Your Mondays just got so much better! The highly anticipated premiere of the CBS series NCIS: Hawai’i aired on September 20th and it was nothing short of amazing! The series stars Vanessa Lachey as Jane Tennant, the Special Agent in Charge of NCIS Pearl Harbor and single mom of her two children Julie and Alex. Her son, Alex Tennant is played by actor Kian Talan. Alex is a moody and exasperating teen who is struggling to cope with his parent’s split and his father’s new family. His frustrations manifest themselves through his outbursts in school as he juggles his growing pains and the responsibility of raising his younger sister.
Being able to portray an authentic Filipino American character is something Kian Talan has always dreamed of doing. Born in Manchester, New Hampshire, Kian struggled with the pressure to succeed at a young age while also feeling like an outsider in his predominantly white neighborhood. As he grew up, Kian recognized the importance of understanding his Filipino roots. However, in an attempt to not stand out more than he already was, Kian set aside his acting aspirations and obtained a degree in Computer Science with the intention of becoming a web developer.
Kian’s struggles are some that are shared amongst many immigrant children and children of immigrants. Sometimes it feels easier to blend in than it does to stand out. But, by doing so, we neglect ourselves the opportunity to follow our dreams. Luckily, following his collegiate career, Kian took acting classes which reignited his passion for a career he never fully realized. The obvious underrepresentation of Asian Americans throughout American media ignited the fire within Kian to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. His driving force is being able to shed light and tell stories of Asian/Filipino Americans, stories that he never got to see growing up.
As his latest role as Alex Tennant hits television screens across the nation, we caught up with Kian as he was filming the show to discuss his upbringing as a child of immigrants, his role on NCIS: Hawai’i, Asian representation, and much more!
Cliché: Growing up as a child of immigrants in a predominantly white neighborhood, trying to ‘fit in’ is easier than risking being a stand-out. How did you eventually gain the courage and confidence to pursue your passion for acting?
Kian Talan: Growing up in a white suburban town as a Filipino brown-skinned kid definitely made me think in a certain way and subconsciously ashamed of who I was. I worked so hard to fit in and didn’t lose that mindset till I moved to NYC. NYC introduced me to so many different types of people, cultures, and other Filipinos who were proud to be who they were. It helped me gain confidence in who I am and my “crazy” dream of becoming an actor. I’m not saying that the insecure little kid in me doesn’t show up occasionally, but I’m working every day just to be me.
Cliché: Tell us about your character Alex on NCIS: Hawai’i.
Kian Talan: Alex Tennant is an average high school kid with a not-so-average mom. He is the son of Jane Tennant, Special Agent in charge of NCIS Pearl Harbor. He is just trying to deal with his mom always working and his parent’s recent divorce. Alex is a good kid at heart, loves his parents, but he feels neglected, which causes him not to make the best decisions.
Cliché: Were you a fan of the NCIS franchise prior to taking on this role?
Kian Talan: NCIS is such an iconic franchise, but to be honest, I wasn’t a hardcore fan. I would watch re-runs from time to time but never got fully into it. However, I’m really excited to be a part of the spinoff NCIS: Hawai’i because I think it will be very different from what viewers are used to watching. Of course, it will be the same vibe as the rest of the NCIS shows, but there will also be a strong contrasting presence showcasing family and the beautiful culture of Hawai’i. Growing up, I never saw a Filipino family at the forefront of a network show. So, it is an honor that I can be part of this movement to tell more Filipino stories.
Cliché: What is it like so far working with Vanessa Lachey and the rest of the talented cast in Hawai’i?
Kian Talan: Before I get to the cast, I want to talk about the amazing crew that mostly gets overlooked. These people are the most hardworking and genuine people I’ve ever met. From the make-up/hair team to production, they have made me feel very welcomed. The crew is also mostly Asian or from the island, which is so rare and definitely makes it feel like home for me.
As for the cast, they are all super talented, and I knew it right away from the first table read. Let’s just say it was very intimating as this is my first big role on a show. But, they are all so supportive and great, humble people.
We just started shooting the season, but I will say Vanessa Lachey has positively impacted my time in Hawaii so far. People think that if you’re the lead of a show that it’s easy, and it’s a life of glamour, but it’s not. Vanessa goes above and beyond to make sure the show will be the best it can possibly be. I witnessed it from my first day on set. She puts in long hours but comes on set with an infectious, energetic attitude. She’s really got to know everyone (cast, crew, background actors) and is a great role model and talented actress.
Cliché: Underrepresentation and misrepresentation for Asian Americans is still an ongoing problem in mainstream media today. How do you think meaningful change can occur to fix this issue in film and television?
Kian Talan: For a long time, the representation of Asian Americans on Film/TV has been either for using a joke, being an object, or supporting someone else’s story. Change will only occur when people realize that we have our own stories to tell. Stories with love, heartbreak, pain, and struggle because we are human beings like everyone else. We’re not fighting just to be seen; we are fighting to be heard and properly viewed for who we are in a truthful way.
Cliché: Do you have a dream role or genre you hope to one day play?
Kian Talan: I’m a big fan of independent films. I really hope I get the opportunity to work on an independent drama that is just honest and stripped down. I want to tell true stories that are eye-opening and create change in how we view Asian-Americans.
Cliché: Aside from NCIS: Hawai’i, what other projects do you have coming up?
Kian Talan: To be honest, nothing really. I just started shooting NCIS two weeks ago, so I’m just getting settled in Hawaii and excited to be diving into the world of Alex.
Cliché: Where can we find you on social media?
Be sure to watch Kian Talan as Alex Tennant on NCIS: Hawai’i, Mondays at 10/9c on CBS and Paramount Plus!
Images Provided by Kait Keem and Martin Diegor