Christmas with Magnum

Whether it’s spending time with his mainland family or caring for Mother Nature, “Magnum P.I.” star Jay Hernandez has much to be joyful about this holiday season.

Ho, ho, ho — it’s off to Idaho for Magnum P.I. star Jay Hernandez, who will enjoy a white Christmas snowboarding with family this holiday season.

“It’s a family tradition,” he says. “We always spend Christmas in the snow. It’s great. We’ll go to different places to go snowboarding or skiing.”

Since taking on the role of Thomas Magnum in CBS’ reboot of the 1980s TV series, Hernandez has spent much of the last year and a half in paradise. Home is in Los Angeles, where he was born and raised, but he bought a place in Kaka‘ako and moved in when the show started filming for its second season this past summer.

As he leaves Hawai‘i’s sunny shores for the snowy slopes, he says the change in climate will be nice, but most of all, he’s looking forward to spending time with family.

“I’m in Hawai‘i, so I don’t get to see my family as much,” says Hernandez. “This job obviously requires a lot of my time, so it’s really great to be able to sort of relax and spend quality, chill time with the fam. That was my (Christmas) wish, and I got it.”

Something else you might catch Hernandez doing this week: watching his favorite holiday movie, A Christmas Story.

“They do A Christmas Story marathon (on TV) where they play the movie through the entirety of the day, which is kind of a tradition,” he shares. “And I’ve been watching that or pieces of it for years during Christmas time.”

Born Javier Manuel Hernandez Jr., “Jay” was one of several childhood nicknames he grew up with, along with “Javi” (pronounced Ha-vee), which his parents call him. Even with Hollywood in his backyard, the actor never dreamed of a career in the spotlight. He thought he would maybe pursue architecture, a subject he continues to have a passion for, especially midcentury modern architecture.

But fate had other plans for him, and at 18, he was discovered by a talent manager in, of all places, an elevator. Sure enough, Hernandez landed a couple of jobs, and then got his big break with the 2001 film Crazy/Beautiful opposite Kirsten Dunst.

Since then, he went on to voice the part of Bonnie’s dad in Toy Story 4, played 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.

After the holidays, Hernandez will be back in Honolulu to continue filming the reimagined Magnum P.I. season two. Next week, the highly anticipated Hawai‘i Five-0 and Magnum P.I. crossover airs in back-to-back episodes at 8 and 9 p.m. Jan. 3.

“I think coming into season two, it just felt like we hit the ground running,” says Hernandez. “Obviously, the first season, we’re doing a lot of work in terms of establishing things and characters and storylines, and the writers and everybody are getting a sense of who these characters are. Going into the second season, it was just a very smooth transition.

“I didn’t feel like they were searching for things. We kind of know where it is and we’re just trying to get the best version of it, so that’s been great. I think for the writing, some of the stories have been really fun. As always, we have really great guest stars. It’s been a lot of fun coming back.”

As for the highlights of playing this legendary TV character (minus the signature mustache from the original Magnum played by Tom Selleck), Hernandez lists the show’s support of the military and their families (his brother retired after 22 years of service in the Navy), spending time with the U.S. Navy, including an opportunity he had to go on a submarine, and simply working in Hawai‘i.

“I’m in this probably $20 million home on the beach and I’m looking out into the ocean watching waves sort of crumble at my feet,” says Hernandez during our phone interview from set. “Sometimes, the locations that we find ourselves in are so stunning. I’m wrapped up in work and thinking about my dialogue and scenes and trying to get through the day, and often-times being very tired.

“But then I stop, and you have to sort of be objective about it and look outside, literally outside, and it’s kind of amazing I get to shoot in a place like this where people from around the world come to vacation — this is my office. Sometimes it’s nice to remember that and be appreciative of it.”

When he’s not busy filming, Hernandez likes to spend his days off exploring the island — 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) or going on a sailing adventure with friends.

Perdita Weeks as Juliet Higgins and Jay Hernandez as Thomas Magnum.

He enjoys writing screenplays, and doing things with his hands, such as painting and photography. He also is very devoted to Mother Earth, being proactive in protecting the environment and animals, and speaking out on various issues affecting the world today.

“Preservation of wildlife, diversity, preservation of the ocean, of our air, of our water, all these things are sort of environmental things I believe we should be conscious of,” he says. “But in a larger dialogue, it’s part of keeping us safe and keeping us healthy, and ensuring there’s a planet left for our children that they can inherit that won’t be completely destroyed and exploited in every way possible.”

Hernandez arrives at the annual Sunset on the Beach event celebrating the 10th anniversary of Hawaii Five-0 and season two of Magnum P.I.

Leading by example, Hernandez lobbied for biodegradable and recyclable plastic to be used on the set of Magnum P.I., making an effort to ensure that they don’t leave anything behind when they are on location, and contributes financially to conservation groups such as The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund. He also recently purchased a fully electric car.

“I don’t have a gas car right now, which is a pretty amazing thing,” he says. “It’s odd. It reminds me of when smokers quit smoking and then they realize how disgusting cigarettes are (which, by the way, if you smoke, don’t throw it in the street. That’s one of his biggest pet peeves.). Once you have an electric car, I’ll pass a gas station and I never want to go back again.

Alex O’Loughlin as Steve McGarrett, Katrina Law as Quinn Liu, Hernandez as Magnum, Weeks as Higgins and Meaghan Rath as Tani Rey in the Hawai‘i Five-0 and Magnum P.I. crossover airing Jan. 3. KAREN NEAL/CBS PHOTOS

“Environmental issues are something very important to me. I’m just trying to do everything I can, large and small. I think it’s our responsibility. If nothing else, people should do it out of their own self-interest. If we don’t do something now, the following generations are going to look back at us and say why didn’t you take initiative? Why didn’t you do something before this species or that species or that body of water was polluted beyond its ability to repair itself? I think it’s imperative for everybody to do everything they can.”

Jay Hernandez as Thomas Magnum with his red Ferrari. KAREN NEAL/CBS PHOTO

Before becoming Magnum, Hernandez admits he didn’t own any aloha shirts, but has since added about 30 to his closet, although he only actually wears a couple of them. He also didn’t surf, but bought a surfboard when he first arrived to the island for the show, and hit the waves a few times with fellow castmate Zachary Knighton, but admits to being terrible at it. He’s not a fan of Spam, but loves poke and Japanese food. And while he calls himself more of a city guy, he seems to have adjusted well to island life.

“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.”