New Details On The New Hawaii Five-O

By Fred Topel This week and next, all the networks are bringing out their big new shows for the Television Critics Association fall press tour. The first major show to present its stars for the media was CBS’s reboot of Hawaii Five-O. Alex O’Loughlin stars as Steve McGarrett, and Scott Caan is Danny “Danno” Williams.

“I love Jack Lord’s McGarrett,” O’Loughlin said. “I love Jack Lord’s hair. I love Jack Lord’s version. He started Blue Steel, the look that he did, none of which I could get away with today, 2010 on television. Look, our Steve McGarrett is different. He’s stoic in a lot of ways. He’s a military guy. There are a lot of areas where he is black and white, where he is very clear. The differences between Danny and Steve are apparent in every episode. Steve goes in one direction and Danny freaks out, ‘How can you possibly think it’s okay to go in that direction?’ Steve is constantly amused by Danny’s reactions.”

Caan’s portrayal of Danny, a tough, grizzled cop, might remind viewers of the characters his father, James Caan, played. That’s only natural. “You’re getting to see a little bit of my personality, and that’s a little of where I come from,” Caan said. “I think it’s a lot less conscious than that. I certainly don’t want to deliver anything like anyone’s delivered it. I think it’s just going to come out. The more things are written that are close to my behavior, the more I can bring to a part, it’s just going to be a coincidence that I’m going to sound like somebody I come from.”

In the very first episode, the new Hawaii Five-O tells you more about McGarrett’s background than the classic series. He returns home from a military operation to solve his father’s murder.

“My job is character,” O’Loughlin said. “That’s the only thing I have control over. That’s what I’ve been trained to do and enjoy doing. I came in and did the character work I always do. I found a lot of layers to this guy. The other difference is you learn a lot about our Steve McGarrett in the beginning, so I had a lot to work with, stuff about his father, his family, his estrangement from, his military background and the training he’s done. It takes a lot of perseverance to get through the Navy SEALS and be in the field. The only reason I can continue bringing colors and levels to this guy is because of the writing.”

This McGarrett and Williams will face much bigger crime in this day and age. “In terms of strategic importance, it’s really the first border to the U.S. on that side of the country,” said executive producer Peter Lenkov. “We all know the threats coming from North Korea and Asia and that’s helping our storytelling. We’re a story set in Hawaii but there are such global stakes to that reason, we want to take advantage of it in our storytelling. There are unique situations. They have a very big meth problem, a very big ice problem. That’s probably their number one drug problem. Like any growing metropolis, human smuggling, like you saw in the pilot, that’s a big industry for crime syndicates. For the most part, it’s big crimes and international stakes because of its geographic location.”

Sounds really serious. It’s not. The point of all this is to give McGarrett and Williams something to fight about. “The show is very lighthearted,” said executive producer Alex Kurtzman. “A lot of it has to do with the banter with Danno the character. The key to us is the foundation had to be real. One of the key questions people asked was, ‘Why do the show then?’ What struck us is the spirit of Five-O is about a family. That’s a very emotional honest reason to do the show. A guy who ran away from his family for a long time coming home to discover that, that’s just a good story. The fact that we could put it in the context of Five-O was even better. Then it became about paying tribute to what was great about Five-O.”

The biggest thing about Hawaii Five-O was Hawaii itself. Now Hawaii is a major hub of television production, since Lost dominated the island of Oahu. “I think Hawaii’s been wildly receptive to bringing the show back,” Kurtzman said. “The original series is a real point of pride for them. I’m sure they’re happy it will bring more tourism to Hawaii but the nice thing is people want to go to Hawaii for vacation anyway. We were cutting the show and one of the editors got this look on her face. She said, ‘I just feel like I’m on vacation with this show.’ That’s what you want. Hopefully after a long day you’ll come home and want to watch Hawaii Five-O to escape.

It will also mean lots of work for Hawaiian actors, and give the audience some exposure to new faces on camera, even if they are playing perps. “We’re casting week to week our guest stars out of Hawaii,” said executive producer Peter Lenkov. “It’s important for us to be real, to feel authentic. Right from the beginning, when we started shooting the first episode, when we started going on weekends to these workshops, acting workshops and get actors trained so we could utilize their talent. Our big thing is for this show to feel like you’re in Hawaii week to week and that means local casting.”

You’ll see a lot of money shots of the island too. “That is all original footage,” Kurtzman said. “Look, Hawaii is the fifth character on the show. Hawaii is the fifth Beatle. We knew in order to make that personality come across, it wasn’t about finding stock footage that existed. It was about keeping the quality level the same and making sure we found moments that would be really specific to the identity of camera. It meant going around, carrying a camera, finding honest little moments and waiting for them.”

Of course, you’ll hear the original famous theme song when the opening credits begin. “It had been suggested we get a really popular rock star to come in and redo the theme song using an electric guitar,” Kurtzman said. “Before we hired that person, we did just a run with Brian Tyler and it was absolutely a temp. What it underscored for us was you cannot change the original theme. It is the greatest theme. This is one of those things we have to be utterly respectful to, to the point we found the original musicians. Why mess with something that’s perfect?”

Hawaii Five-O is coming this September to CBS.

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