his fresh take on the classic television character.
Hill’s version of TC is more similar to the original than perhaps Hernandez’s Magnum or Knighton’s Rick. TC, who is a former Marine Corps chopper pilot, is best friends with his former door gunner Rick Wright and Navy SEAL Thomas Magnum. The three fought and almost died together in Afghanistan when they were kept as prisoners of war by the Taliban.
What is a bit different about the rebooted version of TC is that when he was a kid, he attended dance and art classes and when he couldn’t get into art school, he studied art history — which he failed to mention to his BFFs even while spending 18 months and 11 days together in a POW camp. Like his friends, TC was given some help from Robin Masters to start his business.
HILL BEFORE TC
Before joining the “Magnum P.I.” cast, Hill might be best known for his role in the Netflix miniseries “Maniac” starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill, or for his work in Steve McQueen’s feature film “Widows,” or on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” He has also made guest appearances on “Law & Order: SVU,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Blue Bloods.” In September 2018, right before “Magnum P.I.” premiered, Hill told The Philadelphia Inquirer that it was his “years and years and years of very hard work,” that got him cast as TC.
It’s obvious that Hill’s hard work paid off as he folds into the cast of “Magnum P.I.” quite well. TC’s easygoing nature plays so well against Magnum’s haunted yet charming persona and often balances out Rick’s constant comedic energy. Fans have commented that Hill is very generous of his time and, for a guy born in New York and raised in Willingboro, N.J., seems to embrace everyone with aloha.
A FRESH TAKE ON TC
One thing that makes Hill’s version of TC different from Roger E. Mosley’s portrayal is his warm demeanor. Whether it’s just part of who Hill is as a person, or if it’s how he envisions TC — it really works well in this contemporary version. TC is the peacemaker; the one who loves the hardest and who will try to mend all fences no matter what the transgression.
In the episode “A Kiss Before Dying,” TC convinces a woman, Kelsey (Adrienne Wilson), to meet with her mother, Gina (Heather Mazur), who has returned to Hawaii to make amends for abandoning her daughter. Gina left Kelsey in Hawaii and disappeared on the mainland because she testified against Kelsey’s father who was in the yakuza. She did not want Kelsey to be a target of their revenge. It is TC who helps Kelsey give her mother a second chance.
TC’s own mother left him to be raised by his father and has never tried to reconnect with her son. He knows it’s not the answer to every problem, but he thinks that giving someone who hurt you a second chance is a start toward healing. Rick calls him a “big softy” for helping the women reconnect, yet we know it’s because he would want that for any child who has been abandoned or deserted by a parent.
In the original, TC always coached youth sports, and Hill’s version does the same — coaching youth football and baseball. The episode “Sudden Death” highlight’s TC’s mentorship of young men who may come from a family like his — a single father raising an athletically gifted son who might need a bit of guidance. TC has a soft spot for his star football player, Makoa Iona (Zion Junk), whose childhood seems to mirror his own. Makoa’s father, Hani (Sam Puefua), has taken a downward spiral after the death of Makoa’s mother, and TC understands what it’s like to be raised by a single father who sometimes has trouble with the law.
TC’s father went to prison after his mother abandoned them, and even though his father worked two jobs to support his family, he still went away for robbing a bank. TC lived with his grandparents until his dad was paroled. That’s why he wants to help and coach at-risk kids, and help their parents as well.
HONORING HIS HEROES
In Hill’s official CBS biography it states that “his character, a military veteran who flies helicopters, shares a distinguished trait with his (own) father, who was a Vietnam veteran chopper mechanic.” Hill seems to be all about honoring his heroes — like his dad, and his mother, who died of pancreatic cancer. It is because she never really got to express herself artistically after raising five children, including her youngest child who had Down syndrome. It is why Hill “honors her sacrifice by pursuing his acting career with physical and emotional vigor.”