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NCIS: Hawaiʻi Executive Producer Discusses AAPI Representation in Show

Photo by Claudia Hoag via Wikimedia Commons

As filming for NCIS: Hawai’i gets underway, its executive producer spoke with the Daily Hawaii about accurately depicting the Hawaiian and AAPI communities in the show.

Larry Teng, who is of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent, is an executive producer and pilot episode director for CBS’s NCIS: Hawaiʻi. According to Showbiz Cheat Sheet, he has previously worked on shows including Nancy Drew, NCIS: Los Angeles and The Walking Dead.

One of his first television experiences, directing episodes for Hawaii Five-0, helped inform his perspective on diversifying the NCIS: Hawaiʻi cast.

Hawaii Five-0 was long criticized for its lack of diversity on screen and behind the camera. A year ago, after CBS canceled the show, AsAmNews interviewed media activist Guy Aoki who said the show failed to reflect Hawaii’s diversity.

While Hawaii Five-0 starred two white actors, NCIS will feature two actors of Asian descent in leading roles.

“Now that I’m back,” Teng told the Daily Hawaii, “I feel like I have a responsibility to make sure that the community here, the people, the crew, that they’re all represented properly.”

Already, the show has started to incorporate the Hawaiian community into its production process. Before filming started, a “traditional Hawaiian blessing” was given to the show on Wednesday. Teng also said the show has hired several film students and alumni of the University of Hawaii.

Executives gave the green light to NCIS: Hawaiʻi for several reasons, according to Teng. NCIS had a well-known brand, he said, and as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down productions around the world, Hawaii was seen as a relatively safe location to film.

Teng, who described the show as a “love letter to Hawaii,” said he visits often with his girlfriend or to hang out with producers of the various shows set there. To him, he said, Hawaii is a special location.

“This will be a place where I always have a home,” Teng told the Daily Hawaii.

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