'Hawaii Five-0': Grace Park on her proudest moments playing Kono
Halfway through its third season on CBS, Hawaii Five-0 has been going places it hasn’t gone before. The police procedural let Twitter users select the ending of a recent episode, paid homage to a classic episode from the original series, and has been shaking up the Five-0 team’s relationship with Governor Denning.
EW checked in with series star Grace Park (the alter-ego of Kono Kalakaua) when she made a brief trip to Los Angeles during some time off from the Hawaii set. Read on for what Park had to say about some recent episodes, what the fan reaction has been like in Hawaii, and who she’d like to see Kono team up with.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hawaii Five-0 recently had an episode where viewers got to pick the killer. What did you first think when you heard the show was going to do that?
GRACE PARK: I thought two things simultaneously: that it was very current and a real savvy way to get the audience participation in, and at the same time, I thought “Oh, here we go.” I guess I’m a bit of a snob in that I feel that it’s like that baseball movie with Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams – “build it and they will come.” That’s how I feel – make it and they will come. I know there’ll be people that will say, “No, but it’s not commercially viable. It won’t work.” But I just come from that school, maybe because I did a lot of cable. I feel like it’s just – stay true to the story, screw all the focus groups and know what you want to create and create it and just have that integrity.
The one criticism I heard was that the “choose your own adventure” thing was a little gimmicky. But that’s not what the whole episode was about.
Yeah, it was a small piece at the end to kind of have some fun with, and it’s not like all of a sudden every episode’s going to do that. But it was clever.
Another recent episode was a re-creation of the classic “Hookman” episode from the original Hawaii Five-0 series. Had you seen that original episode?
No, I had not. But I heard there were certain things we were doing shot-for-shot what it was. Certain backdrops and who it cut to.
How was it to work with Peter Weller, who directed and guest-starred in that episode?
He was great. He was very strong and knew what he wanted, and he was quite a personality. And it was trippy to see he’d be on the ground in wet pavement with blood on, and then he’d be up in the next shot doing his thing, directing. He was very energetic. I originally was a little worried about having a director who was also starring in it. It was the first [time that had been done on] the show. It’s a bit of a monster of a show, so to have a first-time director on our show do that, I was a little worried. But he’s such a pro. It was smooth and everybody loved him.
Fans of the original series seemed to really enjoy seeing that Hookman episode re-imagined for the reboot.
Yeah, in Hawaii especially. They’re really steeped in that Hawaii Five-0 culture because it’s surrounded them so much, and a lot of people would recognize Hawaii from Hawaii Five-0, and from my time being there, it seems really important to them. [Before I started working on the show] I didn’t realize the impact of that one TV show on the islands.
Do fans who walk up to you on the street in Hawaii have different reactions than fans you meet elsewhere?
I do think so. When we had our season premiere, they had a proclamation for a Hawaii Five-0 Day and a Hawaii Five-0 Month. I literally have a proclamation framed given to me by the government of the state of Hawaii. I was a little shocked. And we often have politicians come to visit set. I was like, “What? Don’t you guys have a state to run? What are you guys doing here? This is just a piddly TV show. You have important stuff to do.” I’ve never had that on any of the other shows I’ve been on. It’s definitely different with the fans. There’s definitely more openness whether it’s admiration, whether it’s just excitement – it just seems like they’re not trying to keep their cool too much. I’m not used to that. I’m not used to people calling me by my character name and thinking they know me.
Even Battlestar Galactica fans didn’t act like that?
No, they’re very aware. Very smart and very aware that it was a TV show. I am not a robot. I’m not multiple robots! I mean, in some ways, I am, but for all intents and purposes – I think people were very aware. It seemed that they recognized that they were really rabid fans, so they didn’t want to come off like that. But I’d be like, “No, let’s talk about it! What is it about the show?” Because it would be about something else. They wouldn’t be enamored over me. It would be about the show and the social commentary and the twists and cliffhanger endings – fun stuff to talk about. I don’t do very well when people just come glaze-eyed and just want to kind of rub my back, and I don’t know who they are and they want to call me Kono. “No. Let’s separate the two worlds.”
Summer Glau guest-starred in last week’s episode of Hawaii Five-0. What was it like to work with her?
She was really cool. We were joking that her name was Summer G. Lau and she was actually of Asian heritage – that’s what Daniel [Dae Kim] kept saying. I didn’t know that her ancestry actually is Irish and German. But yeah, she just brought it. There were so many takes where the camera wasn’t even on her, and she just gave it every single time.
What are you most proud of in all your work on Hawaii Five-0?
I’d say the storyline that I was most satisfied with was the beginning of season 2 when Kono appears to go rogue. It was a delight because for five episodes, the only time I showed up was to do character stuff. That was kind of a dream for me. That’s how I feel, as an actor, like I’m built more not to do procedural exposition. But I realize this is just a different beast.
On the other side – the leaps and bounds I’ve been able to do in exposition because I’m terrible at that usually. It’s not fun and it’s not easy, so I’ve gotten a lot better at it. In the beginning Alex [O’Loughlin] did a lot, and then really quickly I got a bunch of it. And then Alex and Scott [Caan] didn’t do very much of that at all, and then one episode was flipped where he was like Kono in a way and downloading everyone at the table, and he kept stumbling and tripping, and he finally looked at me and said, “You make this look easy.” And I was like, “Yo, bro, I’ve been doing this for two and a half years.”
What would you say is the key to making that exposition, the “here’s the case” part interesting?
Honestly, I don’t try to make it interesting. I feel like you’re just relaying facts. On this show, it’s more important to do it smoothly and to get the information across, and yet if you connect with the other people at all and not just come out cardboard, then it’s great. It’s just information. She’s not excited about it. She’s not tormented over it.
It’s just the job for her.
Yeah, she’s gotta sound smart.
Is there anything you’d like to see happen on the show that hasn’t yet?
I always like when the two women on the show connect. It took a while for there to be something with Lori Weston and Kono. It would be nice to not have to wait so long to do that with Kono and Catherine Rollins. It’s not a buddy girl show, but I think they could easily do something like that.
I bet fans would love to see Kono and Cath get together for some action scenes.
I would love for us to. I think it’s long overdue. I could see us buddying up and kicking somebody’s butt together, but I haven’t read it so far. Maybe next season.
The next episode of Hawaii Five-0, “Pa’ani,” airs on CBS tonight at 10 p.m.