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NCIS: Hawaii Creators Jan Nash And Christopher Silber Talk Season 1 And Tease What To Expect Next - Exclusive Interview

When the first season of "NCIS: Hawaii" premiered in 2021, it brought with it a twist: the first female lead in the long-running "NCIS" franchise. With Vanessa Lachey playing Special Agent in Charge Jane Tennant, who oversees the NCIS field office at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Oahu, the series sticks to solving crimes related to the military and national security while giving viewers a much-needed new perspective.

Created by Jan Nash, Christopher Silber, and Matt Bosack — who also serve as writers and executive producers — "NCIS: Hawaii" films on location in the tropical U.S. state with co-stars Noah Mills, Alex Tarrant, and Yasmine Al-Bustami. (Both Nash and Silber come from an "NCIS" background, having previously worked together on "NCIS: New Orleans," while Silber has a long history with the flagship series.)

Heading into Season 2 of "NCIS: Hawaii" — and coinciding with Season 1 being released on DVD on September 6 — Nash and Silber spoke exclusively with Looper about what made the first season so successful, what to expect from the sophomore season, and why Lachey was the right fit for the pioneering role.

'No reason' to do another version of NCIS with a male lead

Season 1 was a big success, and the DVD comes out soon, so let's rehash the season a little bit. Why was Vanessa Lachey the right fit for being the first female lead in the "NCIS" franchise? On the surface, she doesn't seem like an obvious choice, considering she has a lot of reality TV in her background. What was it about her that stood out as being able to capture the character of Jane Tennant?

Jan Nash: You're absolutely right. She doesn't seem like the obvious choice, and she was not available to us when we started doing our casting because she was tied to another project. We saw a lot of actresses before her, some really talented women, most of whom could do one or the other side of Jane Tennant — either the leader side or the mother side, both of which were important to us. At a certain point, we started talking about whether we had created something that was impossible for us to cast. Then Vanessa came in, and she really did manage to convey to us a leader who also happened to be a mother. She was able to incorporate that into the way she interpreted our material. It seemed obvious after she'd done her reading that she was the person we should cast.

Why was it important to have a female lead here?

Christopher Silber: From the moment when Jan and I — before we partnered with Matt Bosack — started talking about the idea of doing a show in Hawaii, it was one of the two things that was important to us, the other being filming in Hawaii. It had to be a female lead. 

I've worked on this franchise since before my children were born, and now one's in 7th grade and the other's in 10th grade. It's been men, men, men, men, men. There was no reason to do another version of this show without changing it. [We were] not changing it just to change it, but changing it to reflect the world around us and the kind of show that Jan and I wanted to write and put together and spend time on.

Say Anything inspired Kate singing on the Season 1 finale

Another refreshing change is the Lucy and Kate romance. The season finale had Kate making a "grand gesture" to Lucy by singing to her. I read somewhere that the gesture was rooted in the iconic "Say Anything" boombox scene. Can you talk more about that connection and how the movie influenced that scene?

Silber: As we were all talking in the writers' room about how we wanted to end the season and the finale — and end this ongoing arc — we realized Whistler, who was so buttoned up and hard to pin down, had to do something to prove that she had changed, considering how tumultuous their relationship had been. Then, we were talking about romantic comedies and the kind of gestures that you see in them. "Say Anything" is iconic ... though, perhaps, it would be a little creepy these days to have someone standing outside with a boombox in front of your window. But the idea of a song, of actually standing out there and doing it, was so provocative and exciting, we felt we had to lean into it.

Will it be smooth sailing for Lucy and Kate in Season 2? What should we expect from that relationship going forward?

Nash: Having put them through so much, we certainly do want to see some domestic harmony — though people getting along doesn't make for great television. We will find ways to twist that. We're in the middle of filming the season, so where we're going to end up has not yet completely unfolded in terms of the stories we're going to tell. But certainly, at the beginning of the season, with the things that we've already shot, there's some lovely storylines of them getting to know each other better and engaging in life the way people do when they start a real relationship.

Jan, you are openly part of the LGBTQ community. How much has your real life influenced Lucy and Kate? Can you give any specific examples, if it has?

Nash: I don't know. I'm old and stodgy. I have two kids, and I'm pretty far removed from what we're putting them through. Certainly, I care a lot about the relationship feeling real and normal, just being a part of life. But to be honest, I'm not alone in that. Chris and Matt are just as committed to that as I am. 

All of us wanted that to be something that was in the show. Once we had these two actresses who were so good, we wanted to take advantage of that in a way that would show something that isn't necessarily depicted all the time on television. It's been more and more, thank God, but it's not something that's as present as it probably is in life.

Expect 'more of the same' from Season 2

Were there any super funny or memorable moments on set that define Season 1 for you?

Silber: Matt and I were fortunate enough to be on set for the finale, which we co-wrote. It was important to us to shoot that — the whole sequence that takes place at Tennant's house, the party and the song, and the ending — as the last thing we shot for the season. It was such a beautiful day because, for all the good feelings that we get from the Ohana on screen, that's how our cast and crew felt behind the scenes. 

There were speeches; there was crying. Everyone was so excited to be there. I've been in this business long enough, and I've never experienced that kind of goodwill and feeling of family on a set before. It was really special, and it made me feel proud of what Jan, Matt, and I, and the writers and everyone involved, have put together here.

Anything that stands out to you, Jan?

Nash: I was lucky enough to be there for the very beginning on the shoot from the [pilot episode] — the day that we shot on the soccer field with Jane Tennant in her track suit and the helicopter arrived. I can still remember the conversation when Chris pitched [the opening scene]. She was going to be a soccer coach, and Chris pitched the helicopter landing, and we had the idea for the camo tracksuit ... As writers, you say things out loud, but you say crazy things. And this seemed crazy, but then, there it was. It was magical, and the whole show has continued to be magical in certain respects for us. I hope that will continue to be true for however many episodes it runs.

Speaking of that, what can we expect from the Season 2 premiere, which is actually a crossover event with the original "NCIS"?

Silber: Mm-hmm. It sure is.

Nash: More of the same. We know what we like in the show, and it was there in the episodes from last season. "NCIS" was kind enough to allow us to finish what was a pretty long arc for them, and to loan us some really fun actors to be on our show. Chris and Megan [Bacharach] wrote the first crossover last year, and it was great. This one, I hope people will enjoy just as much.

Jane's Season 1 love interest could return

You've both worked on other "NCIS" franchises. What's the vibe like when you do a crossover event?

Silber: It's fantastic. I worked on that show ["NCIS"] twice over the course of its run, and that show's been on the air for so long that at this point, most of the actors who I started working with aren't on it anymore. But a lot of the people behind the scenes still are, a lot of the writers still are. It's a bit of a homecoming.

I was fortunate enough to do several crossovers when I was on "NCIS: New Orleans" with the mothership, and it's always a blast. When the actors come from the other show, they come to play. They're excited to be in a new locale, to see how it all works. The energy is so positive behind the scenes, and it translates on the screen. The actors love working with each other, and that energy and that chemistry really pays off. We love doing them.

Lucy and Kate are the big relationship on the show, but Jane's love life is a close second. Will Captain Joe be back, and if not, should we expect any dating apps in Jane's future?

Nash: We certainly hope that Enver [Gjokaj] will be able to come back to us. He is working on another show, but we love him and we love his character, so we hope he will return ... Jane is a beautiful 40-year-old woman, or however old Vanessa [Lachey] is. I don't actually know. She's a beautiful woman and deserves to have a love life. She is going to have one in some form or another.

Expect more of Boom Boom and other recurring characters

Who's your favorite character on the show and why?

Nash: Not going to answer that. How can you? I can't choose.

Silber: You can't choose amongst your children.

Nash: Like children, we love them all equally but differently.

Silber: Same for me.

Nash: It'd be great if you threw down and picked one! [Laughs]

How about this one: Is there a character that you'd like to see more of?

Silber: The short answer to that is ... if we want to see more of them, we'll write more of them. But we're very proud of this repertoire of recurring characters that we have created that cycle in and out — not least of which Commander Chase, who is our medical examiner. We have Boom Boom, who is our forensic expert and bomb specialist, and Pike, our coastguard CGIS agent. All of them are fun to work with and really add to our world.

Season 1 of "NCIS: Hawaii" will be available on DVD on September 6 from CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment. The six-disc collection features over 45 minutes of bonus content including featurettes, deleted scenes, extended scenes, and a gag reel.

This interview was edited for clarity.