A sequence of aroyl selenourea ligands (L1–L3) substituted by aniline and their Ru(II) (η6-p-cymene) complexes (1-3), [Ru(II) (η6-p-cymene) L] (L = monodentate aroyl selenourea ligand) have been synthesized and characterized the composition of the ligands and their metal complexes. The molecular structures of ligand L1 and complex 3 were also confirmed by single XRD crystal method. The single-crystal XRD study showed that aroyl selenourea ligand coordinates with Ru via Se novel neutral monodentate atom. In vitro DNA interaction studies were investigated by Fluorescence and UV-Visible spectroscopic methods which showed that the intercalative mode of binding is in the order of 1 > 2 > 3 with Ru(II) (η6-p-cymene) complexes. Spectroscopic methods have been used for measuring the binding affinity of bovine serum albumin to complex. Moreover, the cytotoxic study of complexes (1–3) were evaluated against HeLa S3, A549, and IMR90 cells, resulting in complexes 1 and 2 showed promising cytotoxic activity against HeLa S3 cell with IC50 values of 24 and 26 µM, respectively. Also, the morphological changes of HeLa S3 and A549 cells were confirmed by fluorescence microscope in the presence of complexes 1 and 2 using AO (acridine orange, 200 µM) and EB (ethidium bromide, 100 µM). In addition, the docking results strongly support the protein binding studies of the complexes. Communicated by Ramaswamy H. Sarma. © 2020, © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.