On the new re-imagining of Hawaii Five-0, Aussie actor Alex O’Loughlin is playing Detective Steve McGarrett, a decorated Naval officer-turned-cop who returns to Oahu to investigate his father’s murder and decides to stay after Hawaii’s Governor persuades him to head up a new team to rid the Island of its worst criminals.
First brought to the attention of audiences when he starred as Mick St. John on the vampire series Moonlight, and then again as an organ transplant doctor on the medical drama Three Rivers, this highly-anticipated series marks the actor’s third try with CBS and he certainly has his fingers crossed that this one makes it past 13 episodes. But, with a stellar cast that includes Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, and executive producers Peter Lenkov, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci behind the camera, it seems as though it’s as close to a sure thing as you can get in Hollywood.
During a recent interview, Alex O’Loughlin talked about paying homage to the original while still making a modern version, the pressure that comes with taking on such an iconic role and what it’s been like adapting to life in Hawaii. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
How much of the original show did you watch prior to going to work?
ALEX O’LOUGHLIN: Not much. A little bit. I saw it as a kid, growing up, and I took a quick look at it before shooting, but then I was like, “There’s no need to do that.” This is a different direction and a different time. I’ve just to do my work.
What will this show do to stand out from the original?
O’LOUGHLIN: I don’t feel like we need to do anything like that. We will stand out from the original. You can’t look at any television that long ago because there are so many differences already. I just think that it’s a good opportunity. We have enough in the show that pays homage to the old show, and we come at it with the grace, respect and integrity, so that we can go off in a different direction and play with these characters that are more cohesive to modern day law enforcement.
For people who haven’t seen Hawaii Five-O before, what would you tell them about the show?
Alex: I love the writing behind the show, I love the talent and I love the creatives behind the show. I think it’s a great pool of talent and like-minded people who have come together. It’s got a great crime element and a great comedy element that we didn’t realize was in there as much as it is. That comes from the great other character element. I just really think this is going to be a show that everyone enjoys.
Who is this McGarrett?
O’LOUGHLIN: He’s pretty dry. He’s a guy who’s grown up with a lot of guys. He spent a lot of time in the military, in close quarters. He’s the kind of guy that learned how to defend himself and his honor, and the honor of his family and friends, very quickly and very young in life. He doesn’t take any shit. He understands irony and sarcasm, when a lot of people around him might not, and he gets the job done regardless of what he has to do. He’s pretty intolerant of people around him who see things differently. There’s something pretty lovable about him. If you’re in with him, he’ll die to protect you.
When you take a role that is this iconic, where do you start with it?
O’LOUGHLIN: I remember the old show from when I was a kid. The old show was taken off TV 40 years ago. It started over 50 years ago, and there have been a lot of changes in television and in the way we act stylistically, with technology and with what we can do with the money that we have with special effects and stunts. It’s not a remake. We’re not picking up where they left off. It’s a reboot and the characters are very different. My character, Steve McGarrett, was in the old show, but you didn’t know much about the character that Jack Lord played, whereas in the pilot of our new show, you learn a lot about my Steve McGarrett. I just did my character work based on the script that these guys wrote.
Is it a reflection of our times that, nowadays, viewers can accept a leading character who is not absolutely good or absolutely bad?
O’LOUGHLIN: I think so. I refuse to show anything else. In some of the other work I’ve done, the other bits get cut out and they will show you one version of the performance that I’ve done, but I never deliver a performance on the day that is just one thing because it’s inaccurate to all of us. None of us are just purely benevolent or malevolent. It’s not possible in human nature, unless you’re Gandhi. The more flaw you bring to a character, or the more balance you give your character, the closer that character moves towards everyman. And, if that character is an everyman, then we can all sit back and relate, unlike with a superhero.
What kind of pressure do you feel on you for this show to work, after the other two you’ve been a part of didn’t quite make it, even though they were good shows?
O’LOUGHLIN: For me, as an actor, it’s three and out. What are you going to do? If this one doesn’t work, I think I’m going to go away and look at films or community theater. First of all, I need to preface this answer by saying I cannot explain my gratitude for Nina Tassler and CBS. It’s enormous. I’ve never felt more loved by anybody in a work environment or situation before. That being said, it’s really important to me, personally and professionally, that this show works and that I do more than 13 episodes. My nervousness before I said yes to this show, when it was offered to me, was that I’d be the face of another show that didn’t quite go. I know the shows have been good, but it’s a tricky thing.
Will you be bewildered, if this show doesn’t go?
O’LOUGHLIN: There is no science behind it. I could never work for a network in the business sector because I have no idea. I look at some stuff on TV and, to me, it’s terrible, but lots and lots of people watch it. I look at other stuff and, to me, it’s fantastic and no one watches it. So, I don’t know what the recipe is. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason. I don’t know whether it’s seasonal, or what. I think Hawaii Five-O has so much to offer to so many different people – men and women, old and young, fans of the old show and newcomers. It’s just a cool show. I love the relationship between McGarrett and Dano, and I love what we’ve both done with the characters. The guts of the show is McGarrett and Dano, and we can always watch that. If you love two characters and what happens between them, that can develop into anything, forever.
Do you feel more confident, this time around?
O’LOUGHLIN: Yeah, I do. I don’t want to take anything away from the other shows I’ve done. I’ve worked with some incredible people and some wonderful show-runners. The other shows were great, in their own ways. But, there’s a reason things either work or don’t work in television, and I don’t know what the answer is. I just keep blundering along to the next thing and hoping. Everyone feels so capable. I read the pilot, I did the pilot and I saw what they did with it, and there’s something special about it. If this one doesn’t go, I’m completely bewildered. I will have no idea how television works at all.
In Moonlight, you had special powers. In Three Rivers, you had a great deal of physical skill. What do you have on Hawaii Five-O?
O’LOUGHLIN: I have a gun.
Do you enjoy being so physical in a role?
O’LOUGHLIN: I like it. I’ve always been athletic, and have always enjoyed being outdoors and being physical, so it’s good. I enjoy doing that. I do it on the weekends, anyways. I don’t have any time to work out while I’m shooting a TV show, so it’s nice that it’s a part of my character and I can work out while I’m working.
Had you and Scott Caan met before working together on this?
How have you adapted to your new life in Hawaii?
O’LOUGHLIN: Very well. It was very difficult for me when I was doing the pilot. I was cooped up in a hotel, I was working very hard and I was nervous about leaving all my friends. I’m already a long way from home, being in the States and being away from Australia, but I’ve got a house in Hawaii now and it’s really special and beautiful.
Do you live close to where you work?
O’LOUGHLIN: Yeah. Oahu is not that huge anyway, so even across the island is not that long of a distance. It’s a very special part of the world and I’m adapting nicely.
Isn’t it closer to Australia?
O’LOUGHLIN: A little closer, yeah. It’s still nine hours.
What do you miss about Los Angeles?
O’LOUGHLIN: I miss people. It’s hard to miss anything about L.A. when you’re in a place like Hawaii, but I miss the little things. I also miss my little patterns and little routines.
Did you keep your place in L.A.?
O’LOUGHLIN: Yeah, I have a place.
Are you going to be going back and forth?
O’LOUGHLIN: When I can.