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As payment for free rent at Robin’s Nest on Magnum, P.I., Thomas Magnum (Jay Hernandez) oversees security on the fabled estate, but tonight, all his best efforts are for naught when an armed hit team lays siege.
We’ve already seen T.C. (Stephen Hill) get shot at Island Hoppers and Rick (Zachary Knighton) is on his way to the hospital to sit vigil for his friend when tonight’s story begins, but all three of the men’s lives—they were part of a combined military unit and spent time as POWs together—have been in jeopardy ever since the torture and murder of Capt. Buck Greene (James Remar), who was the commanding officer who brought them together, at the beginning of the season.
For tonight’s “Charlie Foxtrot” episode, the Magnum midseason finale, Hernandez promised Parade that there will be some resolution.
“There’s a lot of peril and action,” he told us. “And as we always do, it’s going to end on a good note, so the fans needn’t worry too much.”
That said, a lot is going to happen along the way before that resolution.
“This is a mid-season scenario, which is different, but they always like to push the action on the end-of-the-season episodes, so there will be a lot of that,” Hernandez continued. “Ending the prior show on that cliffhanger with T.C. getting injured, I thought it was really cool. It helps people get invested, it helps people tune into the live showing, which is important. So yeah, there’s a lot going on. Rick is also in trouble.”
Higgins (Perdita Weeks) is also at Robin’s Nest when the assault begins, and while she isn’t on the hit list, she could be collateral damage, or at least it could give her second thoughts about her budding relationship with Magnum. She was none too thrilled when he refused to go into hiding when they learned that the three men’s identities had been leaked.
It’s that very relationship that was also a key new element to this season, along with the concerns that it might cause the show to jump the shark, a worry that Hernandez himself had.
“I thought that if Magnum and Higgins ever got together that would signal the end of the show,” he said. “I suppose I was wrong. The audience, I feel, has earned it. They stuck with us throughout the four seasons and the writers have been teasing them getting together for so long that I feel like it’s just something that had to happen.”
It happened in the final episode last season, which when the show was canceled, seemed to be a fitting ending, but then NBC picked it up which meant the story had to continue, so an equilibrium had to be created, which the arc about the band of brothers’ lives being in danger has helped achieve.
“I think, for the most part it was handled pretty well in terms of story,” Hernandez added. “It didn’t become too much about that but also kept it sort of alive. I think it struck the right balance of having the relationship be part of the show but also not getting too far off the script and going in a direction that maybe the audience wouldn’t want to see.”
During our conversation, Hernandez also revealed that initially he felt Weeks didn’t like him, which makes it even more interesting that they are now doing love scenes; he talks about the special relationship between Magnum, T.C. and Rick; he talks about the series’ diversity; and he talks about the cancellation and pickup; and launching his directing career last season.
In a previous interview, you said that you thought in the beginning that Perdita didn’t like you, kind of like Higgins on the show. So how has that transition been to be having to do love scenes with her now?
It’s so weird when you know somebody and you’re with somebody all the time, it’s sort of like being with a family member. It’s strange at times but it’s funny. We’re both comfortable with each other. We spend so much time together that we get the laughs out and then move past it and get to work. At the end of the day, that’s what it is.
The series essentially, in the original format and in this one, is about these three men who served together, they’re this band of brothers. Do you think the romance takes away from that? Or do you think maybe it enhances it in some way?
It’s funny, with a television show it’s sort of open-ended storytelling. That lack of definition, it’s good, it’s challenging, but also there’s different opinions about how these things should unfold. At times there’s been moments where I’ve disagreed with the direction and I’ve let my opinion be known, it’s like a creative conversation and then things shift in a different way.
I think I know this character so intimately that I feel like my impulses are always right. And at times, yeah, I think we can get back to some of that stuff that people originally fell in love with, with the first incarnation of the show and then this one also. So yeah, there’s definitely room to go back and access some of those stories. And it’s something that myself and Eric Guggenheim, the showrunner, have talked about, but it’s complicated running the show and servicing things.
And also, the transition from one network to another, there is that core audience that will follow you, but you’re also reintroducing the show to another audience, so you have to do some things over again. You don’t necessarily have that same shorthand that you would have on a network that you’ve been on for four years. So, there are other elements you have to service outside of just trying to tell a story or trying to add those serialized aspects to the show.
So yeah, there are a lot of different things you’re trying to accomplish, and it is a complicated mix but I think at the end of the day, we found the right balance. And if something is a little bit askew, we reassess it and push it in the right direction.
Magnum and Higgins live on this unbelievable estate. Other than that, how well do you think the show reflects the day-to-day lives of people who actually live on Hawaii, who aren’t coming there just to vacation? Do you think that the diversity of the cast reflects that?
Yeah, I think so. You touched on it, the diversity of the cast, all of us, but also the guest stars. There’s a great amount of diversity on the show that really does reflect the people in Hawaii. It’s one of the most diverse places you’ll ever go to. That’s one of the great things about it.
It’s funny, I was just talking to one of our cameramen about certain things that nobody’s ever seen. There’s this thing that people do in Hawaii called a paddle out. Because surfing is such a huge part of the culture there, when somebody who’s part of that surf community passes away, you’ll see dozens if not hundreds of people paddle out sometimes and throw flowers in the water. It’s this really beautiful, unique ceremony that I believe is only in Hawaii.
We were talking about trying to get one of those on an episode next season of Magnum P.I., just getting those small, cultural idiosyncrasies added to the show. We try to do it with some of the language and some of the places that we go to, and obviously some of the casting choices. So yeah, we try to do as much as we can, so the audience really gets a feeling of what the place is and what it’s about.
Changing networks had to be a shock. Magnum was doing fine on CBS, the numbers didn’t justify cancellation. That had to be a bumpy time, to get canceled and then to get picked up, and you had all the fan support. Talk a little bit about what you went through emotionally during that time.
I was wholly unprepared for the cancellation because I was convinced the show was safe. The numbers, like you said, the numbers were great, the audience was really enjoying where the show was going and the storytelling. Ultimately, I think it was a byproduct of negotiations. It was like other things bigger than the show, I suppose, that pushed it in that direction. So, it was definitely a shock, and then the conversations happened immediately because everybody saw the value in the show, so I knew there was a potential for it to come back.
I could have walked away at that point to be honest, the first thing that they wanted to know is would I come back and I said, “Of course.” The show’s going to end at some point, right? And when it does, you want it to be done in the right way. The season prior to it getting canceled on CBS, that’s not the season that I would have wanted for the show if we were to be canceled. I wanted to end it in the right way, and I felt like we owed it to the audience to end it in the proper way. You want to wrap it up and put a nice bow on it. And that doesn’t necessarily mean Higgins and Magnum, but it means the show, all the characters.
So yeah, it was a big jarring, and it was exciting. Honestly, another thing that I remember feeling viscerally was I was humbled that the audience responded the way they did. Those billboards, the petitions, and all the activity on social media was really cool because shooting a show like this is a marathon.
That was fans putting their money where their mouth was. Those billboards are expensive.
Absolutely, they raised money and did some really cool stuff. It’s so much work that you kind of get lost in it sometimes and you forget about these exterior elements. And, for me, it was a reminder that there are people out there every week, millions of people watching the show, and engaging with it and enjoying these episodes with their family members. Whether they’re kids or grandmothers, I got so many messages on social media about how it’s a moment to connect with family. The kind of stories that we do, the kind of fare that we create, it’s suitable for all demographics, and that was really humbling and really great to hear and see and be reminded of.
This show is so supportive of you that you were able to make your directorial debut last season, and you’ve done a second episode this season. What does it mean to you to be afforded that opportunity to expand who you are as a talent?
This was part of my long game. When I took the show, I knew that if we stuck around for a while, this would be an eventuality. That was my perception. Not that it was ever owed to me, but I felt like if we were here, if we were still doing it years down the line that directing would be something that was going to have to happen. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and it’s something that I have since become very passionate about.
I will be directing a feature in the next coming, I don’t know, maybe two or three years. I’ve just got to find the right thing, but it will happen. I love it. I love the creative freedom you have. I love how you can make the show yours. I love visually telling a story. I love that there is a whole range of things you can do outside of you as an actor. So, whatever I am, whatever Hollywood sees me as, I can play outside of that range, and that’s one of the most exciting things about it.
So, yeah, I can’t wait to do it again. I’ll probably do it again on the show next season. But this is really just the beginning of my directing career, and I promise you someday we’ll be talking about my feature film and process, and you can remind me of getting started directing on Magnum P.I.
Magnum, P.I. airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.