Natalie Abrams
September 28, 2017 AT 01:00 PM EDT

Following the highly publicized exits of Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, Hawaii Five-0 is going through a bit of a reset.

With Chin Ho Kelly and Kono Kalakaua gone, the team has enlisted new members in police academy flunky Tani (Meaghan Rath), former Navy SEAL Junior (Beulah Koale), and Kono’s hubby, Adam (Ian Anthony Dale). However, Five-0 will still feel the void left by Chin and Kono. “There is a feeling of a loss, but I don’t think it’s that profound because there’s always opportunity for those characters to either return or at least return in their mind, in the stories that we tell,” executive producer Peter Lenkov says.

Meanwhile, Five-o task-force leader McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) will reassess his future after suffering radiation poisoning last season. “Clearly it shows that he’s mortal, and it’s going to affect his legacy of what he wants to do post-being a cop,” Lenkov says, teasing that McGarrett may open a restaurant with Danny (Scott Caan). He’ll also get a new partner: a police dog. Who needs girlfriends when you can have man’s best friend? Check out our full interview with Lenkov below:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Does it feel like Season 8 is a reset in certain ways?
PETER LENKOV: It’s weird. I’ve never been asked that question, but it’s interesting. Every year, we seem to always bring in somebody, we brought Jorge [Garcia] in and we brought Chi [McBride] in, Andy Lawrence. We’ve always expanded the family. I feel this is organic to what we’ve been doing every year. It just so happens that we’re bringing three people in. Ian doesn’t really show up until episode 7, so his arc starts a little later, but I feel we’ve been doing this from the beginning. Clearly, there’s a void with Chin and Kono being gone, but we’ve always expanded every year, we’ve grown the family. So I’m not sure about a reset, but it’s an interesting question or an interesting way to look at it, but I think it’s just organic to what we’ve been doing every year.

You guys mentioned during the announcement of their exits that the premiere would address Kono and Chin’s absences, but how is the team dealing with their loss in that sense?
There’s reference that they miss them and things don’t feel the same, but I think they’re also happy for them with what they’re doing. Chin goes and is basically taking that job, starting that task force in San Francisco. And Kono is following this passion of hers, shutting down a trafficking network, that’s become her legacy. It’s weird because when we shot that show, we were so affected by the charity that we were highlighting that it became, and I hate to use the word again, but an organic way to get Kono [out], because Grace was very affected by it, like her character, that it felt like a good thing that if she was going to do something with an extension of what she did as a member of Five-0, that it would be that. It felt very real, and it felt like it was something that Grace was very passionate about, which made sense for Kono to pursue it at the end of the season. But we do mention it, we do talk about it. It’s definitely going to be a part of Adam’s arc when he returns.

CBS

Does it take a while for what’s left of the team to readjust to these new people who come in? Is there an awkward new team dynamic at first?
No, I don’t think so because we’ve played episodes where a character would go away, like Chi had actually gone away, Danny every now and then goes away, Kono’s been out of a story here and there. So it’s not like the loss of somebody in terms of a death or something that’s permanent. This is more they know where they are, they know that they’re doing good work, and I think that there is a feeling of a loss, but I don’t think it’s that profound because I think that there’s always opportunity for those characters to either return, or at least return in their mind, in the stories that we tell.

Are you leaving the door open for possible returns?
I think as long as somebody doesn’t have a bullet in them and laying flat on a slab, there’s always that possibility.

What can you tell us about Tani’s background and how she’s going to be fitting into this group?
It’s interesting because if you think about all the people that make up the family, they’re all broken toys in some way. The opportunity to work at Five-0, or the opportunity to come together as a family, came at the right time in their lives when they really needed it the most, and Tani is very similar to the way McGarrett collected the team in the first place. This is somebody who was kicked out of the Police Academy, somebody who clearly could be a good cop if given the opportunity, and McGarrett comes to her when really she needs it the most and you’ll see why in the premiere. She needs it because it’s something to do with her family, but the opportunity comes and she says yes, and it’s very similar to when we picked up Kono and Chin and Danny in that pilot. It just made sense to collect another member who needs this opportunity at this time in their life.

Kono had been around for a really long time, but you haven’t had much luck with other women on this team, from Lori Weston (Lauren German) to Catherine Rollins (Michelle Borth) to Jenna Kaye (Larisa Oleynik). What is it about Tani that will stick?
We’ve had luck with Catherine. We loved her so much, but she was never permanent. She was a regular recurring for so long and I think we just told that story. I think for me, I was a huge fan of the character and love Michelle. What was the other character you were talking about?

Weston and Kaye.
That was always somebody that was going to — we weren’t even sure where we were going to go with that when we first… but I think, yeah, you’re right. We definitely didn’t have luck with that character. And with regard to Meaghan, she’s just great and I think the audience is going to embrace her right away. She feels like she’s been with the team forever.

Norman Shapiro/CBS

Let’s talk about Junior. We know he has a military background. Does he bond with McGarrett over that shared service?
Yeah, he’s a CO also, a younger version of McGarrett. Where McGarrett is very much of a rule-breaker, Junior’s more of a by-the-book kind of guy.

Will they then butt heads?
Not butt heads, but I just think that they approach things differently.

You mentioned Adam coming in around episode 7 and joining the team, but how will Kono’s absence color his interactions with the team?
Well, you know, Adam’s involvement with Five-0 is going to be very different from the other members of Five-0. What he’s going to be helping us with is a very specific task, so he’s not going to be another member of Five-0 wearing a badge doing case of the week stuff. He’s doing something that’s going to be built into a big season arc for him. When we first see him again, he’s coming back from the mainland thinking that Kono was going to return with him to Hawaii and she couldn’t at that time, and I think there’s a little bit of him that wishes this was all over and they could be together, because they’ve gone through such a roller coaster in terms of their relationship. It would be nice to be able to stop this thing and just finally live their lives, but that roller coaster is going to keep going for a while. The Adam story is part of a big arc involving organized crime on the island. I don’t want to give too much because it will give away what he’s doing. And it’s not the obvious. Whatever seems the obvious, it’s not.

So he’s not going undercover for them?
No.

What can you tease about what’s in store for McGarrett this year and how the radiation poisoning is affecting him physically and emotionally?
I think it’s interesting because that radiation poisoning, everybody assumed we were killing him off and it was like the last season, which was absolutely not on anybody’s mind. I just feel like it would be unrealistic, not like everything in the show is a documentary, but it would be unrealistic to diffuse that bomb and not be affected at all. I mean, he put a car battery on his chest to prevent him from being — he had the radiation poisoning, which will protect a part of your body but won’t protect everything, so it just made sense to actually have some repercussions to doing something like that. But clearly it shows that he’s mortal, and it’s going to affect his legacy of what he wants to do, maybe post-being a cop. Danny had talked about opening that restaurant, that’s going to be a part of the arc this season of them deciding whether that’s a real viable option for the two of them is to maybe have a retirement game plan in mind down the road. And could they tolerate each other outside of being cops one day and spend the rest of their lives together as close BFFs? So legacy plays a big part in this season as well in terms of what everybody’s doing and where they see themselves in the future.

Norman Shapiro/CBS

So McGarrett gets a new four-legged partner?
There is a story that’s coming up. It actually was Alex’s idea that I thought was great. I wanted to do a story where the victim left in the wake of a tragedy was a dog who lost its owner, and it’s a very emotional, really great story. It’s a dog that’s a drug-sniffing service dog that McGarrett ends up adopting, and it’s a really emotional journey, but it was his idea to keep the dog and I thought it was a great one.

So we’re going to see this dog as part of the team?
Yes.

What about for Danno? What are we going to see for him aside from that restaurant storyline this season?
Well, exploring his social life, exploring his relationship with Charlie, we’re going to play more of that. His daughter is now is in a serious relationship with Grover’s son. I mean, when I say serious, it’s just teenagers that may be more than a week, so that’s a big deal to him. His relationship with McGarrett is again going to be explored in their future plans. His relationship with Tani is a big deal. He’s the one that, in some ways, bonds with her very early on.

Romantically?
No, no, not romantically, just in terms of like just connecting as team members I guess. Mutual respect. They bond really early, and very much like McGarrett mentoring Junior, Danny’s got that kind of relationship with Tani.

Norman Shapiro/CBS

What’s in store for Jerry now that he has his badge?
Just being a super cop. I think Jerry’s goal ultimately is to be able to carry a gun, which I don’t think anybody in their right mind will give him.

Rumor has it we’re going to see some big stuff for Grover that’s outside of Hawaii.
Yeah. We hinted at why Grover came from Chicago to Hawaii. We’re going to see more of that story of what got him to leave Chicago and come to Hawaii, a very emotional story for him. With Chi, it’s always great because he’s got such a rich family life on the show that playing Samantha, playing his son, playing his wife, all those things are really great and fun to write and there’s a few of those episodes this year.

Any big guest stars this season?
Yeah, we talked about Joey Lawrence, who plays the brother of Nick Jonas. Do you remember Nick Jonas was a hacker who was on the show years ago? So he comes back. There’s a couple episodes that he’s in. We’re building the arc with his character, which is a lot of fun. Claire Forlani’s coming back in a couple episodes. That’s a big thing for us. We love her.

Is there a romance there with McGarrett?
I think that there is definitely chemistry between them and the idea of leaning in that direction is very intriguing to us, so we’re thinking about it. Chris Vance, who played a James Bond-type of character last year, he’s going to be in the second episode this year.

What about Christine Lahti? There still seems to be a treasure trove of information to get from Doris.
Yes, well, we haven’t written the episode. There is an episode that we’re talking about, but it all depends on scheduling. But yes, I mean she’s definitely a part of our world still.

You guys always do a great Halloween episode. Anything you can say about what you’re planning for this year?
Yeah, this one is probably our more grounded and scarier episode than we’ve done in the past. It’s based on Hawaiian ghost stories and it’s pretty raw and pretty scary.

Are there any themes you’re exploring in particular this year?
Well, legacy. We always do family, the romance, beauty, loss. With Junior, there’s going to be a big run about loss. There’s not one particular theme, but there’s a lot of things that are very relatable to a lot of our characters, especially something like Junior and McGarrett who basically went through a very similar experience as soldiers and then having to return home and get their sea legs back. But loss is one of those that’s going to play into their relationship and how they connect with each other.

Hawaii Five-0 returns Friday at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.

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