Bridget Moynahan calls me during a break in the action from the set of CBS's long-running drama series Blue Bloods, on which she's played assistant district attorney Erin Reagan since the show first premiered, in September 2010. She's just finished filming one of the fan-favorite Reagan family dinner scenes with onscreen dad Tom Selleck, onscreen brothers Donnie Wahlberg and Will Estes, and at least five or six additional Reagans—but the only “fun” part was just being with one another. Due to the large cast, they require endless hours of attempting to eat Thanksgiving-like meals without feeling sick as they shoot from every possible angle.
On the menu today? “Chili,” Moynahan says. “Chili for four hours.” But chili with a choice, as Moynahan had the option to go vegan or regular. “I went with the vegan,” she says, before adding, “I wouldn't say I would reorder it.”
But don't for a second think that Moynahan, 50, isn't grateful to be there eating a meat alternative for hours on end. With Blue Bloods's 12th season premiering in October, she is in rarefied company alongside Ellen Pompeo on Grey's Anatomy and Mariska Hargitay on Law & Order: SVU as one of only a few women actors to have stayed on a drama series in a leading role for more than a decade.
“We know how lucky we are to be on this show,” she tells me of the job security that Blue Bloods has provided. “It doesn't come around that often.” But it's more than that: After years of modeling (including for Glamour) and traveling the world, New York is home. “My family is here,” she says. “I saw a few people—friends of mine—who had gone to L.A. and were just kind of chasing the next job for a while. I didn't want to get lost in L.A. I had New York, and I knew New York. I had that comfort.”
The first time Moynahan went to L.A. for a job was when she got the role of Rachel in the cult favorite comedy-drama Coyote Ugly in 2000. “I made a point of saying I don't want to go to L.A. until I have a job, and that's what I did,” she says. But even that wasn't for long—Moynahan booked the role of Natasha, Big's wife on Sex and the City, at the same time. “Sex and the City and Coyote Ugly were two very fortunate moments,” she says. “Right time, right place. It could have gone a different way for sure.”
Moynahan—whose full name is Kathryn Bridget Moynahan (“I started going by Bridget when I began modeling since there were already several Kathryns at the agency, and then it stuck. I still respond to both”)—became a household name almost overnight. Hollywood took notice of her striking looks and talent, casting her in several high-profile films opposite actors John Cusack (Serendipity in 2001), Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman (The Sum of All Fears in 2002), Al Pacino and Colin Farrell (The Recruit in 2003), Will Smith (I, Robot in 2004) and more. In those days men were the marquee headliners for blockbuster films, with usually only one woman cast in the supporting role. It's changing, but it's been slow. “I am certainly not in a position to complain…but I do think the business has opened up,” Moynahan says.
Other TV roles followed, but it wasn't until Blue Bloods in 2010 that gave Moynahan, then in her late 30s and a single mom to three-year-old son Jack with her ex Tom Brady, the stability she craved. She says she's much lighter—and funnier—than the uptight, by-the-book Erin Reagan, but there are still plenty of similarities. “Growing up in an Irish Catholic family with all brothers and all boy cousins, I've just been surrounded by men my whole life,” she says in reference to being the sole woman sibling in the fictional Reagan family. “And being a single mom [to onscreen daughter Nicky] as well.” She says that if getting a law degree wasn't so “ominous and scary and overwhelming,” she would have made a good lawyer too. “I certainly have gotten more appreciation for the law.”
Interest in the law aside, Moynahan has worked on two books during her time on the series. First there was the 2015 Blue Bloods Cookbook, and then in 2019, Our Shoes, Our Selves: 40 Women, 40 Stories, 40 Pairs of Shoes, a collection of stories from prominent women. “That was such a rewarding experience to put it together and help produce,” she says. “I got to work a different part of my brain.”
As for what's next: Whenever Blue Bloods does conclude, Moynahan isn't exactly sure. What she does know is that something great will come. In the meantime, she can't wait for Sex and the City fans to see her reprise her role as Natasha in the revival, And Just Like That…, coming to HBO Max later this year, as well as what's in store for Erin this season on Blue Bloods.
Most important, Moynahan is living in the moment now. As you'll hear in her thoughts about finding love in her 40s and turning 50, she has a confidence that's incredibly inspiring. Here she opens up to Glamour West Coast editor Jessica Radloff about the lessons she's learned along the way and why the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
Glamour: Your first television credit was playing Big’s wife Natasha on Sex and the City. What do you remember about that initial audition?
Bridget Moynahan: I don't know if I really knew how big this show was when I went in for the audition. I was just starting to go out for roles, so everything was scary. The audition was running about an hour late, and all I had to say was one line: “Nice to meet you.” That's it. I almost left because I had three other auditions that day and didn't want to be late for the other ones. But I stayed, and I couldn't believe that it turned into such a role. I thought it was going to be one episode, and I think Natasha was on for two seasons. And now I'm doing And Just Like That…. I'm so thrilled they brought the character back.
How many episodes will you be in?
I don't think I'm allowed to say anything. I signed a nondisclosure agreement. I can just say that I was there because people photographed me, so people know already.
Your phone must have been blowing up that day, because those pictures of you and Sarah Jessica Parker on set were all over.
Yeah. I couldn't believe it. I've been doing Blue Bloods for 12 seasons now, and we just don't get that kind of crowd. The Sex and the City fan base is huge, and they all show up to support that show. It's amazing. I was overwhelmed that day. I was like, “Wow, this is what you guys are looking at every single day when you're going to work on the streets of New York.” It's really quite impressive.
Well, granted, I don’t know how many people would want to show up at a crime scene for Blue Bloods outside an abandoned warehouse, but so many of your scenes are indoors anyway.
True. And to be fair, I mean the fashion that everyone's wearing on Sex and the City and And Just Like That…, you just want to take it all in and try to re-create it.
Did you give Natasha any sort of backstory when you got the role? She was so interesting, but there was a lot we didn’t—and still don’t—know about her.
Because originally it was one line, I think at the time I really created a backstory for myself. Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr.'s wife, was kind of my image of who Natasha was. I went in with that energy in my mind.
Wow. That’s such a great person to base her on. So, tell me, now that you’re going into the 12th season of Blue Bloods, how does playing Erin Reagan still fulfill you?
It all has to do with the writing and new, more complicated story lines. We also have a team of actors who really appreciate the job and each other. We know how lucky we are to be on this show—and such a long-running show at that. It doesn't come around that often, so when you're working with people who express gratitude, it just fuels the show. Everybody wants to show up and do their best work.
Where does that loyalty and work ethic come from?
I think it comes from family. It's easy to think, Oh, I've done this, so let me go do that, where the grass is greener, but I think all of us understand what a good thing we have here. I know Donnie [Wahlberg] and Tom [Selleck] feel the same way. We are grateful. When I went to And Just Like That… and started filming, everybody was so grateful and gracious, from the writers, creators, and producers to every actress I worked with on that show. Sarah Jessica Parker is such a kind, welcoming human being. I was taken aback that they were so thankful that Natasha was back. Meanwhile, I was just like, thank you. Really, thank you. It was just nice to be around that energy.
On Sex and the City, Natasha was married to Big (Chris Noth), and on Blue Bloods, Peter Hermann (Younger) plays your ex-husband Jack. But what’s so interesting—and refreshing—is that on Blue Bloods, the writers have never tied Erin’s worth or storylines to her love life. Sometimes it’s explored, but mainly everything is about her work and family.
The producers would bring some characters in every once in a while to play that romantic interest, and to me it always felt so forced. I didn't see the need for it. But I don't know if it was ever a specific conversation of, “Let's just leave Erin single, as a single mother.” She was introduced on the show as a single, newly divorced, single parent. And I felt like there's some strength and relatability in that for a lot of people.
It’s been so fun to see the relationship grow between you and Sami Gayle, who plays your onscreen daughter, Nicky Reagan-Boyle.
It's unfortunate that her character is often at school, but at the same time, it's so realistic. I mean, I've got stepsons who are that same age, and we don't see them anymore because they're off at college or they're doing internships. As much as I miss Sami and those relationships, it's very realistic because you have that loss, which is a very relatable life situation and a strange reality. There's a grief to [when kids go off to college or to live on their own] that isn't often addressed. We get to touch upon it.
Your son Jack is 14. Does he come to set?
He used to come when he was younger. He would come and wear the walkie-talkies and be part of the camera department from time to time. But now he's in school.
The industry has changed so much since Blue Bloods first premiered. What are you empowered by, and what still frustrates you?
When I got into the business, it was very separated. If you were doing movies, you didn't really do TV. And vice-versa. It was just kind of like everybody had their space. Now there's no judgment about going from one medium to another. That fluidity has really opened the doors for a lot of people. There's just a lot of wonderful material written for women now. I am certainly not in a position to complain, as I'm sitting on a show for 10-plus years. But I do think the business has opened up and become more inclusive.
What advice would you give yourself walking onto the Blue Bloods stage for the first time back in 2010?
Maybe not the Blue Bloods stage, but even earlier in life when I was starting to audition, I would tell myself to trust my gut more. And to not to get caught up in what other people are saying or doing and just trust my choices and take more chances.
What were other people saying back then?
Specifically, like, “You should do this,” or “This is how the audition should go.” I wasn't as experienced, so I just assumed those people knew more than me. It's so important to surround yourself with good people that want you to succeed, and who you want to succeed as well.
You had a milestone birthday in April, turning 50. What was that like for you?
I actually had no reservations or insecurities about turning 50. I have a very strong confidence and self-awareness of how I feel and what I look like. I feel like I look really good at 50. So I don't get caught up in the age game, or the weight game or any other game that society or people might put on you when you turn a certain age. I'm feeling really great. I think I look really great. It's just a number.
I love that you own that and aren’t afraid to say it, because everything you’re saying is true.
Well, I grew up in New England, playing sports, hanging out at the beach, so [none of that stuff] was a focus among my friends and peers growing up. I know it is such a focus in this generation with TikTok and Instagram and all these things, and I don't even know what's going on half the time. It seems like a lot of work, whatever it is. I just don't have any interest to get caught up in it.
You’re about to celebrate your sixth wedding anniversary to your husband, Andrew Frankel. What did you learn about finding love in your 40s?
What I learned was sometimes you have to fish in another pond, as the saying goes. I had been dating people in the industry. I met a really solid, good human being with none of the pretension or all that other litter. He's a really good person and a good partner. I don't think as a younger person I understood what that meant when it pertains to real-life situations. I think that's what some of my girlfriends who are dating now are missing. They're looking for who's cute…just a little bit more of a superficial thing. Luckily, I got everything in the same package, but sometimes the quality things are a little bit lower on the hit list for people and the more superficial are the first top five things they're looking for. I think I missed that as a younger person. I was maybe looking for something different. You're also never anywhere for any period of time. I was always traveling, so you are always away from your partner.
Whenever Blue Bloods does conclude, have you thought about what’s next in your career? Would you like to produce or direct? Or is there a series you love where you think, Gosh, I’d love to play a role like that?
Every time this question comes up, I think, Okay, well, I am confident that something else will come up. And every time I see a show like Mare of Easttown or Handmaid's Tale, I think, God there's such incredible work out there, such incredible opportunities and such great writing for women. So because of that, I feel that next step will open its doors when this wraps, whenever that may be. I know there is such incredible work being produced out there, and I really feel like something great will come along when this is done. Until then, this is absolutely wonderful and it gives all of us here the freedom to have a life with our families. I've fortunately been able to raise my son in New York City because of this show. That's a win. When I was modeling, I missed out on weddings and funerals and birthdays because I was always off somewhere for a job. I was really thrilled when Blue Bloods came along, for me to get this job in New York and to be able to raise Jack here and have him close to his father. There were important pieces for those decisions.
This interviewed has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Jessica Radloff is the Glamour West Coast editor. You can follow her on Instagram @jessicaradloff14.
Originally Appeared on Glamour