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Stephen Hill happy fans connected to his 'Magnum' hero, T.C.

Stephen Hill and Perdita Weeks have starred in the "Magnum PI" reboot for five seasons. Photo courtesy of NBC
Stephen Hill and Perdita Weeks have starred in the "Magnum PI" reboot for five seasons. Photo courtesy of NBC

NEW YORK, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Stephen Hill says he is grateful for the friends he made and the acting challenges he met while starring for five seasons as retired Marine major and helicopter pilot T.C. Calvin on the remake of Magnum PI.

Also featuring Jay Hernandez, Perdita Weeks, Zachary Knighton, Amy Hill and Tim Kang, the fifth and final season of the Hawaii-set, private detective drama is to be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday.

The final episodes saw T.C. help Magnum and Higgins (Hernandez and Weeks) take down dangerous criminals. He also reconnects with his estranged mother, Verna (Judith Scott), romances firefighter Mahina (Emily Alabi), acts as a father figure to Cade (Martin Martinez) and has to undergo a grueling rehabilitation after being shot.

"T.C. is going in so many directions," Hill (The Color Purple, Maniac) told UPI in a recent phone interview when asked what he was most excited to explore this season.

"To have such a beautiful and talented actress as Emily Alabi is play my girlfriend and to continue working with Cade is great. I really love that we have a brotherhood -- a pressing situation that involves the band of brothers between Magnum, Rick and T.C."

Left to right, Stephen Hill, Zachary Knighton, Perdita Weeks and Jay Hernandez of "Magnum, P.I." arrive on the red carpet at the CBS Upfront at The Plaza Hotel in 2018 in New York City. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Left to right, Stephen Hill, Zachary Knighton, Perdita Weeks and Jay Hernandez of "Magnum, P.I." arrive on the red carpet at the CBS Upfront at The Plaza Hotel in 2018 in New York City. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

His reunion with his long-lost mom might have been his favorite part of Season 5, however.

"I have an amazing actress in Judith Scott that plays Verna Calvin. She is phenomenal," Hill said. That might be the most exciting -- anything that connects to a character's childhood life is probably the most important."

Hill said that after a particularly poignant episode had aired, he ran into a middle-aged White couple at a Hawaiian fish market who told him how touched they were by the story.

"He pulled me to the side and he said he loves my version of T.C. and he was really, really taken aback by that episode because he had issues with his mom growing up, as well. It really hit him," Hill added.

"For a younger Black man and his mom to affect them on television, that's what the beauty of TV is all about."

Hill, 48, snagged the role of T.C. after sending in a very long -- 5-minute, 55 seconds -- highlight tape that showcased his talents in drama, action and comedy -- all of which he ultimately would get to explore during the five seasons of the show.

"The first thing [series creator] Peter Lenkov said to me was, 'We loved your reel. That's why we hired you and it had everything that we saw in the character,'" Hill said.

"All of the notes that I've hit in the show -- except for the girlfriend part -- are notes that i hit in my reel. i think that they had that plan from the jump and I'm glad we got here and had five seasons to explore these characters."

Hill said he knows Magnum PI fans appreciate the show and his character because of all the love they show online.

The actor even was brought to tears when viewers around the world contributed to a "happy birthday" video for him one year.

They also campaigned to get the show picked up by NBC when CBS canceled it after three seasons.

"I've always been trying to give back to the fans as much as i can. I talk to them online," he said.

"When they come into town, I buy them doughnuts. They come to set. I like to give them merch, if I can. I give what I can because they've given us, as an ensemble, as a show so much."

Hill said the show's sunny, scenic location has been another dream come true for him.

"You put me on this Earth, i will get out there into the community and be a part of it, but they landed me here with an awesome group of people," he said of his co-stars, particularly praising Hernandez who cooks for the cast. "We love each other. We really do."

Although the cast and crew worked hard during long seasons of the show, Hill insisted he never felt exhausted.

"To be honest, it's always half-vacation to begin with. When I'm off for a weekend, I'm off for a weekend in Hawaii. You cant beat that. Harlem, I love Harlem. I love when I'm home, but it's a lot more relaxing here," he said with a laugh.

Hill is a lifelong fan of the original Magnum P.I. -- which starred Tom Selleck as the titular private eye, Roger E. Mosley as T.C., Larry Manetti as Rick Wright and John Hillerman as Higgins -- and would play reruns in his trailer when he was in between filming scenes for the reboot.

"It would just be on in the background, giving off that original OG Magnum P.I. vibes," Hill said, adding that it has been fun seeing how much Hawaii has changed since the first show aired in the 1980s.

"Waikiki beach is wider. The water is closer to the shoreline now. You see that or you go: 'Wait a minute! There is a huge building where they are now.'"

He also enjoyed the updates in technology the investigators have at their fingertips now.

"Whenever Magnum needed to make a phone call, he had to go and find a pay phone or get to a landline," Hill said. "There were no cell phones at the time and then they weren't able to use a computer to triangulate people's locations. I think that gives our show a faster pace.

"We don't have as much narration because of it. ... He had a beautiful home and he could ride in the Ferrari and just narrate a lot of the show. We can't do that now because people have shorter attention spans."