I have good news and bad news for fans of Taryn Manning, who have been patiently waiting for her Hawaii Five-0 character (Steve McGarrett's spunky kid sis, MaryAnn) to break out with a stronger screen presence. The Jan. 3 episode finally allows the actress to take center stage when MaryAnn gets kidnapped. It's all part of a plot connected to the villainous Wo Fat and the murder of Steve and MaryAnn's mother. But — without giving away the tearjerker ending — something happens during the course of the episode that could potentially make this Taryn's swan song on the CBS crime drama.
The drama begins when Steve (Alex O'Loughlin) rushes to his sister's new apartment and discovers "there was a struggle," explains Taryn, who has been waiting months for an opportunity to demonstrate the acting skills that brought her attention in such films as 8 Mile and Hustle & Flow. "Steve discovers a tooth on the ground, basically establishing that MaryAnn was a badass and fought her whole way through. There's a lot of emotion."
So is Steve about to lose the last surviving member of his immediate family? My lips are sealed! But I hear one person who is sorry to be saying goodbye to Taryn is Alex. During my last visit to the Hawaiian set, Alex told me, "I haven't worked with Taryn as much as I would like. She brings out a certain paternal caring that Steve wouldn't normally have. With both their parents gone, he feels an obligation to keep an eye on her; especially since she's troubled and kind of out of control."
Indeed, Taryn confides that "Alex wasn't very happy" with the producers' decision to alter their plans for Mary Ann. "He liked me and liked our relationship. He felt my character was necessary to explore further aspects of his role and was prepared to fight for me."
Taryn also expresses her thanks to Daniel Dae Kim (Chin Ho), who she says, "sat down with me and had a little heart to heart to make sure I felt okay about everything. He's very thoughtful."
MaryAnn proved a challenge for producers from the beginning. She was originally slated to appear in the first four episodes and recur throughout the season. "The family mystery was supposed to slowly unfold over the first season and I was going to play a big part in that with my own Nancy Drew mission," says Taryn, who had been under the impression that her character would even return for future seasons. "It was told to me that the first season would be based around the team more, and I should just hang tight."
However, producers chose to shift greater focus to McGarrett's professional associations and less on his personal life. There was also concern that too much was being revealed too soon about the murdered mother. Also taken in the upcoming episode is Steve's father's lock box, which contains clues to the mother's disappearance. "I think they were going to show more of this throughout the season, but now it's all wrapped up in this episode," says Taryn.
Before the episode's end, Mary Ann will encourage her brother to keep delving further in to the case, and the team will be further aided by evidence discovered on MaryAnn's cell phone. The final image, teases Taryn, is of Steve experiencing "sadness over another loss."
The busy 32-year-old hasn't allowed professional disappointments to get her down. A Buddhist who sits cross-legged and chants every morning and night, Taryn had been toting a travel-size altar back and forth from Los Angeles to Hawaii, which she credits for "quieting her mind from all the chitter chatter."
In addition to focusing on her music (one of her songs, "Spotlight," was played in an early episode of Hawaii Five-0 and is available on iTunes), she will guest star in a January episode of Law & Order: SVU. She may also return to her recurring role on Sons of Anarchy, and is mulling an offer to play Janis Joplin in an independent film. As for Five-0, she has no regrets: "I chanted to get this show and the benefits have been priceless."