Vanessa Lachey Reflects on Becoming “NCIS”' 'First Female Lead' as the Franchise Hits 1000 Episodes (Exclusive)

Lachey made history when she was cast as Special Agent Jane Tennant, head of the fictional Naval Criminal Investigation Service at the Pearl Harbor Field Office, in 'NCIS: Hawai'i'

<p>Karen Neal/CBS</p> Vanessa Lachey on

Karen Neal/CBS

Vanessa Lachey on 'NCIS: Hawai'i'

As the NCIS franchise cemented its place in the television hall of fame with 1000 episodes, Vanessa Lachey also made history as its first female lead.

The actress, who currently leads the NCIS: Hawai'i series as Jane Tennant, exclusively tells PEOPLE about what it's meant to be a part of the millennial milestone as a groundbreaking addition to the crime-fighting family. Her character has been taking charge since the show debuted in September 2021.

"It’s an honor to be able to add to this incredible franchise and to do it as the first female lead has meant more to me than I can ever express," she reflects. "It shows the incredible evolution and longevity that NCIS continues to give its fans."

<p>Christopher Polk/Billboard via Getty</p> Vanessa Lachey

Christopher Polk/Billboard via Getty

Vanessa Lachey

Related: 'NCIS: Hawai'i' 's Vanessa Lachey Sheds Proud Tears for Historic Role, Teases Chemistry with Wilmer Valderrama

Lachey says getting to have a "family" both "across the generations as well as continents" is what she loves most about being a part of the NCIS universe.

"Not only with our cast but the fans as well," she adds. "The NCIS franchise is all over the world and it brings people together to watch and talk about, as well as provide comfort and entertainment, which is what you want when you dive into a show."

Shortly after landing the role, she and her husband Nick Lachey relocated to the Aloha State — where the show films on location — along with their three kids: Camden John, Brooklyn Elisabeth and Phoenix Robert.

<p>Vanessa Lachey/Instagram</p> Vanessa and Nick Lachey with their children

Vanessa Lachey/Instagram

Vanessa and Nick Lachey with their children

Related: Vanessa Lachey Teases Personal Connection to NCIS: Hawai'i Episode: It's 'Allowing Me a Lot of Healing' (Exclusive)

In September 2021, Lachey revealed her husband had the "most supportive thing he could have said" when she broke the news of her casting.

"I just gave him the biggest hug," she recalled. "He said, 'This is your time. And I will do whatever I need to do to support you in that. I've seen you work so hard. This is your time. Let's go.' And I'm like, thank you!"

On Monday, April 15, NCIS will be celebrating its 1,000th episode, followed by NCIS: Hawai'i airing the franchise's 1,001st episode.

<p>Karen Neal/CBS via Getty</p> Vanessa Lachey on 'NCIS: Hawai'i'

Karen Neal/CBS via Getty

Vanessa Lachey on 'NCIS: Hawai'i'

Related: LL COOL J Reflects on 'Amazing' NCIS Run as His LA Character Sam Heads to Hawai'i: 'Let's Do This' (Exclusive)

In March, Lachey told PEOPLE that the season 3 episode won't just serve as a reminder of how far the franchise has come and to "kick off the next 1,000" — it'll also be a way for her to reflect on her own past.

Calling the episode a "full-circle moment," she explained, "It dips into my mother who abandoned me. It is a very emotional episode, it is a very deep episode."

"It's actually Daniela Ruah, the actress on NCIS: LA, directed it. " lot of stuff happens, and I'm nervous. I'm always going to be nervous," she said, confessing that she feels nerves because she's taken on more light-hearted roles in her career.

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"I came from hosting and comedy acting, and this show has allowed me to really dive into some depth," she said of NCIS: Hawai'i. "And this episode, specifically with Dani directing, I think has got some really great stuff that I hope the fans love and take to."

NCIS: Hawai'i airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.

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Read the original article on People.