The 'Hawaii Five-0' star is the new show's secret weapon

By Lynette Rice
Updated October 29, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

Good thing Scott Caan doesn’t always listen to his dad. When deciding last spring whether to take the role of Det. Danny ”Danno” Williams in CBS’ reboot of Hawaii Five-0, the 34-year-old actor sought guidance from his father, James Caan, the Oscar-nominated actor who headlined NBC’s Las Vegas from 2003 to 2007. ”He told me, ‘Absolutely don’t do it.’ I think what he meant by that was ‘It gets tiring playing the same guy. You get bored. You get creatively stifled,”’ says Caan. ”He didn’t really love doing a network show. My dad likes to pretend he’s not an artist, but he is.” Fortunately, the Ocean’s Eleven star took the producers’ word over Pop’s — but only after asking lots of questions about whether Five-0 would morph into another by-the-numbers CSI. ”I wanted to make sure this show was not just a procedural,” he says. ”I can only imagine it does get boring playing the same character after four or five years. But we have really good writers and I trust them to make it interesting for us.”

Caan, in return, has turned Danno 2.0 into this season’s most irresistible character — mostly by depicting the divorced dad as a tough but delightfully charismatic cop who moved from New Jersey to Hawaii to be closer to his daughter. (Danno’s chemistry with children, in fact, makes Alex O’Loughlin’s Steve McGarrett look like a modern-day W.C. Fields.) ”I didn’t approach this role as, like, ‘Oh, I’m going to figure out how to be a cop.’ The last thing I wanted to end up being was a cliché,” says Caan, who’ll take time out next spring to reprise his other breakout role — as oily manager Scott Lavin on Entourage — for the HBO comedy’s eighth and final season. On his vision for Danno, Caan says, ”I wanted him to be fresh and different, so I actually based my character on a criminal.”

The only thing he’s getting away with stealing, though, is the attention: Critics have largely overlooked the rest of the all-star Five-0 cast, which includes Lost alum Daniel Dae Kim and Battlestar Galactica fave Grace Park, to heap praise on the sidesplitting sidekick who grew up in Beverly Hills, once headlined his own rap group, the Whooliganz (under the stage name Mad Skillz), and has written and directed plays. Caan (along with that infectious theme song) is one of the main reasons the new Five-0, with 14.2 million viewers, is the most watched new drama of the season. ”There’s real heart to this guy,” says executive producer Peter M. Lenkov, who never loses sight of how Caan is second-generation Hollywood. ”We were shooting this beach scene in the pilot, and the way Scott cocked his head and turned to McGarrett reminded me of James Caan from Thief, which was one of my favorite movies. But I don’t think he studied his father. That’s just in the DNA.” Speaking of which, the Five-0 star seems resigned to the inevitable request that the elder Caan make a cameo on the show — though it’s unlikely Dad would take the five-hour plane ride to Hawaii for just any old part. ”He’s not cheap,” points out Caan, who nonetheless knows he has his old man’s support. ”My dad, you know, is different. He’s just as proud to show up to a play that I wrote as he is for me to have a part in a TV show. He doesn’t care if millions of people are watching it.”