Jay Hernandez and Perdita Weeks will be the first to admit that they banter with each other in pretty much the same way as their characters, Thomas Magnum and Juliet Higgins, on Magnum P.I. It's been the case from the day they first met on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, where they did their chemistry read in early 2018, and the actors both insist that nothing has changed.
"Honestly, I feel like [the writers] just sit around the set and listen to us bicker at each other, because we're constantly arguing about something," Hernandez quipped in a joint interview with Weeks. "She thinks she's always right, and I know I'm always right, and so that's the dynamic."
That dynamic has turned the modern-day reimagining of Magnum P.I., which was picked up for a two-part, 20-episode fifth season at NBC after being unceremoniously canceled at CBS last May, into a bona fide international hit. After repeatedly denying their feelings for each other for years, Magnum and Higgins—television's ultimate dynamic duo of private investigators—have finally decided to pursue a romantic relationship, helping to kickstart a new chapter of the action crime drama.
Last month, at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, TV Guide sat down with Hernandez and Weeks to discuss the next chapter of Magnum and Higgins' platonic-turned-romantic relationship.
Jay, you've said in the past that you believed Magnum and Higgins would get together not in just any season finale but at the end of the series finale because you wanted to maintain some of the sexual tension between the characters for as long as possible. How did you both react to the big Magnum and Higgins twist in the Season 4 finale?
Perdita Weeks: I kind of thought [the show] was over, or at least I thought maybe they're allowing space for it to happen. I mean, yes, it can be seen as the beginning, but I also thought it was the most perfect end. And then when we got canceled, I was like, "Huh, okay." I wasn't aware of all the business stuff that was going on, unlike some of the others. I was just in England, and I thought it was a nice and lovely ending.
Jay Hernandez: Yeah, from the creative side, they have to be prepared for it to go either way because you just don't know how it's gonna turn out—if you're gonna get a pick-up or if the show is dead, all that kind of stuff. So I did say that. And I've said it numerous times.
Weeks: You did. [Laughs.]
Hernandez: Over the course of the many seasons, they built it up to the extent that you gotta do it at this point. You gotta give it to the audience because they've earned it at this point. So I kind of passed that and I was like, "Alright, it doesn't necessarily mean it's over, but we have to do this, regardless if the show is canceled or it goes on." And when it did get canceled, I was just in disbelief. I just knew it was going forward. I was so confident about it! And ultimately, I was right. It was a very circuitous route, but we got to where I knew we would be anyway.
Your characters are now walking that fine line of starting a romantic relationship after being work partners for so long, and there is even more at stake for both of them. How are you both choosing to play that dynamic now, compared to past seasons? How do you go about maintaining that tension when that line has been crossed?
Weeks: Just adding another layer to all that is such a fun thing to do, honestly. Because as we're always saying, the procedural stuff is fun, and it's kind of what sells the show. People like it, and it's what they expect, and it's the formula and stuff. But it's everything that is outside of that [which is] for us, is really fun to play. [We enjoy] the more serialized aspects of character development and the love stories, such as it is, and just finding those little moments that are not on the page, that we can get into in the little amount of rehearsal time that we have.
Hernandez: Honestly, if they just roll the cameras and we just riffed, it would be the same thing. [Laughs.]
Weeks: Yeah, it would!
Hernandez: It would be the same thing!
Weeks: It's fun to figure out little moments, and the directors are always very keen on any of that. We have so little time to shoot what we do that we do kind of have to just work incredibly quickly. So it's just like finding little moments of space where we can come up with fun little things that tell the story that they're not just partners, but they're also exploring a relationship.
What kinds of conversations have you had with showrunner Eric Guggenheim about this new chapter of the show? Does it feel different at all?
Hernandez: I think a little bit. I think the thing that is interesting is, we have the ability with this extra order of episodes to do things that we haven't done and to explore this relationship. And in my mind, it's an opportunity to really veer off in a different direction and try things that are sort of almost experimental because the audience has already committed themselves to the show. And the fact that we're on NBC and all that stuff happened on social media and everything with the petitions, it's like they have our backs. So if ever there was a time to experiment with the story, now is that time, so I keep pushing Eric. I'm like, "Let's do more outside of that. They're with us, they're on board, let's just swing for the fences."
I'm always interested in hearing how actors feel when their characters are finally paired together. How have you found out shooting the more intimate moments that Magnum and Higgins have behind closed doors, given how long you've intentionally played up the will-they-or-won't-they aspects of this relationship?
Weeks: Yeah, it's always funny. Luckily, we're very good friends. We've worked together for such a long time. We're on an island. It's a bit like kissing my brother. [Laughs.]
Hernandez: That's so weird! [Laughs.]
Weeks: It's so funny, but then at the same time, the more you make a big deal out of it, the more times you have to do it. So we just want to do it well, we talk about it. How do we want the intensity of this? Where are they at this point? Is this, at this time of the day, what's appropriate? What could be fun that they haven't seen us do before?
Hernandez: There are moments though when we're like, "They would be going through this whole [growing period]..."
Hernandez: Sometimes, it's like, alright, these people are legit in a relationship—
Weeks: —and it just started.
Hernandez: Yeah, and you want to feel that sort of passion, so we have added a little bit. There are a couple of little moments. It's just like physical stuff that helps tell the story beyond what's on the page.
Higgins even points out that she and Magnum haven't exactly had a conventional courtship. For one, they're practically living together before going out on an official date. How much of their courtship will we see this season?
Weeks: There are a few romantic scenes.
Hernandez: I think they should lean into it more, especially with Magnum.
Weeks: I agree. He's such a romantic. We get dressed up a few times, and we do it properly.
Hernandez: Oh yeah, I just forgot about that. There's a good one in your episode.
Weeks: The one that Jay directed. That's the penultimate episode [of the first half of the season].
For what it's worth, we do get a scene at the end of the first episode where Magnum and Higgins are having dinner in the wine cellar.
Weeks: It's definitely a very Juliet Higgins thing to do, to almost ruin it. I think at the end of the first episode, in the wine cellar, there's that expensive bottle of wine that he brings out, and you're just like, "Don't ruin it." [Hernandez laughs.] That is classic—to overthink it and dissect it. But I just think that's a realistic character trait for her to go in and just over-examine, over-analyze all the ways that this could go wrong. And he's just like, "Shut up and come here."
Hernandez: "Move forward with your heart and love." [Laughs.]
Do you two have a favorite Magnum and Higgins scene from the first four seasons?
Weeks: Ooh, there have been loads.
Hernandez: Being on the sailboat was cool.
Weeks: The sailboat one. The dream sequence!
Hernandez: Remember when you fell asleep and you were saying my name? That was funny.
Weeks: Yeah, that was fun. That was last year. I think most of the scenes when it's just the two of them are funny because there's always an argument about something stupid.
Hernandez: It's always an argument. But also, we work together really well, so it's funny when it's just me and her, we're like, "Oh, that's gonna be no problem. We're gonna fly through that scene."
Weeks: Yeah, we're so much quicker.
Hernandez: There's other people, other dynamics, other stuff that they gotta cover that complicates things. But when it's just us two…
Weeks: On the call sheet, when it's like, "1-2, 1-2, 1-2" [meaning just one-on-one scenes with Magnum and Higgins], we're like, "Fine. Easy day."
Hernandez: We're done! We're gonna nail this! [Laughs.]
You two also got your own Baywatch moments in the second episode, when it was really just Magnum and Higgins going undercover to find out the truth about that lifeguard.
Weeks: I know. They really milked that, didn't they? [We wore] Baywatch red. It was just so classic. It didn't matter what we were saying.
Hernandez: Did you dig them?
I did. The music, the slow-mos, the build-up—all of it.
Weeks: And running down the beach.
Hernandez: And saving a life.
Tell me about shooting the scene in which Magnum rescues a boy from drowning. This is the magic of television after all, but Jay, you had to physically sprint and swim pretty far out to play out that rescue.
Weeks: And the young boy was really underwater! [Looking at Hernandez.] You were freezing.
Hernandez: I always love the action stuff. I love running and doing all of that. It's heroic stuff. You get to be the hero for no reason, really. We were just hanging out at the beach, and we were like, "You know what? Let's do some heroic shit right now." [Laughs.] What you were talking about and sort of the Baywatch vibe—I think it was just a fun kind of gag. The fans of the show are gonna dig it. Everybody knows what we're referencing, so it's pretty straight-forward, but it's just another way to be playful and have fun with it.
Weeks: And spend a large proportion of the episode on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Hernandez: Yeah, the office is a nice place to be when you're on Magnum P.I. We get these stunning locations, and then they just cord it off, and it's ours.
At this point in the story, Magnum and Higgins have chosen to keep their romantic relationship a secret from their friends, because they aren't entirely sure if this next step in their relationship will work out. How will the other characters react to the news of Magnum and Higgins' relationship?
Hernandez: It's just funny because we've already established that they want this to happen, so there are some funny moments that they gave us. There are some cute little moments where they're the ones discovering that this is a thing.
Weeks: And Jin is still batting to have Higgins and him together at some point.
Hernandez: Yeah, Jin has my aspirations. He's punching up.
Weeks: I think he's probably gonna be the most disappointed. [Laughs.]
Magnum P.I. airs Sundays at 9/8c on NBC. Episodes are available to stream the next day on Peacock.