She’s Over The Moon
Who’s delighted with where her acting career is heading? Try 12-year-old Mahina Napoleon, the self-described “funny” girl with a luminous personality, who’s been cast in AMC’s The Walking Dead: Dead City.
At just 12 years old, Mahina Napoleon is already shining bright among the stars. She recently wrapped filming of NCIS: Hawaii season 2, in which she portrays Julie Tennant, daughter of lead character Jane Tennant, played by Vanessa Lachey. Next up: She’s been cast as Ginny in The Walking Dead: Dead City, which premieres June 18 on AMC.
“I’ve watched The Walking Dead from when I was 4 or 5, so I’m familiar with the show, and when I was auditioning for it and when I found out I got the role, it was mind-blowing,” says Napoleon, who would often watch the post-apocalyptic horror drama television series with her dad. “I watch this show and now I’m on it, so it’s crazy.
“My story, my character Ginny is very interesting and you would never think that would be why I’m in the show. The set there was way different from NCIS: Hawaii because it’s more gory, there are zombies, and more dark, but it was definitely more adventurous.”
Filming took place from July to October in New Jersey and occasionally in New York. Napoleon admits that being away from home for four months while juggling school and work has been the hardest part of her acting career so far, but she’s learned to adapt, especially with the support of her family, including parents Amber and Jeffrey.
“When I was in New York, that was my first year at Kamehameha Schools (she previously attended Windward Nazarene and Le Jardin academies), so it was harder being away,” recalls Napoleon, who’s in the seventh grade. “I wasn’t there for first and second quarter, so when I came back, I didn’t really know where my classes were … it’s a big campus.”
Among the highlights of her time in New York — besides filming The Walking Dead: Dead City, of course — Napoleon attended the Alice + Olivia show at New York Fashion Week, caught WICKED on Broadway and visited Times Square. When she finally returned home (likely with a magnet or two to add to her family’s refrigerator, which is home to a collection of magnets from their travels), it was not just back to school for her, but also back to work on NCIS: Hawaii, which has become like a second family.
“I like that on this set in particular, we make an ‘ohana out of it,” explains Napoleon. “Everyone is really nice and kind to each other. Vanessa, my mom on the show, and Kian (Talan), my brother on the show, they are actually like my mom and my brother. They are the kindest and sweetest, most loving people in the whole entire world, especially Vanessa, she treats me like her own daughter.
“One moment I remember very, very, very well is the first moment I met my brother (Kian). I was going into fitting and he was coming out of a fitting, and he was like, ‘Sister?’ And I was like, ‘Brother?’ And we just clicked right then and there, and we’re just so close.”
Like her NCIS: Hawaii character, the actress describes her real-life self as kind, funny and creative.
“Julie is very funny and I feel like I’m the funny friend in my friend group and the funny cousin in the family,” Napoleon says. “She’s also very happy and enjoying being a kid, and she’s athletic. She plays soccer, and I run track (hurdles) — there’s running involved so I guess that’s similar.”
With her name Mahina (given to her by her dad) meaning “moon” or “moonlight” in Hawaiian, you could say she was destined to be with the stars.
“My dad had a dream of him and a girl playing and he asked that girl what her name was and she said Mahina,” shares Napoleon, who is of Chinese, Hawaiian, Filipino, Spanish, English, Irish, Dutch, German and Scottish ancestry.
While she’s been doing performing arts (singing, dancing and acting) since she was 4, and modeling since she was 3, NCIS: Hawaii was Napoleon’s first TV role. Before that, she was featured in various commercials, such as for Bank of Hawaii and Ka Malanai condominiums. She’s also performed on stage in numerous plays at Hawaii Theatre, including Little Mermaid, Shrek the Musical, Moana, Hairspray and, more recently, The SpongeBob Musical.
“I’ve always had a little bit of acting in my life,” shares Napoleon, who performs with Pacific Academy of Performing Arts. “I’ve also been singing my whole life. I love singing. It’s just one thing that I do around the house, at school, everywhere. I just walk around singing.”
When she’s not at school, on stage or on set, Napoleon enjoys snowboarding and surfing. She can also be found eating at her favorite restaurants — Hawaii Pot or Kizuna Sushi Bar & Grill in Kāne‘ohe; shopping at her favorite stores — Hollister, PacSun and Nike; listening to music by some of her favorite artists — Josh Tatofi, SZA, Ariana Grande and The Weeknd; or watching her favorite shows Dance Moms, The Summer I Turned Pretty, Stranger Things and Outer Banks.
“JJ, John B and Rafe from Outer Banks are very cute boys,” Napoleon confesses, when asked about any celebrity crushes. “And Jeremiah and Conrad on The Summer I Turned Pretty, especially Jeremiah.”
In February, CBS announced it was renewing NCIS: Hawaii for its 2023-2024 season, bringing the cast and crew back together for season three, which is expected to start production in June. Until then, Napoleon is gearing up to promote the premiere of The Walking Dead: Dead City, while also continuing her journey as a performer.
“I want to be on a Disney show, that’s something I really want to do, or a Netflix movie, or Stranger Things,” says Napoleon on her dream role. “I definitely would like to continue being an actor, but I would also like to grow in my career as a singer.”