An Afternoon with ‘Hawaii Five-0’ Part 2

As promised, here is the second part of the panel discussion, An Afternoon with “Hawaii Five-0,” that look place Sunday afternoon at the Halekulani Hotel, as part of the Hawaii International Film Festival.

Here’s Part 1 of the discussion, in case you missed it.

Anderson Le (moderator): So, what is your picture of Chin Ho? It’s great to see a positive Asian-American male character on TV. I mean your character on “Lost” was great, but you’re speaking English. Any comment?

Daniel Dae Kim: It’s interesting. I watched a few episodes of “Hawaii Five-0” when I was preparing to meet with Peter to have a background with the world that I was entering into, and the dynamic of that particular show was very different from the dynamic of our show. McGarrett was pretty much the leader on and off the set, and Jack Lord was very much a leader on and off the set. Alex is as well in a different way, but all of the other characters were very much in support of Steve McGarrett. So, it was pretty much a, “Yes boss. Right away sir,” type of a thing. What I really like about this edition of “Five-0” is that all of the characters have something interesting going in and of themselves. They each have a personal story, and the relationship that they have to McGarrett all comes from their own history, as supposed to a top-down kind of feeling. That’s one of the things that I really love about Chin Ho — the fact that he’s flawed, and that he has his own demons to work with, and he’s finding his place in Five-0 in the midst of his own personal journey.

Le: All the characters have kind of a “Hawaii Five-0” iconic thing about them, like you always carry a shotgun when you’re with them.

Daniel Dae Kim: That was one of the best parts of this show for me is that Peter has been so collaborative… Peter and I were talking one day; he loves vintage motorcycles. He has a collection. I like motorcycles too, and suddenly, Chin Ho is on a motorcycle. That was great for me. The shotgun just came out one day. We were preparing for a scene, and everyone had their 9mm out. I remember using a shotgun on “Lost.” It was a particular police shotgun, and I thought why not have Chin Ho be the heavy in the case? I just thought, lets try it, and it became a signature thing. Coming from a show where so many things were premeditated by the creators to a real collaborative environment was a great switch.

Le: How’s it playing Grace’s cousin?

Kim: Better cousin than uncle… Grace and I knew each other before, and it’s nice when you can bring that sense of family when you have an existing relationship. You don’t have to start from scratch. We’ve known each other. We’ve liked each other, and so this was kind of a natural extension of all that.

Le: Grace, your character this season is going into really dark territory, no longer being part of the Five-0 team. How do you like that?

Grace Park: I love it! Don’t get me wrong, last year was great because Kono got to work really hard, and there was a very steep learning curve for her and for me as well. We had so much action to do. I remember the first episode after the pilot, I read that she got into a fight with another character, and the fight on page was so long. I got really scared, thinking, “This is like a feature fight; you don’t do this on television.” Two women fighting like this, like totally going at it. They went and brought us in a day early to rehearse it. I knew that this was something very different, and it was also great because we were in the pool in bikinis fighting. We were having a good time too… Umm… I totally forgot the question.

Le: How do you like your character arc this season?

Park: Oh yes, I really really enjoy it. Even though you don’t see Kono that much, and you do hear things like, “She wouldn’t return my calls or the team at HQ watching Tom Sizemore’s character on TV, saying that she was stripped of her badge and things of that nature… Wait, that aired right? I just got this really scary feeling… Anyway, it’s been really fun to explore that part of her character. And then to see how much we’re going to flesh out this other side, and what does that mean for Kono and Five-0.

Le: I’m going to open this up to the rest of the cast. How is it working on season two as supposed to the first season?

Kim: The thing I like about season two is that in season one, you’re getting to know everyone. You’re learning about each other as actors as well as people. In season two, I feel we’ve gotten the hang of it. We’ve streamlined the operation. We brought in people like Steve (Boyum) that really helped out. There’s just a knowledge that’s there that wasn’t in season one. We’re familiar with our own characters — what the show is and what the style of the show, and that goes a long way to making our days much easier. Also, the working style gets a lot easier. The crew gets to know each other better. They learn how to get things done faster and better, and it leads to some smoother days.

Park: I just wanted to say one thing, I really did enjoy season one… where we see Five-0 coming together. Maybe it wasn’t the way the 1968 version was, but it was fun to see the beginning… As fun as that was, I do love this season because, now we know each other. But, we still don’t know much about McGarrett’s past for instance, and there still might be more relationships that we can pull apart like Chin Ho and Malia. At the same time, we can play with other people, and we can bring in guest stars, and you have these other relationships start to flesh out. Not just with Five-0, but with each team member and their prospective lives. That’s made it, I think, a lot of fun.

Le: This is another question for the cast. A lot of your back stories are unknown mysteries. So how do you base your acting on stories that could have lots of twists and turns, like with the Governor last season?

Kim: …I think that the mysteries of the show are what keep it interesting for us as participants. We can read the script that is a crime-of-the-week kind of thing, and we can invest ourselves in solving that crime. That’s one way to keep ourselves interested in a show that goes from week to week. What I find more compelling personally is when the show imitates real life. All of us here and everyone in this room, we have a sense of ourselves — who we are and what we’d like to be. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that our adventure is coming down our way and things will be changing. I find that when it’s like that for the characters, it’s satisfying and it keeps me interested over the long term.

O’Loughlin: Sometimes you’ll work with a director where you won’t get the whole script, and you’re never get the whole script. There are directors out there who make really important films and even the leads only get small bits of information, and that’s one way to work. I’m a technician as well. I go out and do my work. I think that even with what we do… the more information I have, I can plant seeds along the way that perhaps Peter hasn’t thought of. For me, the more information I have, the more opportunity I have to make decisions and choices.

[Audience questions]Can you make more episodes of pure cops and robbers please?

Lenkov: Have you seen the show? That’s “Law and Order.” Those shows exist, but we try to give more than just a procedural show. We try to make it about characters. We add a layer of mystery to it. I think if it were just a cop show, these guys (the cast) would get really bored after awhile.

How far in advance do you have to start lining up a guest cast for particular episodes?

Lenkov: Not very long. It takes eight days to prep an episode and about eight days to shoot it. Usually, we don’t start to look for guest cast until we turn the script in and it’s the first day of prep. So, usually it’s during that eight-day window that we’re prepping for the show that we start thinking of guest casting. Sometimes, as writers, have a guest star in mind. Sometimes, our casting department will come up with a suggestion. For someone like Tom Sizemore, who we met with at the beginning of the season, we knew that we wanted to build something around him. But for the most part, the Peter Fondas and Patty Dukes that are on the show for one episode, we court those people within the eight days that we are prepping the show.

What countries can view “Hawaii Five-0?”

Lenkov: Over 200 countries.

O’Loughlin: So, a lot… Assuming that you are going on vacation, don’t worry because you have 200 countries to choose from and still be able to watch “Hawaii Five-0.”

Lenkov: What’s interesting is that I got a fan letter from Kenya the other day, and I have friends who were visiting Shanghai who were in their hotel watching the show.

O’Loughlin: I have a question. When it plays in Kenya and I say, “Danny come here,” do I sound like [clicking noises]?

Lenkov: Most countries keep the English dialogue and add subtitles, but usually when they do translations themselves to whatever languages the use, you have to rely on them that they’ll dub it with good actors. Bad actors can really change the show. I’ve seen some episodes of our show in some countries in some foreign languages that I watch and I wonder, what show is this?

After a long day of filming, how long do you spend learning the next day’s dialogue?

Kim: It differs for each of us depending on out workload. Poor Alex over here is studying his lines at every break that he gets. It’s what I consider our homework to our schoolwork, and we have to go home and study. Sometimes, we’ll go over scenes at lunch or between shots. If we’re lucky, we get to go home. My family can tell you this. I learn my lines while riding a skateboard around my house, and that’s the best way for me get them into my brain. So, I’ll take the time it takes for me to ride around my house. It’s definitely something when you’re tired after a long day, you know that your day isn’t quite over yet because you still have homework like a student. That’s also an individual thing. Everyone learns their lines differently at different rates. I know that Grace says she has to learn her lines a couple of days before she has to do them, just because that’s the way that she learns.

What three things contributed to the success of the show?

Lenkov: Actors talent, our crew, and I think the third thing is luck.

How far advance are your storylines for season two?

Lenkov: We know how season two ends. So, we’re pretty far in advance in terms of that.

Why do you think your show is so successful considering so many recent remakes have failed on network television?

O’Loughlin: I think this is a good one for the final question, and I’ve been on a run of failures, so I think I’ll start the answering process. I think that what Peter said is right, luck is definitely a part of it. The world is always changing. What’s topical is always changing. What people want to see? What’s happening in pop culture? It’s the sum of all those parts, but it’s also very much you have to have a good cast, a good crew, and everything has got to be in place. I think in my experience in television, the most important thing is you have to have good stories. You have to have a good team of writers, and good scripts continually. If you give me a bad script, there is only so much that I can do. The most important part is having a good person to run the show and the material that is being given to the rest of us to do what we do.

Kim: I think Alex summed it up pretty well. The only thing that I would add to that is I think that there has to be the right combination of honoring the original show and also updating it enough to make it right for today’s viewing sensibilities. There are so many shows I’ve seen that are trying to update things that really broke away from the original so much that it was almost unrecognizable. Then there are shows that are so faithful to the original material that it almost became irrelevant. It’s definitely a combination of everything that Alex said, including what’s in the culture at the time and a nice healthy respect for what you had, and a willingness to take chances on top of that. But, Grace should add something because she’s been actually been part of two successful remakes, not just one.

Park: I know, I was worried. You look at a lot of the remakes that are out, and a lot of them don’t last. I was thinking, “Is this really wise for me to do another show that’s a remake?” The chances of one, let alone let alone two… but I would say that there are pros and cons to doing a remake. The pro is that you recognize the name right away, and you already have a built-in audience that is totally looking forward to it. But there will also be a bunch of people who are like, “Don’t mess it up man,” or “I don’t like that person.” There are people who get very very very very invested, and you slowly have to break them down. So, you have a built-in audience, but at the same time, you have all these expectations that come with it. I heard a stat like 95 percent of pilots don’t get picked up. That’s an extremely high number.

Lenkov: …When it was announced that the pilot was picked up, there were a lot of expectations. But I think what we had going for us, and I truly believe that the key to our success was our casting. You really like those people from the beginning. I think that with most shows, the reason they fail, especially with reboots is that you didn’t connect with those characters from the beginning. For us, we made it about people and characters. Casting of the core group really was the key to our success. I think Hawaii played a role, and I think there are a lot of other ingredients, but our cast is why we are here today.