Private Eye on the Prize

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PRADA suit $3,540 and shirt $1,200

When Magnum P.I. starts filming for a second season this summer, leading star Jay Hernandez has more than his on-screen ride—yes, that shiny red ferrari— to look forward to.

words YU SHING TING
photographer MARK ARBEIT markarbeit.com
photographer’s assistant MITCHELL GUERRERO
stylist ANDREW WEITZ theweitzeffect.com
grooming DAVID STANWELL thewallgroup.com
on location HOTEL COVELL, LOS FEIZ, CA hotelcovell.com

This summer, Los Angeles native Jay Hernandez will not only be filming on O‘ahu, but also be moving into a new home in Kaka‘ako. “I just bought a place there, so I’m very excited to get back,” he explains. “I’m shipping a bunch of stuff to Hawai‘i that feels like home, and incorporating some pieces that remind me of Los Angeles. It’s going to be my home away from home. Actually, I’ll be there more in the year than I will be in L.A.”

Before taking on the role of Thomas Magnum in the reboot of the 1980s TV series originally starring Tom Selleck, Hernandez vacationed in Hawai‘i a few times but admits he never considered living here. He rented a place during filming of the first season, but quickly discovered the beauty of the island, along with its unique history and culture.

“One of the things I really like about Hawai‘i is how much music is part of the culture,” he says. “On the weekends, a bunch of people would come over, have some drinks and chill out, and some- body brought out an ‘uke and started singing, and everyone was passing it off. It’s a very cool moment, and a really normal thing to happen here.”

Hernandez recalls one of the first things he purchased when he came to Hawai‘i for CBS’ Magnum P.I. was a surfboard (although he says he’s terrible at it), and he’s added aloha shirts to his wardrobe from the zero he owned before the show. And while he’s only gotten to take his surfboard out a few times, it was one of those sessions in the water when he had that eureka moment.

“The sun was setting and I was just watching the surfers (at Ala Moana Bowls),” he remembers. “I saw the skyline start to light up Honolulu, and I thought you know what, I get it now. I totally understand why people sacrifice so much to live here.”

On his days off, Hernandez tries to get out and explore the island, whether hiking to a waterfall, finding a secluded beach, dining at a local eatery (his favorites are The Pig and the Lady, and Merriman’s at Ward Village, but he also likes Japanese food, loco moco and poke), or going on a sailing adventure with friends.

“I just love the connection to the ocean,” he says. “We were shooting on one of the coldest days in Hawai‘i, and we were in the ocean all day [in the penultimate of episode of the season]. I remember jumping on the Jet Ski to get out of the water, and a whale and her calf came up in front of us. It was so unexpected.

“I was so cold, miserable and tired, and that just gave me energy and made me feel happy. It was one of those magical things. There are little moments that happen where as busy as you are, you realize there’s something unique and special about this place.”

Born Javier Manuel Hernandez Jr., “Jay” was one of several childhood nicknames, along with “Javi” (pronounced Ha-vee) which his parents call him and “Chango” (monkey in Spanish).

Before going into acting, Hernandez thought about a career in architecture, and lists John Lautner among his favorite architects. He continues to have a passion for it, especially midcentury modern architecture.

Hollywood was never on his radar, but that all changed one day when he got discovered by a talent manager in, of all places, an elevator. “He gave me his card, and two weeks later my mom called him,” Hernandez remembers. “I was 18, and the deal was he would pay for my acting classes and when I started to make money I would slowly pay him back. He was so convinced that I would eventually, actually make money.”

Sure enough, Hernandez got a couple of jobs, and then his big break with the 2001 film Crazy/Beautiful opposite Kirsten Dunst.

Since then, he went on to play El Diablo in the DC Comics feature Suicide Squad, starred in the blockbuster comedy Bad Moms, and was cast in the 2017 Netflix film Bright with Will Smith, as well as films Hostel, World Trade Center, Friday Night Lights, Ladder 49, Torque, The Rookie, Takers, Lakeview Terrace and more.

He also had a recurring role on several TV series, including Scandal, Nashville, Six Degrees, The Expanse and Last Resort.

Next up is Toy Story 4 (releasing June 21), in which Hernandez voices the part of Bonnie’s dad. Then, of course, it’s the reimagined Magnum P.I. season two.

“I used to watch Magnum when I was a kid—I was a huge fan, I loved it,” says Hernandez, 41. “I used to watch Five-0 too, the original.”

While he doesn’t drive a Ferrari in real life, Hernandez says he does love fast cars and has an Aston Martin, but balances that with an Audi plug-in hybrid. His dream car: “I’ve always kind of wanted to own a muscle car from the ’70s, like a 1967 Pontiac GTO, classic American muscle.”

As for playing Thomas Magnum, a former Navy SEAL turned private investigator, Hernandez says he shares the same motivation as his on-screen character, and credits the show for its support of military families (his brother retired after 22 years of service in the Navy).

“The thing that drives [Magnum] the most is being able to help people, and that’s kind of one of the reasons I got into this business—to help people in my family and people I care about, and I’ve been able to do that so it’s been a blessing,” says Hernandez.

Despite a career in the spotlight, Hernandez says he’s actually a very reserved person who likes to keep work separate from his private life. Born and raised in L.A., he describes himself as more of a “city guy 100 percent,” but after spending this past year in Hawai‘i, he’s learned to enjoy life in paradise.

“There’s something special about Hawai‘i for sure,” he says. “It forces you to operate at a different pace, which for me is probably a good thing. Everything is slower, and you can fight it or go with it. It’s taught me to go with the flow and let things happen. It’s a bit of a life lesson. “I actually miss being on the island. I never thought I would say that.”

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