NCIS: Hawai'i: Jason Antoon Shares Why Playing Ernie Is His 'Dream Job,' Teases Risky 'Rogue' Behavior Ahead
Where does Cyber Intelligence Specialist Ernie Malik possibly go after setting foot on (a simulated) Mars?
TVLine spoke with NCIS: Hawai’i cast member Jason Antoon about (space)suiting up, his big audition “don’t,” giving #Kacy fans what they need and the final three episodes of Season 2 (which kick off this Monday at 10/9c).
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TVLINE | For starters, I imagine you must have an anecdote about last week’s “Mars” episode and wearing that spacesuit.
Dude. First of all, that suit…? I made a behind-the-scenes video of me putting on the suit, because I’m a stocky guy, as my wife would put it, and those suits are extremely difficult to get on. I barely got on the top!
The guys that built it — these suits have been on other shows — told me that one of the actors, I don’t remember if it was from For All Mankind or a Ron Howard movie, filmed for like four weeks before they did the astronaut stuff and then he couldn’t get the suit on over his body, the one that I wore, so they had to fire him and reshoot everything he’d done. Imagine filming four weeks for a major role and then you can’t fit into the [space]suit. So, that’s my anecdote. I almost didn’t get into the suit. If you go to my Twitter and my Instagram, you can see how I have to contort my entire body to put the whole thing on — just to wear it for, like, two seconds!
TVLINE | Rewinding now two-plus years, when you first got cast… Did you have any concerns about being The Guy in the Chair on a procedural?
Not at all. This is a dream job. Twenty-two episodes, who does that anymore? Also, I’ve been a working actor on all different kinds of things, I have ups and downs in my career, and it was just another audition for me, which I did after I did Claws (playing Dr. Ken Brickman) in New Orleans. I put myself on tape and I did something that you’re not supposed to do, in that I put myself in a swivel chair like Ernie and I moved around to different iPhones I had set up recording, and then edited it together. But it worked out! Sometimes you have to just not give a s–t, have fun and be yourself.
TVLINE | Cards on the table, this was my journey with Ernie: At first I was like, “Oh man, here’s another super-quirky Guy in The Chair. He’ll spout technobabble and will always be told by colleagues, ‘In English, please?'” But I realized about a half season in that Ernie is the gooey center, the heart, of this show.
They kind of discovered that as they went, so they start to write for you and change up that procedural aspect. I think the big difference with our show is that when it comes to character stuff and the procedural-ness, it’s like a 50-50 mix. I think that with the other NCIS-es, you’re not getting as much character — and I’m not saying that that’s any worse or any better. But as they discover us as people, they write for us, so it was nice to see that their discovery wasn’t only that I can memorize long technobabble and say it really fast. Which I did! [Laughs]
TVLINE | Do you appreciate that you have perhaps the most comfortable wardrobe on primetime TV?
It’s shorts, a shirt, sometimes they put me in pants, and flip-flops. The other actors hate me because I’m literally the first one on set and because I can leave and get in my car, like, 45 seconds after we wrap.
TVLINE | I feel like must I ask this of every Guy in the Chair: What’s Jason’s own proficiency with tech?
I mean, I’m pretty good.
TVLINE | You can change the wallpaper on your iPhone?
Oh yeah. And I’ll tell you a story: I have cameras around my house, and when somebody broke into our car, I did this whole thing where I reran all of the footage and saw the guy. I then clipped the footage off, called the police, a cop came, and I transferred all the stuff…. I did this whole Ernie thing, in real life.
TVLINE | One thing I sense by looking at your socials and Tori [Anderson]’s and others — and I’ve covered Hawaii Five-0, Lost and Magnum P.I. — is that on Hawaii shows, the cast really becomes an ohana amongst themselves.
Oh, totally. We really do. It’s really nice that Vanessa [Lachey], who’s No. 1 [on the call sheet], is the funnest and kindest person, because when you get a great No. 1 that doesn’t act like they’re No. 1, it makes the set and everybody’s day much more enjoyable, to a point where it doesn’t feel like work. And that’s because of Vanessa and also the crew, which is mostly locals, guys who worked on Lost and Five-0 and did some Magnum. They appreciate hard work but they also don’t want any assholes, and our showrunners had a “No assholes” policy.
It’s a small island, we hang out with each other when we can, and a lot of us have kids, so it really is a great experience that I never want to end. That’s why I say it’s a dream job, because besides being 22 episodes, everybody’s just so cool and there are no egos. It’s the ideal.
TVLINE | Do you all have fun with “Yaz and Tors” (Yasmine al-Bustami and Tori Anderson) and the popularity of the #Kacy ‘ship?
Please. It’s hilarious. I started posting pictures of them with me, and just them…
TVLINE | You seem to be the #Kacy fans’ go-to guy for content whenever they’re clamoring for crumbs.
A lot of the times, I’m with Tor, or I’m with Yaz, when I can’t get both of them, and I make sure they they don’t get annoyed that I’m posting photos of them. Now they’re like, “Oh, that’s a terrible photo, let me do it again!”
Courtesy of Twitter.com/JasonAntoon
TVLINE | One thing I learned over the years is you have to allow actresses photo approval.
Absolutely. But they’re great, they’re hilarious. And I love that that’s blown up, because it’s a really big deal not just for the show but for representation.
TVLINE | We have three episodes left this season. Any developments for Ernie?
What’s interesting is that Jane goes a little rogue, and Ernie catches on and gets on the inside track with that to help her out — which could jeopardize his career. But he loves her and this ohana that he has, so he’ll do anything to help her out.
TVLINE | Ahead of this interview, I watched the first half of the season finale (airing May 15 and 22) and yeah, big, huge stuff happens.
Yeah, big, huge stuff. It’s exciting, and it’s good for Vanessa’s character, to give her more intrigue to play.
TVLINE | How would you describe Henry Ian Cusick’s character when we first meet him?
I love that guy. All I did was ask him about Lost. Like, “Hey man, I went to this big Lost party and everybody was disappointed with the finale.” And he was like, “What do you mean? It was this and it was that…” And I was like, “Oh, you’re right.” He’s such a smart guy, and so charming.
TVLINE | But Supervisor Agent John Swift rubs the team the wrong way?
He really rubs us the wrong way, and we don’t usually have that in our circle, so its pretty cool to see him be great at that. And yet he’s also so likable at the same time.
TVLINE | As the two-part finale comes to a close, will the show leave us with any cliffhangers that you can tease?
Oh, my God…. [Choosing words carefully] I can tease that “someone might be joining us.”
Want scoop on NCIS: Hawaii, or for any other show? Email InsideLine@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.
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