Ready for her closeup

Sacred Hearts junior
Tani Lynn preps for a role
on the TV series "29 Down"

Aiea teen Tani Lynn won the role of Abby on the new Discovery Channel ensemble production "29 DOWN."

Tani Lynn is eager to walk into the lion's den of a Hollywood television series, where inflated egos often lurk and subterfuge is an art form.

But the Aiea teenager, who is finishing her second CD, "Gate 76," for Maui's Riptide Records and has already appeared in two other Oahu-based TV series, says she can't wait for her new venture to start next month. Lynn, 16, a junior at Sacred Hearts Academy, will co-star in the ensemble series "29 DOWN" for The Discovery Channel, to air on NBC and Discovery Kids.

"What's so nerve-wracking is that the other kids are very experienced actors and I'm the most inexperienced person of whole cast," Lynn says in a voice that seems too sweet for the bright lights of tinsel town. "I'm kinda afraid and intimidated but I want to learn a lot from all of them and ask questions and see how they do it."

"29 DOWN," described as "'Lost' for the teen set," follows the adventures of 10 young castaways stranded on an island in southeast Asia after their plane crashes en route to an eco-adventure site. With little hope of rescue, the teenagers have to learn how to navigate the challenges of castaways using their intelligence, wit and instincts. They also have to learn to live with each other. Other cast members include Hallee Hirsh ("ER"), Johnny Pacar ("Boston Public") and Corbin Bleu ("Catch That Kid").

"I can't let myself focus too much on their experience or I get sooo nervous," Lynn says. "But I love acting, especially television.

"There's a quality about acting on film. It's such a craft; you don't just go on stage and bang it out and be done. You work at it until you get it right."

Lynn says television "is this awesome thing that's so much fun with so many neat people. I love working with creative people, learning."

Principal photography on Oahu for "29 DOWN" will begin as early as Jan. 4 and is expected to continue through March. Each of the nearly $400,000 half-hour episodes will be produced by Stan Rogow ("Darcy's Wild Life" and "Lizzie McGuire") and directed by DJ McHale, who also is writing episodes. Broadcast will begin in April or fall.

LYNN'S JOURNEY toward her first major Hollywood roll began on Maui when publicist Blaise Noto, who's helping Riptide market Lynn's new CD, heard about casting for the series and sent demo tracks to Rann Watumull, a consultant for Hawaii Film Partners, and one of the series' executive producers.

Noto, of Maui-based Blaise Noto & Associates, is the former executive vice president of worldwide publicity for Paramount Pictures, whose marketing campaigns included "Titanic," "Braveheart," "Forrest Gump" and Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."

Hawaii Film Partners wanted to give a Hawaii actor a chance at a role in the show, although Rogow was reluctant.

"He said, 'Fine, but this is a national show with quality, experienced actors being auditioned'," Watumull said.

Watumull and Lynn's manager, Nancy Bernal, set up a videotaped audition and sent it to Rogow.

"They loved what they heard and what they saw," said Watumull, whose wife, Gina, co-owns HPG and is an executive producer of the series. "They created another role specifically for Tani because they saw tremendous potential."

That character is Abby, described as "a spiritual type, a New Age hippie type of person who does her own thing."

"I like Abby because she's unique and outspoken," Lynn says. "She's like the prophet of the group."

Lynn also appeared on TV in an episode of NBC's cop drama "Hawaii," playing a girl forced into prostitution, and was on "Baywatch Hawaii" at age 12.

But she is best known for her voice. In 2000, Lynn competed at Harlem's Apollo Theatre in the first "Apollo Kids Finals," and managed to advance to the finals. A year earlier, she won three consecutive competitions on PAX TV's "Destination Stardom," filmed in Hawaii.

A student of vocal instructor Neva Rego, Lynn expects her latest CD, produced by Willie K, to be released in March. The disc, she says, is about "a moment in my life."

"I was sitting in this airport and a kind of an epiphany thing happened to me," she says. "I just realized that all kinds of things were changing in my life and the music symbolizes those things."

One of five children, Tani admits she's been an attention- getter since she could walk.

"My dad got this big video camera when I was 3 and I always had to be right in his face," she said. "My grandmother enjoyed musicals, especially 'Phantom of the Opera,' and I would sing it incessantly."

Mom and Dad finally saw the light and enrolled their daughter in singing and dancing classes.

"Music and theater will always be what I do," she said. "I don't know where all this will take me, but I have to believe that singing or acting, or both, is what I'm meant to do."

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