Vanessa Lachey leads the "NCIS: Hawai'i" team as Special Agent in Charge Jane Tennant. Photo courtesy of CBS
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Vanessa Lachey said she relates to her NCIS: Hawai'i character, who juggled her career and her family. Lachey plays Jane Tennant, the leader of Pearl Harbor's Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The Navy does have a real NCIS Field Office in Pearl Harbor.
"[My character] can balance my love and my country," Lachey said on a Television Critics Association Zoom panel. "I can be a mom and try to get my daughter off to school, and deal with my ex-husband, as well as take down a multimillion-dollar crime operation."
The 40-year-old Lachey said the military drama, which premieres Monday, speaks to her personally. The daughter of Air Force aircraft crew member Vincent Minnillo, Lachey was born at Clark Air Base in the Philippines.
She said she relates to the respect and the honor and understands the sacrifice.
NCIS: Hawai'i opens with a plane crash on the island. As Tennant and her team investigate, she chases bad guys around the island, too.
"I did my Tom Cruise run," Lachey said. "I like describing Jane Tennant as this badass with a warm heart."
Lachey said the real-world NCIS operations include female agents, and it's time for them to be represented on television.
"I think what it's going to do is just normalize women in this position," Lachey said.
The show will demonstrate Tennant's struggles to balance her family obligations and work. Lachey said she could relate, as she has her three children with her on Oahu.
"I went to work at 6:30 in the morning and I came home and it was around 9:45 [p.m.]," Lachey said. "My oldest son was up and I walked right in and I put him back down to bed, because he had gotten up from a bad dream. Then I had to do the dishes and then I studied my lines for today's work."
Lachey is married to singer Nick Lachey. Their three children are Camden, 9, Brooklyn, 6, and Phoenix, 4.
The Lacheys married in 2011 and filmed it for the TV special, Nick and Vanessa's Dream Wedding. They have also co-hosted the Netflix dating show Love Is Blind together.
Lachey's mother, Helen Ramos Bercero, is from Manila. Lachey said she has reconnected with the Filipino community on Oahu.
"There are so many Filipinos here," Lachey said. "I love when they're like, 'Vanessa! Oh, my God, you're like family.'"
Lachey won Miss Teen USA, representing South Carolina, in 1998 and began acting in 2001.
NCIS: Hawai'i is the fourth series in the NCIS brand. The original series takes place in Washington, D.C.
Spinoffs include NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans. Hawai'i is the first to center on a female lead and show a female NCIS agent leading a team of investigators.
Lachey said she and her cast mates visited the real NCIS offices on the island of Oahu, on which they filmed. They also visited the Pearl Harbor Memorial before filming, Lachey said.
"We all got to sit there on the Fourth of July and really take in what it means to be here, to be representing this, to be representing the Navy," Lachey said. "We all are feeling the true honor and love of our country in our roles."
NCIS: Hawai'i airs Mondays at 10 p.m. EDT on CBS.