What it's like to play a dead body on Hawaii Five-O

Lights! Camera! Play dead.


Valen Ahlo on set.

Usually, acting is about conveying subtle emotion. Sometimes, though, you just gotta lay there. Local SAG actor Joji Yoshida found out what that feels like when he guest-starred and played dead on an episode of Hawaii Five-OMa Ke Kahakai during its first season.

When considering the role, this veteran thespian knew all the right questions. "The first thing I asked was, Does this character die? My agent said, 'Yes he does.'"

Generally, when it comes to television series, if you play a character who dies, you cannot have a principal role on the show for three to five years. With that in mind, Yoshida was reluctant to audition. He ended up deciding to try out anyway, though, and was cast as fisherman "Jack Leung," whose beaten-up, dead body is found in the Koolaus by McGarrett and Danno. 

Originally, his character had several scenes with the main players, but they were cut.

Still, playing a dead body was a serious hurdle in itself. "It's harder than most people think. You gotta hold your breath. You have to be super still, I mean very still," Yoshida says.

Also, it’s not just a matter of walking on set and collapsing. Make-up artists spend a lot of time making sure the actor looks as dead as possible. Yoshida says, "It was a one hour make-up process, [and looked] brutal since my character gets tossed out of a helicopter. I was a mess."

Fellow local SAG actor Valen Ahlo also played dead this season in the Kanalua episode of Hawaii Five-O—and it involved some intense preparation.

He was cast as small-time criminal “George Solani,” who gets shot by an HPD officer for holding tourists hostage in an Aloha Tower surf shot. "I'm supposed to look sick because I get shot and I'm bleeding out. I did some crazy cardio for about a week trying to lose weight, but I only lost five pounds in the end!" Ahlo says with a laugh.

Like Yoshida, Ahlo had to lie extremely still for the cameras, but he was also told to smile while playing dead. Ahlo says, "I was told to squench up my face and sort of grin. Because if you just relax, on camera it looks like you're happy."

Death is serious, but the crew on Hawaii Five-O are kidders. Ahlo says, "The producers were saying we could bring you back in a flashback, or your twin brother can come back to avenge your death!"

Ever hopeful, these "dead bodies" are looking for a resurrection.


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Honolulu Magazine September 2018
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