‘NCIS: Hawai’i’ Boss on That Kacy Grand Gesture, Jane’s Future With Joe & More

Yasmine Al-Bustami as Lucy Tara and Tori Anderson as Kate Whistler in NCIS Hawaii
Spoiler Alert
Courtesy of CBS Entertainment

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the NCIS: Hawai’i Season 1 finale “Ohana.”]

In the first season closer, the NCIS: Hawai’i team (of course) saves the day, and to celebrate, they gather at Jane Tennant’s (Vanessa Lachey) for a party. But little did they know, the party would include a moonlight serenade!

After getting some relationship advice from Ernie Malik (Jason Antoon), Kate Whistler (Tori Anderson) surprises Lucy Tara (Yasmine Al-Bustami) by singing “Make You Feel My Love.” As she explains, she’s singing “because talking hasn’t worked but I love you, and I don’t know else to prove it and I can’t go another day without you,” promising, “I will do it right this time.” The grand gesture works, and Lucy kisses her as everyone cheers.

Meanwhile, Jane’s relationship with Captain Joe Milius (Enver Gjokaj) doesn’t have quite as happy an ending, since he’s based in D.C. and her life is on the island. For now, they can just live in “nice thoughts” while he’s there.

Executive producer Jan Nash breaks down the finale and teases Season 2.

That was a great way to end the first season. How did you decide to bring Lucy and Kate back together with quite the grand gesture?

Jan Nash: The general arc of that relationship existed from the very beginning of the season. Obviously we didn’t know what would happen, how many episodes we’d get ordered, et cetera. When we got a longer order, we extended things. But we always knew that we were going to go through this journey of them coming together, breaking apart and then coming back together.

The grand gesture of it all is rooted in an earlier episode where Kate Whistler refers to Say Anything, which is a movie that a number of us really, really enjoy and that sense of, if you have someone you love and you have been through a difficult time, sometimes you have to make that big gesture that breaks through the logjam of whatever’s been keeping you apart. All credit to Chris [Silber] and Matt [Bosack] for the specifics of it, but the grand gesture was rooted in ‘80s romcom. I do think it turned out really, really well. All of the cast did a great job in the finale and the Ernie, Lucy, and Kate characters all had really wonderful things to do and the actors just did a great job.

Jason Antoon as Ernie Malik and Yasmine Al-Bustami as Lucy Tara in NCIS Hawaii

Karen Neal/CBS

I loved Ernie’s reaction to Kate singing and his “I wasn’t being literal.”

Yeah. [Laughs] Ernie’s role as relationship mentor has been very amusing to sort of uncover in the course of the season, and Jason just did such a wonderful job and made it really, really fun and special.

Now you have to have Tori singing again.

Yes, yes.

What’s Lucy and Kate’s relationship like moving forward? 

Our goal for this relationship was always that it feel like it was just an organic part of the show and of these characters’ lives. Obviously we just started working on Season 2, but now that we have, what we are really talking about at the beginning of the season is — not that they don’t have issues, they clearly had some issues, but we’re not going to live in those issues. We’re going to live in the space of what does their relationship look like? At the beginning of the season, we’re really just focusing on that. What is it that they want from a relationship and how does that get embodied in our television show?

Enver Gjokaj as Capt. Milius and Vanessa Lachey as Jane Tennant in NCIS Hawaii

Karen Neal/CBS

Speaking of relationships, Jane and Joe! Talk about building that relationship this season and especially these two episodes, knowing that distance is a complication for them.

Enver is just so very charming. We had ideas for what that relationship was going to be when we put Joe in the pilot. He was mostly, I think, intended to be a really interesting foil for Tennant and Enver just sort of infused the part with such charisma that in fact we really just grew to love it and decided to turn it into a little bit more and then from there, looked for a way to bring him back. What we did in the finale seemed like a natural way to do that. What it will be going forward has yet to be determined because Enver’s a super talented guy and I believe has a job on another television show, so we will have to figure it out. But we certainly do want to figure it out because we do like the relationship very much and we just like having Enver in our show.

So it’s just about availability?

At this point, it’s about availability for that relationship. But obviously, Jane Tennant as a leader of this team who has a full life, both in terms of co-parenting her children with her ex-husband, with whatever the opportunities and challenges that her children are facing, we want her to have a full adult life as well. And so we will be looking to sort of figure out how to give her an interesting dating life going forward.

Vanessa Lachey as Jane Tennant in NCIS Hawaii

Karen Neal/CBS

I really like what you did with Jane, showing every part of her life this season.

That is the challenge of a procedural television show, that you have a crime that you want to solve and personal stories can suffer in that context. What we decided to do was to see if we could simplify our cases in a way that allowed the room for these personal stories because they were important to us and we thought they were going to be really good for our actors. For the most part, I think we did that. I think that we’ve managed to simplify the cases in a way that nobody in the audience is going to think that they couldn’t figure out how the crime got committed and how we caught the bad guy, but it left enough room for those personal stories, which have become so important to our show.

You did a great job of exploring everyone’s families this season — Jane and her kids, Jesse (Noah Mills) and his family, Kai (Alex Tarrant) and his father…

These are terrific actors, every single one of them, and we wanted to make sure that everybody had an opportunity to showcase what they could do, not just in terms of chasing after a bad guy or sliding down a set of stairs, but also the interpersonal stuff, the relationships with each other, because I think some of those are really fun on the show as well, but also their lives outside being an agent who solves Navy crimes.

Noah Mills as Jesse Boone, Jason Antoon as Ernie Malik in NCIS Hawaii

Karen Neal/CBS

Is there anything you’re looking to do with cases next season? More of Kate with the team, Ernie in the field, Jesse continuing to be in danger on and off work…

We have a sense of some of the things that the show does well. Obviously there are things that we didn’t try that that probably will work very well on our show and we’re going to try to figure out what some of those are, but we want to keep learning more about these characters. We want to keep discovering what their strengths and weaknesses are. We want to keep figuring out how to make them richer, fuller characters for the audience, and that will inform the cases. When you learn an interesting thing, like that Lucy doesn’t like water, then that makes a case where she has to be near water more interesting.

Boom Boom (Sharif Atkins) is going to continue to be a recurring character, right? He is so much fun and I like the idea of him teaching Kai.

Sharif is great, and we certainly hope he will return. Boom Boom and Chase [Seana Kofoed] and various other people have appeared, we very much hope that they will come back and appear in more episodes because they were great and they made the show even more interesting.

Was it a conscious decision to make this the most romantic NCIS of the franchise so far, especially in a first season?

Conscious only to the extent that we very much wanted to have all of these characters have full lives and they’re all adults and therefore those full lives for at least some of them would involve relationships.

Is there anything else you can share about what’s coming up in Season 2?

The writers came back last week. We did have conversations about what we thought worked on the show from Season 1 and the things that worked I believe were the things that the audience really finds exciting, which is the really fun cases, the humor, the beauty of Hawai’i mixed with the character based-stories that have become a little bit of a signature for our show. I think we will do more of that, not necessarily repeating beats that we’ve done before, but hopefully discovering new things to do and building on these characters and making them even more rich and full characters on our show.

NCIS: Hawai’i, Season 2, TBA, CBS