Vanessa Lachey Teases Personal Connection to “NCIS: Hawai'i” Episode: It's 'Allowing Me a Lot of Healing' (Exclusive)

Calling the episode "a full circle moment," Lachey tells PEOPLE that it's "very emotional" because of the ties to her childhood and credits the CBS show for allowing her "to really dive into some depth"

<p>Karen Neal/CBS </p> Vanessa Lachey as Jane Tennant on

Karen Neal/CBS

Vanessa Lachey as Jane Tennant on 'NCIS: Hawai'i'

As the NCIS universe gears up to mark a major milestone, Vanessa Lachey is opening up about how the moment holds extra significance in her life.

On Monday, April 15, NCIS will be celebrating its 1,000th episode, followed by NCIS: Hawai'i airing the franchise's 1,001st episode. Lachey, 43, currently leads the Hawaii-based series, starring as Jane Tennant, whom she has portrayed since the show debuted in September 2021.

"It's just a beautiful franchise to be a part of," Lachey tells PEOPLE. "We are hitting 1,000 episodes on April 15th, which not very many scripted primetime shows can say that. And I am just honored to come on in some capacity to add to that."

According to Lachey, the season 3 episode won't just serve as a reminder of how far the franchise has come and to "kick off the next 1,000" — it'll also be a way for her to reflect on her own past.

Calling the episode a "full-circle moment," Lachey explains, "It dips into my mother who abandoned me. It is a very emotional episode, it is a very deep episode."

Related: Vanessa Lachey on Healing from the 'Hurt' of Her Mom Leaving When She Was 9 — with Nick's Support

<p>Karen Neal/CBS</p> Vanessa Lachey as Jane Tennant on 'NCIS: Hawai'i'

Karen Neal/CBS

Vanessa Lachey as Jane Tennant on 'NCIS: Hawai'i'

"It's actually Daniela Ruah, the actress on NCIS: LA, directed it," Lachey continues. "A lot of stuff happens, and I'm nervous. I'm always going to be nervous."

Those nerves, she says, often rise up due to her background on television, which previously consisted of light-hearted roles or gigs.

"I came from hosting and comedy acting, and this show has allowed me to really dive into some depth," she says of NCIS: Hawai'i. "And this episode, specifically with Dani directing, I think has got some really great stuff that I hope the fans love and take to."

Lachey also admits it was "hard" to have a storyline on the show mirror such a difficult moment in her life.

"It was crazy to be walking that line," says the actress, who also currently co-hosts Love Is Blind with husband Nick. "It's so literal, because looking at this person that's playing my abandoned mother, while I'm thinking of the literal woman who abandoned me, and then, [the director says], 'Cut, bye, Vanessa. Great job, see you on Monday.' Getting on a plane, going to Love Is Blind."

<p>Karen Neal/CBS</p> Vanessa Lachey as Jane Tennant on 'NCIS: Hawai'i'

Karen Neal/CBS

Vanessa Lachey as Jane Tennant on 'NCIS: Hawai'i'

Related: Vanessa Lachey Admits She and Husband Nick Debate Who Is 'Ready' for Marriage Before Love Is Blind Weddings (Exclusive)

Even with the jarring contrast of her two jobs, Lachey says she found the experience to be rewarding.

"It was great that I had that in my arsenal, and I could see how people say acting is healing," she explains. "So in the same way that Love Is Blind gives me and Nick that marriage therapy and healing, this show — and specifically this episode, the 1,001 — is allowing me a lot of healing."

"And it brought up a lot of things that I've done since then, personally, as Vanessa Lachey, and also Jane Tennant, which she's done since her mother left her," she adds. "So I hope you like it."

During season 3 of the CBS hit, Lachey has also gotten a chance to work with LL COOL J, who is currently guest starring as Sam Hanna, his character from NCIS: LA.

<p>Karen Neal/CBS</p> Vanessa Lachey as Jane Tennant and LL Cool J as Sam Hanna on 'NCIS: Hawai'i'

Karen Neal/CBS

Vanessa Lachey as Jane Tennant and LL Cool J as Sam Hanna on 'NCIS: Hawai'i'

"We've been fortunate to have him," Lachey says of her costar. "He just adds another layer. What I've realized is he adds another layer for my character, Jane Tennant, to be more — I don't want to say that my guard is down, but it's definitely another layer to her that the audience hasn't gotten to see yet. So I'm totally grateful that we are able to do that. It's a fun dynamic."

"He is who he is, like what you see is what you get," she continues. "He comes in and he's larger than life, and he's a big teddy bear, and he's always got music going, and he's always bringing the good vibes... So it's been a great layer for us to have in Hawaii."

Related: LL COOL J Reflects on 'Amazing' NCIS Run as His LA Character Sam Heads to Hawai'i: 'Let's Do This' (Exclusive)

Lachey also believes LL COOL J's guest appearance is representative of the franchise's overall growth and expansion.

"I think that LL's character, Agent Sam Hanna, is allowing our ensemble of NCIS: Hawai'i to expand in a way that we weren't before," she shares. "And you're able to see different dynamics grow. We, as the cast, are able to kind of dive into different layers of each character. And so he's literally and figuratively shaking things up for us. And what more can you ask for when you kick off another season?"

"Every year, you want to kind of think of a way that you can evolve the franchise, and I think this is a really great way that we can do it," she adds. "It gets people talking about the show, and that's a beautiful thing."

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NCIS: Hawai'i airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

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