Anything But a Cop
Robert Clohessy and his journey to acting
Robert Clohessy in his West Cornwall home.
Photo by Douglas Foulke
Growing up in the projects in the Bronx, Robert Clohessy knew the one thing he did not want to be: a cop. “My dad was a cop in Fort Apache and he was not a happy camper,” says Clohessy. And yet he has appeared in numerous television series playing just that. From “Hill Street Blues,” “Ohara,” “Oz,” and “Blue Bloods,” Clohessy is the ultimate cop who everybody respects and admires. He also had recurring roles in “Orange Is the New Black” and “Boardwalk Empire.”
He was one of eight children in an Irish Catholic family. Clohessy wanted to play college football but an injury sidelined him and he didn’t make the cut. At a community college in Rockland County he entered a two-year program in theater. “No one in my family was in the arts,” he explains, “so I was on my own journey. I did a lot of terrible off-off Broadway shows, but met teachers who were willing to take me under their wing and somehow I got to where I am.”
Clohessy is currently starring in the eighth season of “Blue Bloods” as police Sgt. Gormley. The ensemble cast includes Tom Selleck as New York Police Commissioner Frank Reagan. In a sea of cop shows, “Blue Bloods” is among the most popular. “It’s a combination of things that attract an audience,” Clohessy says. “Tom is always working to make the show better and the family aspect is an important element. At the close when the Reagan family meets at the dinner table to talk—it’s a great asset to the show.”
Clohessy is not content to rest on his laurels, and he is always up for a challenge. Recently he has completed My Art, an independent film written and directed by Laurie Simmons and starring Lena Dunham, Parker Posey, and Blair Brown. He has also done his share of Broadway, including Twelve Angry Men.
Clohessy and his wife met on the west coast when he was appearing in “Hill Street Blues.” “My wife hated LA and while we had an apartment in New York we needed to get away. She grew up in Rye and used to ski at Mohawk. She found our West Cornwall house, which I never saw until we moved in. But I love it here.”
His only advice? “Be true to yourself. Whatever you are or what you are about, own up to it. The words may not be mine but I am speaking them and I try to give my character integrity and justification for what he does and how he feels.” And that’s the sign of a successful and dedicated actor.