Vanessa Lachey is a woman on a mission—from life as an actress, mother to three young children and wife to pop star sensation Nick Lachey to writing her first book and starring in NCIS: Hawaii. We caught up with the phenom between takes while filming on O‘ahu to learn her secret to juggling it all in signature style and grace.
You’re joining NCIS: Hawaii as Jane Tennant, the first female lead in the franchise’s history. What does that mean for you? This means so much for so many reasons. Not just for me personally but for what it means and stands for. This is an incredible opportunity for the Asian American Pacific Islander community and for women in general. It is an honor that I think of daily. I have an opportunity to show how capable, willing, eager and equal we are. I am proud of my heritage now more than ever and hope the next generation can be proud of who they are too, no matter their background or place of origin. I can’t thank CBS and the NCIS franchise enough for this opportunity. Specifically, Jan Nash, Chris Silber, Matt Bosack and Larry Teng for believing in me and entrusting me with this role and everything that comes with it. I constantly tell them, ‘I won’t let you down.’
You and Jane are both mothers—you have three children with husband Nick Lachey, and she has two. Did your own experience balancing work and family help you get inside the mind of the special agent in charge? Absolutely! Not so much on how to juggle the two scenarios, as I think in this day and age most people are able to handle a diverse lifestyle. My experience helped me by bringing truth to my character. I’m an Air Force brat. That’s military lingo for a child of a parent serving in the United States Armed Forces, whether current or former. So, the military and love for our freedom runs through me. I live through the sacrifices my father gave for our country and I am proud. I’m also a mother and know there is nothing in this world I wouldn’t do for my children and family. They always come first and are always in my mind. My real life has helped me prepare for my role as Jane Tennant, so it’s the perfect marriage of life imitating art.
Before filming commenced, the crew took part in a traditional blessing. How do you hope to shine a light on Hawaiian culture throughout the series? This was an extremely special and emotional day for me. The traditional blessing actually took place at the end of my first day of filming, and I will never forget the experience. I remember doing interviews afterward and being so overcome with emotion that I felt like I could burst into tears. As crazy as it may sound, it’s true. It’s a feeling; it’s the magic of the islands and the aloha spirit. We are here as one to share this land and the time we have been given. If the island could ask us, it would ask us to give back what we take if we can and to appreciate the constant beauty that surrounds us. There is not a day that goes by that I am not forever grateful to the people of Hawai‘i for their welcoming love and to Hawai‘i for its unprecedented beauty. A personal secret I can share is that before filming scenes in nature, I thank the island. I ask the island to be kind to me, to protect me and I will in turn be kind back and try and protect it. This is something that I never did before in my workplace, but immediately began when I arrived on O‘ahu. It is something I will continue to do. People say the island either calls you or it doesn’t. Well, it has called me, and I am listening!
Any favorite filming locations? Every location we have filmed at is special in its own way. Even the studio at Diamond Head is special because there is a ‘love of family’ feel there. It is home to the cast and crew. We laugh, we eat, we play and we work hard there. It is our home base—the foundation of what we are doing.
NCIS: Hawaii comes to screens Sept. 20. As we await the premiere, what can viewers expect from the first season? Everything! There is action, love, mystery and island beauty. Most importantly I want to honor our military and express gratitude for their constant sacrifice. We have to dive into story lines that are crime-based for the show, but my hope is to also show the honor of the military in real life. They have gone above and beyond to accommodate us as we film on the island. For that, we are eternally grateful.
In your off time, you’ve been busy writing a book, Life From Scratch, out Nov. 16. What inspired you to add author to your list of accolades? This is a passion project that I have envisioned for over a decade that I finally started a few years ago and has come to fruition. It is a topic that is most important to me: family. I have felt like I had no resources in my life at times, since my mother left me when I was a young girl. I would turn to the internet or friends and have realized that we’re all making it up as we go. This book is meant to inspire people and to help them know that we can have the life we imagine. All it takes is the efforts of making our everyday count and believing in ourselves. We are creating moments and memories that eventually will become exciting anticipation and traditions to pass on.
The book shares parenting tips, recipes—even your date-night tradition with your husband. Spill! We’re dying to know your secret to romance. Truly, there’s no magic method for life and love. But these are things we strive to do for our kids, our family and our marriage. I honestly think for us, the biggest help has been communication and almost ‘forcing’ time alone (together). By forcing I mean making a plan, then sticking to it. Get that time off, book the sitter and enjoy your spouse. We have never regretted these moments together and end up grateful in the end for carving the time out together.
Life From Scratch also includes personal stories and anecdotes. Give us a preview inside the pages. My reason for writing a book is that my childhood story isn’t very well known. I share all of that with the reader. I hope to create a common ground where we can go through this journey together. No one has a perfect past or childhood. We can all use a little help, guidance and inspiration.
You’ve lived quite the jet-set life. You were born on an Air Force base in the Philippines and lived all over the world—from California to Turkey and beyond. How have your global travels influenced you? The one big lesson I learned in all those years is that as people—no matter your race, sex or economic background—we are all cut from the same cloth. What I mean by that is that we have the same basic human emotions that drive us. We get happy and laugh. We get sad and cry. We all have feelings. No matter what language or culture. For a young girl, it was really eye-opening and life-changing. Although at times I felt so different, my experience helped me understand empathy at the same time.
With NCIS: Hawaii and Life From Scratch both on the horizon, what’s next? Family. Always family. Nick and I decided very early on in our careers that we would always put family first. We knew that if we did that, everything else would fall into place. I don’t mean magically fall into place. I mean that if we made choices with our family in mind and keeping their needs first, then we were making the right choice. Even the move to Hawai‘i. Originally Nick was going to stay in L.A. with the kids, so they could go to the same school, and I would work in Hawai‘i. After a few weeks apart and when we were finally all together to celebrate Father’s Day, we decided the family needs to be together. This has always been our mantra and rang true here. It’s been a juggling act, but a happy juggle. At the end of the day, we are together. Even when Nick got his job judging Alter Ego on Fox and had to go back to L.A., we kept family in mind and made it work. That way, we have no regrets.
Photography by: Joyce Park