Alex Tarrant on 'NCIS: Hawaii's New Bromance Between Sam Hanna and Kai Holman

Alex Tarrant

The reveal that Sam Hanna (LL COOL J) is still in Oahu on NCIS: Hawaii for a special top-secret op for Elite, has put to rest the fears that he was there to vet Jane Tennant’s (Vanessa Lachey) proficiency and possibly that of her team, but his stay in the Pearl Harbor office has had an interesting side effect: a bromance between Sam and Kai Holman (Alex Tarrant).

Their relationship on tonight’s “Operation Red Rabbit” episode takes a turn when Sam recruits Kai to be his wingman for the Devil Dash Ironman Triathlon and the two men become workout buddies with Kai following him around almost like a little puppy.

“As an actor, as Alex, myself, I feel like a little puppy dog when I’m around Todd (LL COOL J),” Tarrant tells Parade. “He’s such a legend in this industry and there’s a reason why he’s stood the test of time. He’s an amazing person, an amazing professional. I’ve learned so much being around him. When it comes to the relationship with Kai, I think it’s very similar and it makes it a lot easier for me because it’s life mimicking art.”

On the series, Sam and Kai are in training for the 10K portion of the triathlon—which Kai actually doesn’t want to do—and drinking special smoothies that contain fungi and other disgusting-sounding ingredients, but the bromance between the two doesn’t go that far in real life. There’s no competition taking place for who can do the greatest number of pushups, chin-ups or anything like that.

“Todd’s got boundless energy,” Tarrant says. “It’s quite amazing to see on set. He brings his music, and it helps everyone stay in a really, really good mood. For me, naturally, I’m quite a quiet person. And then when everyone calls action that’s when I turn it on. But it’s been an amazing experience just watching him navigate coming into the show with such grace.”

Related: NCIS: Hawaii Reveals Secrets From Lucy's Past and Kai's Present

The Devil Dash story is the B story on tonight’s “Operation Red Rabbit” episode which has the team investigating the disappearance of the fiancée (Brianna Brown) of a vanished naval officer (Noah Bean) and they quickly discover that his secrets go much deeper than she suspected.

“The idea of Operation Red Rabbit is interesting,” Tarrant says of the storyline. “That’s how this whole thing gets started by Navy Special Agent Jack Spence. Over time we start to question who he really is and what his intentions are, and I think that’s what makes this story really interesting.”

LL COOL J, Alexa Tarrant, Yasmine Al-Bustami<p>Courtesy: CBS</p>
LL COOL J, Alexa Tarrant, Yasmine Al-Bustami

Courtesy: CBS

Speaking on a Zoom call from Hawaii, Tarrant talks more about who Kai is, what he hopes to see for the character in the future, and how he almost lost the role because of his previous commitment to Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

In last week’s episode, we found out that Kai’s secret girlfriend is real, that she isn’t somebody who’s catfishing him.

He wasn’t lying.

So what was that like for him? Only Lucy (Yasmine Al-Bustami) really met her. But what was that like for him that everybody said, “He’s telling us the truth”?

I’m not too sure how Kai feels about it. I think on the one side he wants to say, “I told you so.” But then, also, he knows the reason why she is here in Hawaii is not for him. Obviously, there’s perks to her job and that’s possibly being able to see Kai. But, at the end of the day, it was a business trip. It’s always business first.

Their relationship doesn’t seem to be one where they seem to make an effort to get together. It seems to be more like when their jobs bring them together.

Yeah, that’s absolutely right.

I would think he would want more from a relationship, that he might still be looking.

Oh, absolutely. But I think the way that their career trajectories are going doesn’t…if you actually just watched this Netflix show called One Day, so heartbreakingly beautiful. Maybe one day their paths will cross again, and they might stay this time, they might stay together.

Related: The Who, What, Why and When for the NCIS Franchise’s 1,000th Episode

We also haven’t seen Kai’s father and his dog for a while. Will that happen in an upcoming episode?

I keep on pitching these ideas about bringing the dog back like I get lost somewhere while I’m going on a hike with the dog and I fall down a crevice and the only person that can save me is Inoki, my beautiful companion. Hopefully, they can write something like that. For now, Brock is on ice. Brock is the dog’s real name.

One of the things I just found out is that you almost lost the Kai role because of your commitment to Lord of the Rings. How did that finally work out that you were able to do both?

My wife—sitting next to me—just said, “Magic.” It felt like that, to be honest. I wrote a letter saying that this opportunity is something that I’ve been dreaming about, this is all I’ve ever wanted as an actor. And that’s the honest truth. Everything else after this is just icing on the cake. I wrote a letter [to the LOTR people] and they said no. I completely understood. They said, “This is a good problem, it’s going to happen again. There’ll always be clashes and you’ll always have to sacrifice one show for another.” I agreed with them.

Then, I think, what happened was they looked at my contract and realized that I was only booked for one season. And so, essentially, they would have to compete, too, if I ended up booking something and they asked for me back. So, they did me a favor and so I returned the favor by jumping over and doing Season 2.

Alexa Tarrant, Yasmine Al-Bustami<p>Photo: Karen Neal/CBS</p>
Alexa Tarrant, Yasmine Al-Bustami

Photo: Karen Neal/CBS

Was that a hard balance, though? Because the time between the two shows was so short, you didn’t have prep time for Kai. You weren’t able to train for any of the military stuff. What was it like to just jump in the role cold turkey?

They moved the show. They postponed it for a month and then they shot over my double’s shoulder for three weeks and I shot for 20 days straight almost every episode. Almost every scene that I had, we’d average about five to seven scenes a day. I was in every episode for 20 working days. It was a lot.

That is incredible that they wanted you enough to accommodate you.

I feel so blessed and so lucky. I hear that it doesn’t happen very often, so for that miracle to happen it’s changed my life.

It does bring up production costs to do something like that. But you do bring something special to the show with your heritage. You have Maori, Samoan and Niuean ancestors. How important is it, do you think, to have an islander be represented?

For me, it’s such an amazing honor. I think I do have to make sure that I know that technically I shouldn’t be here. This role should be for a native Hawaiian who grew up here. From what I understand, they tried their best to look around. I believe I was the last person on the table of auditions. For it to all work out and for me to be here and to be able to represent Polynesia as a whole is such a blessing. When one of us wins we all win. It’s like an unspoken thing in Polynesia. I’m trying my best to represent Hawaiian culture more specifically, but Polynesia as a whole. I think it’s a big win for all of us.

Related: Vanessa Lachey and LL COOL J Reveal the Unpredictable Stories and Fun Ride for NCIS: Hawaii

It is nice in their episodes that the show covers Hawaiian culture and we do learn. And there’s the blessing every year at the start of the season.

Yes, there is, there is. Which is such a beautiful way to be able to open the work. There’s similar practices in New Zealand. It’s nice to be able to see our cousins on the other side and how they do it.

In addition to wanting to have the dog rescue you, what would you like to see going forward for Kai? What kinds of things would you like him to get involved in?

I’d like to see where else family matters go. I think that we’re able to speak universally through those storylines. We all have family, so we all know families aren’t perfect. I’d love to be able to explore that more. And more action. I love the action.

How different is life in Hawaii for you from what you’re used to?

It’s a new type of normal. I love our life here, we have our system set up. My son goes to school, and he loves it. We’ve definitely grown some strong roots in Hawaii and we’re so blessed to be here. I feel like when we go back to New Zealand that’s when it really hits me how much everything has changed. Sometimes it feels like New Zealand stayed the same. That’s what I appreciate about New Zealand, as well.

NCIS: Hawai’i airs Monday nights at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS and streams next day on Paramount+.

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