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'Real woman' Carrere delivers in 'Hospital'

By Mike Gordon

LAST UPDATED: 2:25 p.m. HST, Aug 5, 2011

As she read the script for a guest spot on ABC's new war drama, "Combat Hospital," Tia Carrere felt like she was holding a gift in her hands.

"I flipped," she said. "It was awesome."

The part of Jessica Draycott, an attractive photojournalist on assignment, was the kind of role that executive producers usually offer to, well, actresses who have not been in the business as long as the Hawaii-born Carrere.

"To be a woman of a certain age — let's put this delicately — and be offered roles like this, well, it's a different time," she said. "Previously they were always looking for 23-year-olds. Now they want women, not girls, who are sexy and desirable and smart and spicy and funny, and I just loved it."

The producers told her they were having trouble finding "a real woman" and that too many veteran actresses had opted for plastic surgery that had given them an unnatural look, said Carrere in a call from a West Hollywood restaurant.

"They wanted to cast a real-looking woman who hasn't been pulled, nipped and tucked," said Carrere while eating a salad with her 86-year-old grandmother. "I took it as a great compliment."

Anyone who has seen the tall, sleek Carrere would have to agree she is perfect for the part. But you can judge for yourself when "Combat Hospital" airs at 9 p.m. Tuesday on KITV.

The series, which was initially called "Hot Zone," is set in a fictional military hospital in southern Afghanistan in 2006. It follows the frantic lives of doctors working in a war zone. Heading up the cast is Michelle Borth, who will be remembered by fans of "Hawaii Five-0" for her steamy encounters with Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin).

In Carrere's episode of "Combat Hospital," her character hooks up with a former lover, Dr. Simon Hill, who is played by Luke Mably. They are veterans of a lifestyle defined by uncertainty.

"We don't take anything more seriously than what we have right here in front of us, which I guess is the mindset of a war zone," Carrere said. "There is no crystal ball for what will happen tomorrow, so let's not define it today."

CARRERE HAS played a variety of parts in a career that has lasted nearly 30 years. Discovered in a Waikiki grocery store by an indie filmmaker, she worked for several projects before getting her break in the "Wayne's World" comedies, went on to play a villain in the Arnold Schwarzenegger hit "True Lies" and then landed recurring roles in several TV shows.

But the busy actress is also a busy musician and singer with two Grammy Awards for Hawaiian music. Although sometimes the work schedule gets hectic, Carrere has no plans to give up either.

"I love doing both," she said. "If you don't have to choose, why choose? This is what I do, and this is what I have always done," she said.

For now she's got steady work in TV, including a recurring part on Syfy's supernatural drama "Warehouse 13." She's been in two episodes as Agent Kate Logan, and the show called her last week to shoot another episode later this month.

And while Carrere doesn't know the future of her "Combat Hospital" character, she will be making a statement for women of a certain age. When the 20-something starlets see her love scene, they might opt for early retirement.

And that's a wrap …

Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser's film and television writer. Reach him at 529-4803 or

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