Generally speaking law enforcement types are a quietly proud bunch. They are proud to put on the uniform every day, proud to catch the bad guys and proud to dedicate their lives to keeping the public safe.
There might be no prouder cop these days than Sgt. Edward J. Burns, the retired New York Police Department’s media liaison. Besides dedicating 27 years of his life to public service — much of it as the TV face representing the NYPD — Burns has much to brag about. A lovely wife named Molly and three beautiful children. His daughter, Mary, was celebrating her 28th wedding anniversary the day Burns and I last spoke. And, oh yeah, his two sons are famous.
The sons didn’t go into law enforcement but each has dedicated parts of their careers to cops in another way, telling captivating stories about the job to which their old man dedicated his life.
“I just tell people the boys are writers and leave it at that,” Burns told me. “I try not to brag. That’s not really a good thing…” And as his voice trails off you can hear the justifiable and modest pride in his voice.
The oldest Burns son is Ed, 46, a multi-talented bona fide movie star. He started out writing, directing and starring in films like The Brothers McMullen, She’s the One and Sidewalks of New York. He played opposite Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan.
Brother, Brian, is just 13 months younger.
“They were Irish twins, as we call them,” their father told me. And their former production company of the same name produced, among other things, The Fighting Fitzgeralds, which starred Brian Dennehy as a retired New York firefighter.
Brian also wrote for the hit HBO series Entourage. His latest screenplay, Daddy’s Home starring Will Farrell and Donny Walberg goes into production this month.
As I talked with Burns Sr. it was easy to see that after all his son’s accomplishments nothing has made him more proud than what “the boys” are doing right now. They have turned their storytelling ability to a subject they know first-hand — what it’s like to be part of a police officer’s family.
Brian is currently a writer for the hit CBS series Blue Bloods which features a family of New York cops. Tom Selleck’s portrayal of the widowed NYPD Commissioner helps audiences get inside the minds of officers as they make tough decisions. It helps the public get past today’s headline-making stories about police brutality and truly understand the daily life of a cop. The real-deal stuff, not the stilted scripts of older TV shows.
Big brother Ed is now writing, directing and starring in a new police drama for TNT called Public Morals which takes a look back at vice squad cops working in the 1960’s.
As their dad put it, “You know, prostitution, gambling, drugs and so forth…all the stuff the Public Morals Division used to deal with.” Since that’s the era in which Ed Sr. began wearing the uniform he is a consultant on the show.
“I make sure the procedures and language are right for the time,” he said.
The upcoming TNT series is described as portraying the real life of a police officer as they grapple with the fine line between morality and criminality. Ed Jr. stars as an officer determined to raise his sons to have integrity as he faces a daily dose of ugliness on the street.
Burns Sr. is much too modest to brag about it but I’m thinking that’s exactly what he tried to do with his boys and daughter Mary.
Oh, and one more tidbit about the Burns brothers that makes their dad’s chest puff out just a little more? Ed is married to supermodel Christy Turlington. Brian married Christy’s equally beautiful sister, Kelly. The Burns now have nine gorgeous grandchildren.
Wait. Maybe someone should write a TV series about the Burns clan.
Think of it: An Irish cop who rose in the ranks of the nation’s largest police force, produced three accomplished children and picked up two gorgeous daughter-in-laws. Sprinkle in nine rambunctious kids and I can’t think of a better cast!