Vanessa Lachey Heads Up the Cast of a New NCIS

The actress goes from special guest to savvy lead with a new turn on NCIS: Hawai’i

Philippines-born Vanessa Lachey has popped up across the TV spectrum, with guest-star turns in such series as How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock, Hawaii Five-0, BH90210 and Call Me Kat—and a lead role in Fox sitcom Dads. But you likely still know her best from one of her many hosting/special correspondent gigs on the likes of Total Request Live, Entertainment Tonight, Love Is Blind and pageants like Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA, the latter of which she actually won back in 1998. She’s married to pop/reality TV star Nick Lachey and now appears as the lead in CBS’s latest expansion of its Navy cop universe. She plays savvy, tough-as-nails fed Jane Tennant, the first-ever female special agent in charge of the Pearl Harbor Field Office.

TV Week: What does it mean to you to be playing a powerful, “in charge” woman of colour on television?
Vanessa Lachey: There are female NCIS stars out there; they just aren’t on TV. So, for me to be the one to represent that, I’m honoured. I’m humbled. It’s something I don’t take lightly, and I’m grateful for [it] every day… and I think what it’s going to do is just kind of normalize women in this position: I can balance my love and my country. I can be a mom and try to get my daughter off to school, and deal with my ex-husband, as well as take down a multimillion-dollar crime operation. And do it while I’m jumping off a cliff with a gun in my hand. I do want just little women and men and everyone to say, “I can do that, too. If a woman, a minority, can lead this operation and lead this team, and hopefully do it with grace and compassion and vulnerability, but also honour and respect, then I can, too.”

Have you found the show to be a challenge on the stunts side of things?
As far as the physical part of it, I think we all didn’t realize—and I don’t want to say “out of shape,” but, like, flexibility-wise… things like running, right? Me and Alex [Tarrant, co-star] were running and we’re like, “Oh my goodness!”

Why was Jane Tennant a good fit for you at this point in your life?
For me, it really is the perfect role, in the sense that it’s human. I am doing all of these things, but none of it is impossible. I am vulnerable. I do have bad days, and I miss being in love. And so, they’ve thrown that in there. And at the end of the day, sometimes we just want a hug, and we just want compassion, and we just want friendship. I get a lot of it from my team here, but there are some other vulnerabilities that I think will play out
in this season. I can’t tell too much, because I want you to tune in. But it’s
a fun character to play.

You’ve got so many locally set shows that you can possibly pull supporting characters and one-offs and background players from. Who exactly is available to you? Anybody outside of the NCIS world? Can you bring on someone from Magnum or Hawaii Five-0?
We want to get, like, a dodgeball tournament going. NCIS: Hawai’i vs. Magnum P.I. vs. Hawaii Five-0. Just go at it! We want to have, like, jerseys. We joke about it on set, because it is such a beautiful location and we all are here on this beautiful island. There’s so much you can draw from. But I think that we’ve done a really great job about doing our own little thing. We make this joke, it’s like that scene in Anchorman where all the news channels come out [and fight each other]. We’re like, “Do we come out?” We’re the new guys, and we want to, like, blend in, but we don’t want to overstep boundaries. So it’s fun being in this same bubble, but it’s also fun having our own little posse, so to speak.

NCIS: Hawai’i airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on Global & CBS