‘NCIS: Hawaii’ Dream Casting: Who Could Play the Franchise’s First Female Lead?

Maggie Q, Nicole Scherzinger, Rain Valdez
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NCIS: Hawaii is breaking from tradition for the CBS franchise. The all-but-confirmed spinoff will feature a female lead, according to TVLine.

Thus far, the NCIS leads have all been men—and, for that matter, mostly white men. Mark Harmon plays Leroy Jethro Gibbs on the original (at least for now); Chris O’Donnell and LL Cool J co-headline NCIS: Los Angeles as G. Callen and Sam Hanna, respectively; and Scott Bakula plays Dwayne Cassius Pride on the just-canceled NCIS: New Orleans.

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So the prospect of a woman—a woman of color, with any luck—heading up an NCIS show is exciting. TVLine reports that the character, tentatively named Jane Tennant, will be the special agent in charge at a base of operations dubbed NCIS Pearl.

And we’re already dreaming of actresses who could play the part, with a focus on stars who have Hawaiian roots.

Maggie Q
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Maggie Q

Before she was a star of Nikita and Designated Survivor, this actress was a teen growing up on Oahu. Nowadays, Maggie Q might be game to lead a procedural, even though she turned down a main role in Hawaii Five-0. “The problem was not that I didn’t want to be in Hawaii or be on that show,” she told HILuxury in 2012. “The team of people who did the pilot are good friends of mine. But the female character was not interesting for me, personally. It was not something I thought was going to challenge me.”

Kelly Hu
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Kelly Hu

This Nash Bridges and Arrow alum wasn’t just born and raised in the Aloha State, she was also crowned Miss Hawaii USA in 1993. Plus, she returned to the islands in 2010 for an arc as Laura Hills on Hawaii Five-0.

Shannyn Sossamon
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Shannyn Sossamon

Born in Honolulu and part-Hawaiian by ancestry, this actress broke out in such films as A Knight’s Tale and 40 Days and 40 Knights. More recently, Sossamon has been focusing on TV, with key roles in Wayward Pines and Sleepy Hollow.

Tia Carrere
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Tia Carrere

This Wayne’s World and True Lies actress was born in Honolulu, and she has even won two Grammy Awards in the Best Hawaiian Music Album category. “I believe that people from Hawaii, we carry the aloha spirit in us,” she told KHON in 2018. “There’s this feeling when you meet someone from Hawaii….You’re a kindred spirit.”

Janel Parrish
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Janel Parrish

Best known for her role as Mona on Pretty Little Liars, this actress was raised in Kaneohe, Hawaii, and “absolutely consider[s] Hawaii home,” as she told HILuxury in 2017. She also said it would be challenging to keep up her screen career there, but NCIS: Hawaii producers could solve that problem! Plus, Parrish is no stranger to CBS procedurals shot in the 50th state: She recently had an arc on Magnum P.I.

Nicole Scherzinger
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Nicole Scherzinger

This Pussycat Dolls singer—of Hawaiian, Russian, and Filipino descent—was born in Waianae, Hawaii, as she told KHNL in 2007. “I am blessed to be of Hawaiian descent and even more blessed to be from the ohana that I come from,” she added. (And, yes, Scherzinger can act: She earned an Olivier Award nomination for her Cats! performance in London’s West End.)

Rain Valdez
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Rain Valdez

We’re also submitting a big endorsement for this Emmy-nominated actress of Transparent and Razor Tongue fame—who, yes, grew up not in Hawaii but in Guam. We’re still waiting for network television to feature a trans actor in a lead role, so NCIS: Hawaii producers could make history by putting Valdez at the top of the call sheet.

Maria Bello
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Maria Bello

If the Powers That Be at the NCIS franchise decide to cast a white actress in the lead—as, ahem, they’ve done three times already—then we’d vouch for this two-time Golden Globe nominee, who ended her run as a fan-favorite character on the flagship series earlier this year. (The character Jane Tennant can be renamed Jacqueline Sloane, right?)