No matter what the TV show, there are always going to be a few special standouts that make it shine a bit brighter and resonate a bit deeper as we watch it. In the CBS drama NCIS: LOS ANGELES, which is currently airing Season 9, one such standout performance is by Andrea Bordeaux. It has been a pleasure seeing her seamlessly become part of the show and bring her own energy to her scenes and role — not an easy feat in a show already filled with charismatic actors. In an exclusive interview, Andrea talks about her miracle audition that scored this amazing opportunity and a few of the key lessons she has learned as a working actor.
What was the initial appeal for you about portraying Special Agent Harley Hidoko and working on CBS’ NCIS: LOS ANGELES?
ANDREA: NCIS: Los Angeles is a huge TV show, not just here in America, but globally. Even if you’ve never seen it, you’ve heard of it. I love the action genre and it’s always been a big goal of mine to play bad-ass, tough women. Before auditioning, the only thing that I knew for sure about the character was that she was a new special agent being brought into Los Angeles to shake up the existing team. She was described as smart, capable, and a bit quirky. I was immediately drawn to the potential for conflict within the storytelling. I love seeing new characters on shows and how that affects the dynamics of the already established characters. I felt that it would be interesting to portray a woman who takes a new job in a new city, and is immediately forced to learn and adapt to all of these new personalities and situations.
How would you describe who Harley is?
ANDREA: Harley is a former Marine turned NCIS special agent. She’s talented, extremely smart, levelheaded, introverted, and stylish. She can seem aloof, but it’s really because she’s private and doesn’t feel pressure to engage unless she wants to. Harley likes order and is meticulous. She’s the kind of woman that will disassemble, clean, and reassemble her weapon as a way of relaxing.
What do you most admire most about her?
ANDREA: I love Harley’s eagerness to learn. Because of her more ordered and structured Marine background, she’s had to learn to adapt to the teams more unconventional and sometimes controversial methods. While she is smart, skilled, and capable, she is always looking for the lesson or teaching moment in the situations that she finds herself in. She’s not afraid to ask questions, but she’s also not afraid to challenge opinions, even of her superiors.I also love how Harley is constantly surprising people, whether it’s through her skills in the field taking down men twice her size, or her technical knowledge that helps locate Hetty. She doesn’t need to talk about herself or her capabilities, she just lets her skill speak for itself.
What was it like working alongside the talented ensemble on NCIS: LOS ANGELES?
ANDREA: I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with. Meeting the cast for the first time was special because everyone was genuinely excited to have me there. I was taken into the fold immediately and everyone has been so helpful along the way about making sure that I understand the way something is typically done, or who is responsible for what, what situations are unusual, you know, just helping me me get familiar with everything. Getting to know everyone’s individual personality has also been so much fun. Each actor has their own little quirks and tics and it’s so much fun to see everyone come together and create this energy that’s really fun and exciting. The beauty of being on a long running show is how relaxed everyone is. There’s this sort of ease that everyone has and it’s partly because of the professionalism and enthusiasm that everyone has for the show, and its partly due to the family vibe of the set.
To date, what has been your favorite part about working on NCIS: LOS ANGELES?
ANDREA: I think my favorite part about working on the show so far is how routine it feels. I know that sounds odd, but when you’re an actor who spends more time auditioning then actually working on a set, all you really want is a steady job. And so with this show, not only have I had a steady job, I’ve had this incredible opportunity to learn the ins and outs of what it takes to be an actor on a hit TV show. I love referring to the show as ‘boot camp’ because it feels like a crash course in so many ways. I’m working alongside some of the most talented and successful actors in the business, incredible new directors every week, I am doing stunts and action scenes that people can only dream about getting to do, and I’m playing this bad-ass, dope woman. This is my life right now and that feels amazing.
What has surprised you about working on NCIS: LOS ANGELES?
ANDREA: From the very first moment I started on the show, every single person has been so kind and welcoming to me. When you talk to the cast and crew about the culture on set, the word you hear a lot is “family.” This is my first big job and with that came a lot of pressure and some real fear about what it was going to be like coming into a show that had been running seamlessly for eight seasons already. Every show, every cast, every crew is so different. And when you’re coming into something that’s already established, you sort of have to adapt to whatever that culture or vibe is, and it’s not always positive. Some sets can have a really toxic environment for a multitude of reasons, and so you have to be prepared for whatever you could walk into. But I’ve never felt like anything less than a member of the family and I truly love the NCIS: LOS ANGELES cast and crew.
What are you most proud of about working on NCIS: LOS ANGELES?
ANDREA: I most proud of the story of how I booked this role and what I’ve been able to make it grow into since then. My initial audition for this show was for a one day guest star role in the season premiere, a completely unrelated character. I auditioned for the producers and when I was in the room, the showrunner, R. Scott Gemmill, asked me to read for the role of a new special agent that was also being introduced in the premiere. I went back in 20 minutes later to read one of the scenes, and I ended up getting a callback. I worked really hard to prepare for the callback, but I was so nervous during the audition that I flubbed a few lines and even lost my place on the page at one point. I also distinctly remember my right leg shaking. I really thought that I bombed the audition and I was in tears before I made it out of the building. But the next day, I got the call that I’d gotten the job. When I booked this job, I was only pinned for 6 episodes, but now I have a full season under my belt and that makes me feel so incredibly proud. Starting on the show was intimidating and scary. I felt a lot of pressure to perform well because, if I wasn’t able to handle the responsibilities that were going to be thrown at me, then I knew that my role could have ended up being much shorter than I would’ve liked or anticipated. I’m proud of how this experience has grown.
Then as an actor, what has been the one thing you haven taken away from the experience of working on NCIS: LOS ANGELES?
ANDREA: There’s a sense of ownership that I feel now. It’s been interesting to see myself go from someone who is nervous and kind of figuring things out, to someone who steps forward and feels a deeper connection to the end product. This really means something to me.
What has surprised you most about your career so far?
ANDREA: Honestly, I’m a little surprised every time I get a new script for a new episode. I have a crazy cool job and I try to live in the wonder of it every day. I can’t stand jaded actors. It’s so draining. And I think part of staying out of that mindset is finding the fun and newness in things, even when they become routine.
At this stage of your career, what do you think you have learned from the roles and projects you have worked on?
ANDREA: What I’ve learned is that you never really know where the opportunity is going to come from, but you always end up exactly where you’re supposed to be. Sometimes that opportunity is disguised as something small. For instance, I was given an audition for a one day guest-starring role. I had already done a number of those types of roles and so, for me, it was a bit frustrating to think, “Wow, I’m still auditioning for these smaller roles. When am I going to finally get a break?” But, I went in for that one day guest-starring role anyway. And it turns out that the showrunner, who hadn’t sat in on a casting session in years, just so happened to pop in that day. And he just so happened to think I would be right for the role of a special agent.
What is your proudest achievement from your career so far?
ANDREA: I’m just really glad that I didn’t give up. Anyone who has spent any amount of time pursuing a career as an actor in film or television understands just how painfully difficult it can be sometimes. I never ever blame someone for giving up because I have been very very close, many times. When I went in to audition for NCIS: LOS ANGELES, I was still working full-time as a waitress. When I got the audition, how was I supposed to know that it was the audition that would change my life?
Then what are the perks of where you are in your career right now?
ANDREA: Seeing the excitement of my family and friends is wonderful. Sometimes you forget just how many people are rooting for you and want you to succeed. I love being able to share what I can with everyone. Bringing my mom to set, sending autographed scripts to my aunt, buying gifts are all things that mean a lot to me and I’m happy that I can do things like that now. When it comes to work schedule, we’re pretty spoiled on the show. Some weeks can be grueling with long hours or a lot of physically demanding days when there are stunts and explosions involved, but I never have to work weekends, we generally wrap by 6pm, we never do night shoots, and if I have a really heavy filming schedule for one episode, my filming schedule for the next episode will usually be light. I really love interacting with the fans on social media. They are so loyal, funny, and kind, it just blows me away. They love the show so much and people have really fallen in love with Harley. It means a lot to me that people take time out of their day to show me love.
If there were one previous role you would like to revisit, which would it be and why?
ANDREA: It would have to be the very first play that I did my freshman year of high school. I was playing a French male detective in a silly melodrama. I’m pretty sure the main reason I got the role was because I was one of the few students in my theater arts class that was actually enthusiastic about theater arts, as opposed to just taking it as an easy elective class. But, I was very shy about performing and I had actually never performed in a play before. I feel like my teacher also gave me the role as a way pulling me out of my shell. I just never fully committed to having fun with the character. I was so terrified about looking stupid that I let my nerves and insecurities prevent me from really having fun with it in the way that I should have, because it was such a fun, funny play. So, if I could go back and revisit any role, it would definitely be that one. I would tell my teenage self to “loosen up and have fun.”
Has there been any great advice you have gotten about working as an actor?
ANDREA: This advice was more indirect. I was filming a scene with the legendary Linda Hunt. Between set ups, Linda was talking to the director about some of the beats in the scene and I heard Linda say with a bit of a laugh, “I will always take my moments.” Those words really landed for me because I have a tendency to rush during auditions and scenes. I sometimes need to remind myself to slow down and breathe because that’s how you can miss beautiful opportunities. Linda was talking about taking every opportunity, every moment of her camera time to make interesting choices. She doesn’t feel the need to rush her work and she knows she would never be rushed. I loved that so much and it’s something that I’ve started working on being better about.
What advice would you offer to other upcoming and aspiring actors?
ANDREA: My best advice is to have a life and interests outside of acting. It’s so easy to get completely wrapped up in the daily grind of pursing this dream that you forget that you have to live. I spent years refusing to take long weekends or leave town for more than a few days at a time because I was so afraid that I would miss an audition. That prevented me from really enjoying myself and having memorable experiences. It’s also important to have something that fulfills you and keeps you energized so you don’t get sucked into some of the darker emotions that arise from the stresses and heartbreaks of pursing an acting career. When you make this business your entire life, you’re bound to fall into depression and despair if things don’t pan out as planned. You need to have a solid support system or people that you can turn to when you’re feeling low. Make sure that you surround yourself with people that are positive and uplifting, not negative and draining.
At a time when women’s voices are rising to be heard and respected around the country and world, what do you recommend your fans do to lend support in that endeavor?
ANDREA: This has been an incredible time in history and I’m so grateful that I’m alive to witness it, to be a part of it. I’m so proud to be a woman. I’m so proud of how much the tide has begun to shift toward women taking the power and respect that we deserve. The fans have been integral to this shift that we’re witnessing. Engaging on social media is so important. Tweet and retweet about issues that are important to you, support projects that are headed by women, watch films and TV shows with strong female leads, pay attention to your local elections and vote for women that are making efforts to improve your communities, or you can run for office yourself. And I think it’s important for us to continue to listen to each other and be respectful of the different existences that we all lead. Be inclusive in your listening. My life as a black woman is not that same as the life of a white woman. Sometimes, your only job is to listen and try to understand. Be mindful of that as well.
Do you have any other upcoming projects that you can share that fans should keep an eye out for?
ANDREA: Right now, I’m just hard at work on NCIS: LOS ANGELES so I don’t have time to work on anything else. When we wrap production in the Spring, I plan to take a couple weeks off to rest and then, who knows.
To see what challenges she conquers and insights she brings as NCIS: LOS ANGELES continues, be sure to tune in for all new episodes when the show returns on Sunday, March 11th at 9:00 p.m. on CBS. To see preview clips and other highlights, be sure to follow the show on Twitter @NCISLA Then to see what Andrea is up to as her career grows, one sure to follow her on Instagram @andreabordeaux and on Twitter @andrea_bordeaux
Video “Harley Hidoko: She’s A Genius”
Video clip from 9×12 “Under Pressure”