Hawaii Five-0 Casts Kanya Sesser

The outcry from the disability community about under-representation in Hollywood is as righteous as it is resounding. To add insult to injury, too many roles tailor-made for persons with disabilities are played by able-bodied actors. But not this time. Hawaii Five-0 creator, writer and executive producer Peter Lenkov set out to tell a remarkable story honestly, with an actress that could most authentically play the part. Model/actor/athlete Kanya Sesser, who was born without legs, will join the cast of Hawaii Five-0 as Rosey Valera for tonight’s episode, “He Moho Hou” at 9:00 pm on CBS. (Set your DVRs now!)

Kanya Sesser

Executive Producer Says Kanya Sesser is 'Right Actress' to Play Veteran

In its seventh season, Hawaii Five-0 is an action-packed police procedural drama and a reboot of the original series which aired from 1968 to 1980. Tonight’s episode will introduce Sesser as Rosey Valera, longtime friend of Kono Kalakaua, played by show regular Grace Park.

Apart from the murder/mystery plot-of-the-week storyline, Rosey is a former competitor of Kono’s from back when she was a surf pro. Kono meets Rosey again years later to discover that her friend is a wounded warrior who lost her legs in battle and hasn’t been on her surfboard since.

“I wanted to tell a really powerful story, but not with a character that was feeling sorry for herself,” said Lenkov. Rosey is “somebody that was empowered and didn’t look at [her injury] as a disability... I got very lucky and I found the right actress.”

Kanya Sesser

While Rosey’s “disability” is a part of the narrative, it is far from the whole tale. “It’s a story about two people, two friends. One just happens to have suffered this traumatic event in war and have come back with her two legs amputated,” Lenkov explains. “It’s a very honest portrayal of that character. I’m hoping [people] see it as an uplifting and emotional story about two people who find themselves later in life reconnecting.”

In the past, Lenkov has also cast Bryan Anderson—actor, author, veteran who lost both legs and one arm to an IED in Iraq—in CSI: New York and Hawaii Five-0. When commended for his contribution to increasing the overall percentage of actors with disabilities in Hollywood, Lenkov responded without pretention or aggrandizement. “It’s a weird thing to talk about because I don’t really look at it like I’m doing something special.” True to his craft, he is telling a story and relying on the best people to tell it.

Will we see Kanya Sesser again on Hawaii Five-0? According to Lenkov, you never know. “She’s in our world so she definitely could come back.”

The Indomitable Kanya Sesser

How does one describe Kanya Sesser…fiercely independent, unquenchable spirit, ultimate badass? Yes, yes and, well, yes.

See for yourself…

Sesser was born in Pak Chong, Thailand and abandoned at the tender age of one week on the steps of a Buddhist temple. The monks cared for her until she was two-years-old when she went from foster home to foster home.

All that changed when she was six and adopted by an Oregonian couple who brought her to America.

Kanya Sesser

Since then, her life has been a celebration of ability. She skateboards. She surfs. She breakdances. She skis. She races. She models sportswear and lingerie. She acts. She has played every adaptive sport and is gunning to qualify for the Mono-ski competition at the 2018 Paralympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

But, whatever you do, don’t tell her that she has a disability.

“When I look at life, there’s no disability,” said Sesser. “I don’t see that as being a disability because even though I have no legs, there’s nothing I can’t do. I’m blessed for what I have so that’s all that matters.”

Watch Kanya Sesser on Hawaii Five-0 on October 7 at 9:00 pm on CBS. Then tell us what you think.

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