Kanani Rose Rogers is the kind of young actress who makes an impression that stays with you. You may remember Rogers in the small but impactful role of Amanda Morris, a young woman held captive by welfare rip-off artists in “Hoʻopio.”
That episode of “Hawaii Five-0” was certainly memorable to me, as Rogers performance, especially the voice over of Amanda reading her diary while her parents read along and wept, was both moving and beautiful in its stark sadness. For someone as young as Rogers to convey years of wisdom — knowledge of what was in store for Ella Bishop (Mykayla Sohn), the second girl taken by Amanda’s kidnappers, and the sorrow she had for the little girl — was a testament to Rogers’ ability and maturity as an actress.
Rogers spoke with me about her time on “Hawaii Five-0” as well as her extensive acting experience, which is even more impressive based on the fact she turned 18 just weeks before filming her scenes.
Rogers was born and raised in Hawaii and trained at her parents acting school while attending the Waldorf School. Her parents are well-known coaches Scott and Jeanne Rogers, who own and operate the Scott Rogers Studios in Hawaii.
Even though Rogers comes from an acting family, she has continued to hone her craft, training in voice and dance, acting in community theatre, commercials and short films, as well as television shows like “Lost” and “Hawaii” before being cast on “Five-0.” Hawaii theater fans may remember her as “Natalie” in the hit presentation of “Next to Normal” at Mānoa Valley Theatre.
“Amanda was the largest role I’ve had so far,” said Rogers. “The experience was wonderful and everyone was sweet and welcoming. It was nice to see familiar faces like Dennis (Chun) and Jodi (Jarvis) on set; we were like a little family.”
Chun, who plays recurring character Sgt. Duke Lukela, and Jarvis, who played Ella Bishop’s mother, Joyce, in the episode, are Rogers’ fellow classmates at SRS.
Chun said Rogers is “a very committed and dedicated artist. I’ve had the privilege of seeing her work in our acting class and was impressed with her professionalism.”
“Best of all, she is a beautiful person. Her performance (as Amanda) helped make the episode a special and moving moment.”
Chun was not only speaking of Rogers’ overall performance, but particularly about the scene where Sgt. Lukela informs McGarrett and Danno about how Amanda ended up dead in the dirt. I’m sure it’s never an easy task to see a young person face down like that, but then to know the person lying there can’t be easy to deal with.
I asked Rogers if that was really her in the makeshift grave, and she said she had to actually lie there for almost eight hours.
“They poured dirt all over me and I couldn’t move, but when the cameras weren’t directly on me, they tried to make me as comfortable as possible,” she said.
Rogers did share that Alex (O’Loughin) and Scott (Caan) were very sweet to her, even though she did not have any direct lines or scenes with them. During the two weeks Rogers was on set, she only had good things to say about her experience.
“The day I was in the grave all day, I had a performance that night, for ‘Next to Normal’ and they kept pouring dirt into my hair, and we were all the way out at Kualoa Ranch,” she said. “I was afraid I wasn’t going to make my call time at 5 p.m., but they got me out of there in plenty of time to get home so I could clean up before my show at MVT that night.”
I asked her about playing Amanda, how hard it was, how she “got into character.” She said it was “pretty easy. It was a well written episode, and a lot was there for me to use to play her.”
Even though she’d never been in Amanda’s shoes per se, she said she could relate on a human level.
“When they put the shackles on me, that really got me,” Rogers said.
While Rogers spoke about having her ankles shackled, getting dirt poured all over her and playing dead for hours, I kept thinking about how thrilled she sounded — because this is what she wants to do: act, perform and be on stage. What an amazing experience to be able to act all day in a television show and rush off to act on stage at night? Every actor dreams of a life like that, and Rogers is ready to embrace it all.
Rogers is currently in Portland, Ore. taking classes and continuing her training, with the goal of moving to Los Angeles and continuing to pursue her dream of becoming a professional actress. She most recently signed with Q6 Talent in Portland and just auditioned with The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle. At 18, she has worked hard to get where she is now, and it looks like she has a bright and amazing future ahead of her.
Last week was Mary Beth San Juan’s memorial service in Hawaii. San Juan was a “Hawaii Five-0” fan and aspiring actress who played an extra in “Pōwā Ma Ka Moana.” She was one of the parents thanking the Five-0 team for saving teens kidnapped on a catamaran.
Dennis Chun said, “this picture of Mary Beth is very powerful — it’s as if she is hugging all of us and saying aloha.”
Chun also shared a message for fans from San Juan’s family.
“The ʻohana of Mary Beth wishes to express their deep aloha to all the ’Hawaii Five-0′ fans for their love and support. Mary Beth loved both the show and all the fans she was blessed to meet. We will remember her always and keep her light of aloha and love burning bright,” he said.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.