It’s been more than a month since the Season 8 premiere of CBS’ Blue Bloods dropped a bombshell, revealing that Detective Danny Reagan’s (Donnie Wahlberg) ER nurse wife Linda, played by Amy Carlson, had died in a helicopter crash.
The way her character was written off via a hasty, barely mentioned off-screen death and no proper sendoff triggered an outcry from fans. The reaction to the departure of Carlson, who had fulfilled her seven-year contract on the show, has been overwhelming and, six weeks later, it shows no signs of subsiding. The story Deadline did about Carlson’s departure the night of the Blue Bloods season opener, which included her farewell note to fans, is approaching 1.1 million views, with more than 630 fans sharing their shock and sadness over the abrupt character exit.
In an interview with Deadline, Carlson, who had been on Blue Bloods since the pilot and a series regular since the beginning of Season 2, is opening up about her departure. She addresses the way her character was written off and the strong viewer reaction. She also shares memories of her favorite scenes on the show, reveals who she modeled the Danny-Linda relationship after and whether she still watches Blue Bloods. She would not discuss why she opted to move on but says whether she would return to the CBS drama series for a guest shot to give her character a proper ending and give fans, who are still processing Linda’s death, closure.
DEADLINE: Were you surprised by the huge fan response to Linda’s sudden death?
CARLSON: I was surprised, but I’m also just so honored that all these fans connected so much with that character. It surprised me, but it really touches my heart that they cared so much about Linda and that she meant so much to so many people, I had no idea, I can’t even tell you how many messages a day I get about her and the character. They’re so sweet, they all wish me well in my future projects, they’re all just super supportive fans of mine, and it’s just so lovely.
DEADLINE: Have you thought about why the reaction to Linda’s sudden death has been so extraordinary? She was not one of the main characters on the show. What was it about her that connected so strongly with the audiences?
CARLSON: Well, in some ways, I always felt like she was sort of the everyman, everyperson around the table. I felt like the way I always wanted to play her was — she was the regular person, and as much as all this stuff was swirling around them, I wanted to always ground that family with as much love and heart as I could. So maybe they identified with that because I think everyone hopes to play that role on some level in their own families, and Linda was able to do that a lot of the time. I think that Linda and Danny’s relationship was really touching and grounding, and so a part of who he is is what was reflected in her, and it was a real symbiotic relationship. What I really modeled that relationship on was from Friday Night Lights, that sort of representative of a real marriage. They didn’t always agree, they didn’t always get along, but no matter what, you knew they could fight, but they still truly loved each other.
DEADLINE: Would you be open to go back for a flashback and give fans some closure, maybe show how your character perished?
CARLSON: Yeah, I think it’s been hard on the fans. I never wanted it to end that way, so I feel sad for the fans because everyone wants closure, and I hear that a lot from the fans. So of course I’d be open to that. Sure.
DEADLINE: What did you think of the way Linda was written off?
CARLSON: I feel badly that she dies the way she dies. I did not know they would do that, I was surprised. I wouldn’t have done that.
DEADLINE: How would you have written Linda off?
CARLSON: I could’ve shown the death. I guess It would’ve been nice for the fans to see her demise, to be a participant in it, and that was my vote for the fans. I’m not sure how I would’ve chosen it but I just know that for the fans to have a way to grieve, to move through it, I think it would’ve been nice for them. That’s just what I hear from them all the time, ‘we really want you to come back’, and I’m like, that’s impossible. But they also say we wish we could’ve mourned the character.
DEADLINE: There have been comments by a Blue Bloods colleague that everyone on the show was surprised by your exit, which led to the unfortunate way Linda was killed off off-screen. What would you say about that?
CARLSON: If someone had said they were surprised and they didn’t know I was leaving I would just respond to them and say it’s standard to have conversations with actors whose contracts are up prior to the season ending. It’s not that you start to shoot and don’t know.
DEADLINE: Were you invited to come back for the Season 8 premiere to wrap up Linda’s story?
CARLSON: No, I was not invited, it didn’t happen.
DEADLINE: Personally, what do you miss the most about Linda and playing that character and being on that show?
CARLSON: What I miss most is working with Donnie, and Donnie has been a dream since I left. He said something really sweet about me on the Andy Cohen Live show the other day, and even the very first night that the series aired this season, he said something about his tears were for missing me and for loss of working with me as an acting partner. He’s just been so generous and sweet. I could just tear up right now thinking about how sweet he’s been. I miss working with Donnie. I miss playing those scenes with him. We had a lot of fun. We put a lot of work into those scenes, and we were both super committed to doing right by those characters.
DEADLINE: Is there a scene, an episode that you can single out as one of your favorite moments on the show?
CARLSON: Oh, there’s so many. My favorite? There are a lot of scenes we played, and there was a particular scene when we did have an argument and Linda was tired of Danny hiding things from her. It was the final scene from Season Six Episode 16, “Help Me, Help You” written by Ian Biederman — Danny comes back in, and he sits down next to her, and she says, you know, you need to be honest with me, and you can’t hide things from me. Just whenever there were moments where we connected on a deeper level, on a human level that was, beyond acting, but as two humans playing these characters. Those are all my favorite moments. I loved an episode that Brian Burns wrote, “The Job” from Season 2. He wrote this great episode about how Danny’s teaching the kid, Jack, how to use a gun, and Linda walks in on them.
DEADLINE: What about your last Blue Bloods episode, the Season 7 finale. How was it filming the episode knowing that it was your last, your last scenes with Donnie?
CARLSON: I didn’t know at that moment, but it was emotional to watch that house fake burn down because the future was uncertain. And it was emotional. Exactly that scene when it was burning was my final scene that I ever shot. So it was strange. It was raining, and these firefighters were there, and a lot of the firefighters, strangely enough, were actual background actor firefighters, real firefighters whom I’d worked with on Third Watch, so it was a bit of a reunion happening at the same time. It’s always so many elements going into those shoots, but yeah, it was emotional, midnight on a Friday in the pouring rain with an exhausted crew who’d shot 22 episodes.
DEADLINE: Do you still watch the show as a fan now?
CARLSON: I haven’t seen it. I watched Donnie’s performance in the season premiere, and I thought he was amazing, and he should win an Emmy for his work. I thought it was just unbelievable. He did such incredible work.
DEADLINE: Are you still in touch with any of your co-stars, Donnie in particular?
CARLSON: Oh, Donnie and I, we text, and we talk. Yeah, I talk to Donnie a lot.
DEADLINE: Seeing the continuing outpouring from fans, what would you want to say to them?
CARLSON: Oh, that I’ll see them soon and ‘thank you’ for all of their incredible support. I hear them, and I appreciate them so much, and I’m so grateful that they love this character that I created. I’m honored to have had the chance to portray her for as long as I did. It was seven great years, that’s a longer run than most shows get. I also want to stress how amazing CBS was to me during the whole run. (CBS boss) Leslie Moonves put me on an show early in my career and has been such a supporter; they all have been lovely to me.