Young and talented, Kian Talan has taken a pivotal step in his acting career by securing a role on the CBS series, NCIS: Hawai’i.
The latest extension of the NCIS franchise, follows the life of Special Agent in Charge of NCIS Pearl Harbor, Jane Tennant (Vanessa Lachey). In the series, Jane leads a team of Naval criminal investigators who operate on the Hawaiian islands.
Kian portrays Jane’s eldest son, Alex, an exasperating teen who is struggling to cope with his parents’ split and father’s new family. The role is extra special for Kian as it has long been a dream for him to portray a Filipino American character on screen.
An advocate for Asian American representation in Hollywood, Talan has been vocal about the importance of Filipino acting roles in Hollywood. Bagging a role in a series such as NCIS: Hawai’i undoubtedly fuels his passion and potential to secure more similar roles in the near future.
Prior to starring in NCIS: Hawai’i, Kian also appeared in the Netflix educational series, Brainchild and he’s also filmed a role in the independent feature, Cicada starring Cobie Smulders. He also appears in the critically acclaimed HBO Max short film, Shadows.
In this interview, Kian discusses his involvement with NCIS: Hawai’i, his passion for acting and the importance of Asian representation.
Congratulations on your role on NCIS: Hawai’i. What was the first thing that went through your mind when you received the news?
Thank you! Booking NCIS: Hawai’i was definitely a strange thing for me. I think I always expected a big moment with cheering or crying, especially since I had not booked anything substantial in two years, but it was actually the complete opposite. My managers called me, and they had this tone on their voice like, “Sorry, kid you didn’t get the job” but then they started laughing and it was a conference call with my agents as well.
They told me I got the job, and I was in shock. After I hung up the phone, I kid you not, I spent three hours sitting on the couch in silence. No emotions, just staring at the walls but it honestly felt like I was there for only 15 minutes. I finally snapped out of it and then called my family and friends which made it more real.
I quit my 9-5 job a couple of days later and then flew out to Hawai’i shortly after that. It was fast paced but the shock still hasn’t rubbed off. Every day on set I’m just as excited as my first day. I’m very grateful for this opportunity to grow as an artist and propel my career forward.
It’s interesting that Alex Tennant is a character with Filipino ties. How proud and happy are you of this?
Playing a Filipino character is something I’m very proud of and grateful for. It’s always been a passion of mine to tell authentic Filipino-American stories. So the fact that I get to do it, on such a major platform, is a big deal for me. In the first season you will definitely see how being Filipino affects the Tennant family. I hope other Filipino-Americans feel seen in the stories that are told in season one. I know I definitely do!
NCIS is an insanely successful TV franchise. How will NCIS: Hawaiʻi set itself apart from the other extensions we have seen?
I think what separates NCIS: Hawai’i, from other spin off NCIS shows, is the amount of diversity and the focus on the personal lives of the agents on the show. This allows for unique storytelling and the more you get to know these agents outside of the case, makes you root for them even more.
Describe Alex Tennant in your own words and what character traits you wanted to flesh out for this role?
I think why Alex is so important to this story is because he challenges his mother Jane, who is the lead of the show. Alex and Jane are very much alike, which makes them butt heads a lot. I hope when people watch the show they see a bright, loyal, loving kid who is trying his best to deal with change.
What drew you to acting in the first place?
I was at a point in life where I already did everything I was “supposed” to do. Graduate college, get a good job, and be independent. Acting was a way to do something unexpected and try something I was scared of. I never really thought I would be where I am now but I’m so in love with this art form that I can’t really imagine my life without it.
Beyond NCIS: Hawaiʻi, you also have a role in the short film Shadows. Can you tell us more about your involvement with this project, what’s it about and the character you play?
So I played Kai who is one of the antagonists on the show. He is cocky, unaware but loyal. This short film was such a fun set to work on and was actually a NYU student film directed by my friend Ria Tobaccowala. It then went to Tribeca Film festival and was picked up by HBO Max.
This project is a perfect example of how you never know what something might turn into. That’s why I tell actors just starting out to not be picky. Take every opportunity to get set experience, learn to work with others and advance your craft.
You wrote a pretty powerful piece about the importance of Filipino acting roles in Hollywood and the lack thereof. Do you still feel strongly that there is still a lot of work left to be done here?
Of course, I don’t think the work will ever stop. In regard to representation, you can just sit around and expect things to change. Even though steps are happening, we still need to be active in making sure diverse voices are at the forefront. How we do this is by pushing diversity in all aspects of the industry such as agents, managers, writers, producers, directors…etc, not just actors.
Catch Kian Talan on NCIS: Hawai’i