It's Christmas in the tropics on this week's episode of the CBS freshman hit "Hawaii Five-0" so that means palm trees decorated with holiday lights and, this being a crime drama, a bomb around the neck of one of our regulars. In this case, it's Chin Ho Kelly (played by Daniel Dae Kim) whose life hangs in the balance and it falls upon his partners-in-crime-fighting Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin), Danny Williams (Scott Caan) and Kono Kalakaua (Grace Park) to find a way to get the bomb off without Chin Ho literally losing his head. What they find out in their investigation is that this act is not random but involves something much, much larger.
"We end this year with a big episode," said Executive Producer Peter Lenkov when he spoke with our Jim Halterman about this week's episode. "It's a mythology episode that has Victor Hesse coming back." Hesse (played by James Marsters) is the man who killed McGarrett's father in the series pilot but, as Lenkov teased, this episode is just a tip of the iceberg with that mystery and, he also revealed, we'll meet "Hawaii Five-0" iconic baddie Wo Fat in tonight's episode. Kim also took time out from shooting the show to chat about the show, how to make plot exposition fresh and interesting and what he misses about "Lost."
Jim Halterman: In setting up the show in the first place, Peter, how much pressure was - and is - on you to deliver a show that's going to honor the past show but also reboot it?
Peter Lenkov: I was a fan of the original show and actually my dad was a huge fan so I'm not only a fan through osmosis but I'm a fan through me watching the show while he watched the show and me having no idea what it was but knowing that it was important to him. There was a lot of pressure to make him happy because he represents a lot of people who watched the original show religiously and were coming at this thing with their arms crossed thinking 'Are they just going to blow my fond memories of this thing?' That's huge pressure but at the same time I felt that I had found an opening in the franchise that hadn't been mined and I felt if I could really milk that it would be able to stand on its own and still pay tribute to the original show. Really, what that is is getting to know your characters, knowing who they are and what their motivation is. I think on the original show you didn't really get to know the people.
JH: Daniel, the show is a procedural but we're getting little pieces of Chin Ho and the other characters every week. How is that for you to play as an actor?
Daniel Dae Kim: I love it! I'm actually used to it from my last job! [Laughs.] There's something about finding out about a character as each episode reveals itself. I enjoy it because my favorite part of the show is the character exploration. I enjoy the crime element of it and I like the humor and I'm a big fan of action but what keeps me coming back to a television show week after week is the depth of character. Anytime I get something that harkens back to his past I relish it.
JH: How do you balance the elements of character in the show along with the case in the week?
PL: It's a procedural show and people are going to tune in if they like the characters. They know there's going to be a case of the week, some mystery, some crime-solving, some getting the bad guys but they get a sense of what the story is going to be before they even tune in. I think what the surprise is is that we spend a lot of time getting to know our characters so that's the added value of a procedural show. [In last week's episode] it was a little bit of McGarrett mythology, knowing that Chin Ho had a fianc�e�those takeaways are really valuable to us because that's the reason the show is going to live.
JH: Daniel, you did some occasional stunt work on 'Lost' but has 'Hawaii Five-0' been more or less of a challenge in that regard?
DDK: Chin Ho personally has not been too involved in action and I'm looking forward to seeing his character take on more physical stuff. I love the physical element of acting and I feel like it activates me and grounds me in the moment. I have some training in action and marital arts so if Chin Ho gets to utilize those skills, I think it's a great thing.
JH: The exposition in the dialogue is, of course, necessary in a show like this but how much of a challenge is it to keep those scenes fresh?
PL: I think it's more challenging for the actors than for us. I think our guys do it so well. Daniel does it so great. It's hard because it's probably not the best part of their day. It basically bridges the plot and they look for the juicy, character stuff. Look, we still have to service the plot so those scenes happen and my hats off to them every time they pull it off.
DDK: It's a huge challenge and a great question. I have an on-going dialogue with our writers about the amount of exposition and how it gets delivered. There's no question that it's essential to a show like ours. It helps our audience follow along and unfortunately with time there's only so much we can show without having to describe some of it. That said, it's really important to me that the exposition has a point of view. If the exposition is just there as a laundry list of facts then anyone could say it at anytime or it could just be a subtitle on the screen. The key for exposition to me is that there needs to be a specific person who is saying it, and that person should have a point of view because that gives the actor a reason to speak. That is something I had never thought so much about, but our show has a good ten minutes in every episode that is just pure exposition. I have been looking for ways to keep it fresh, keep it active and use it to keep the plot going instead of it be just a big pit stop in the story.
JH: There was much talk about the theme song when the show premiered but I'm also curious about having 'Book 'em, Danno' in some, but not all, episodes. Can you talk about how you approach incorporating that into the show?
PL: Honestly, I knew I wanted it in the pilot and I knew we would go back to it in some episodes. I felt like we should really wrack our brains and scratch our heads to try to figure out a way to put it in without it being kitschy or being something that becomes cheesy after awhile. I felt like if we could put it in a clever way, great, but if not, then we don't put it in the episode. There have been a lot of episodes that it's not in and then there's some that skirt the issue like [last week] someone says 'Why don't you book me?' and McGarrett looks at Danny and Danny says 'Don't say it!' Hopefully the audience watches the show enough that they're getting those little moments so without saying it they are saying it to themselves.
JH: One of the best examples of coupling is O'Loughlin and Caan. Did you know you had that sharp, bantering chemistry with them from the start?
PL: When I gave the script to the studio, I think everyone felt that there was something that really completely surprised them and that there was a great partnership there. It was so heavy in the pilot. It was really the driving force of the first story and if you didn't buy that partnership, a lot of the show wouldn't work. We knew that that was critical and it took us awhile to cast those roles; Danny more so than the McGarrett role. I'm going to put it on the DVD but I taped some of the rehearsals on my IPhone so I have Scott and Alex together. Scott had literally just gotten off a plane, we put him in a room and threw him at Alex and the rehearsals were so good and so funny that we knew right then that that was a lot of what would make this show successful.
JH: I have to ask at least one 'Lost' question, Daniel. What do you miss about the experience of that show?
DDK: One of the great things about 'Lost' was that we had such a large cast. It was so great to work with so many different people and so many different energies and acting styles. I feel like it kept me on my toes as an actor. It was nice to wake up to know one day you're working with Terry O'Quinn and another day working with Harold Perrineau and another day with Josh Holloway, but all very different actors and all very talented. I felt like there was a little bit of versatility when it came to the work. On this show, because there are only four of us, my scenes are predominantly with just a couple of people. For some reason, Chin Ho doesn't interact a lot with the guest stars. We're getting to know each other really well but that change of energy is something that I miss about 'Lost.'
JH: One thing we found out in last week's episode is that McGarrett's mother's death wasn't accidental. Is that going to be play out throughout the season or is it coming to a head soon?
PL: When we come back in the new year, the first episode (112) is really going to delve into the Champ box and one of the investigations his father was working on. There's a lot of evidence so one of those mysteries is going to be solved and we're really going to dive into what happened to McGarrett's Mom and answer that question but with that we open up a whole other mystery which will drive us through the second half of the season.
"Hawaii Five-0" airs Mondays at 10:00/9:00c on CBS.