Reaching the 100th episode of any TV series is a huge milestone, and the CBS drama series Hawaii Five-0, currently in its fifth season, is doing so on November 7th. In the episode entitled “Inā Paha,” Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) is kidnapped by Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos), and he experiences what would have happened to the team, if they had taken a very different path. William Sadler returns as McGarrett’s father, and singer/musician Gavin Rossdale guest stars as the nefarious Johnny Moreau.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, Gavin Rossdale talked about how he came to be a part of the 100th episode of Hawaii Five-0, the biggest challenges in playing this role, how gracious everyone was in making him feel welcome, the possibility of future episodes, shooting somewhere as beautiful as Hawaii, which other shows he’d love to do an episode of, and the type of roles he’d like to do, in the future. He also talked about the most recent Bush album, Man on the Run, being more focused on art over commerce, the journey that led him back to the band, finding a balance between work and family, and why he loves playing live shows on the road. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
GAVIN ROSSDALE: My manager went in to CBS and was just talking about the new record, and this and that. One thing led to another and I was acting in it, and then I was playing on the beach. I was like, “This is all good, but what’s the part that I’m playing?” So, I looked at it and it said, “Johnny Moreau, total douchebag.” I was like, “Woah! What is going on around here?! Why do I always get to play the criminals? I’m a dad. Why am I always the bad guy?” I try to be the good guy in real life. I just get to act like the biggest jerk-off in history. This guy is a bad dude. He’s a criminal who betrays his own, which in the criminal world is the ultimate faux pas.
What were the biggest challenges in playing this role?
ROSSDALE: The tone of the show is dark, and it’s very life-like, so I had to be careful not to be too caricature-y. I always want to see the good in people. He had to be charming ‘cause he’s gotten what he wants in life, so I gave him more of a confidence. I don’t know what they were expecting. I’m pretty sure that when it was written, they were not expecting me to show up. I was like, “Oh, man, just don’t fuck up!” I just tried to make sense of the connection between me and the guy that I played opposite, Will [Yun Lee]. He’s a really good actor, so it was really fun to work with him. That always makes acting fun. It was really enjoyable. I enjoyed the director. [Larry Teng], the director, was very helpful and insightful.
TV moves pretty quickly, so you’ve gotta have it down. There’s always a horrible leap from the page to real life, and then to camera blocking. I’m not as experienced as the other people on the show, but I really love the adrenaline of it and the rush of, “Rolling! Action!” I’m luck, “It’s not me that’s gonna fuck it up!” I like that tight rope. I would never bungee jump. I just couldn’t care less about testing out that rope. That’s cool, but I’ve got way too many things to be busy with. But for whatever reason, I do like the bungee rope of life, to be in my band and to find myself having to sing live and play new songs, and then to work on a script and be in TV or films. I just think it’s incredible how the great actors can lift words off of the page and turn them into this conversation that we’re eavesdropping on. It’s a really amazing challenge, and the people who get it right forever blow us away. The rest of us are just trying to get that magic going.
Is it intimidating to step onto a show like this, that’s in its fifth season and doing this milestone 100th episode?
ROSSDALE: Well, I’m English, so it’s intimidating to step anywhere. I used to be painfully shy. I wouldn’t say that I’m painfully shy anymore. But if I have the option of sitting on the edge of a circle, I will. When I got there and they had the really lovely new chair with my name on it, and the had all of the other chairs around for all of the other cast members who are all settled in, my instinct is to go nowhere near my chair, and to just hover quietly to the side. I tend to hover, more than fly into somewhere and come in like a firework display. They were very gracious to me and really helpful to me, in making me feel good and welcome. What was really lovely was to do the acting part, and then go to New York and do a bunch of stuff for the release of my record, and then I flew back to play. When I played, I already had a rapport with everyone, so to go back and sing for them was really nice, full-circle moment for me. It felt like, “Look, guys, I don’t know what I was like in the acting bit, but I hope you enjoy this.”
ROSSDALE: It’s a really good balance. Those times when I play on stage in front of lots of people, it’s such an unusual and borderline unhealthy process, even though I love it and I really do it with humility. I don’t have serfs getting me grapes after, or things like that. But it is really, really fun to just change it up some and to absolutely be a very small spoke on a big wheel, and to just be a part of that and contribute to something that people can enjoy. The idea of doing this part was that it possibly could lead to other episodes, so it wasn’t seen as just a strange hit-and-run. We’ll see where that goes. I haven’t seen it yet, so there’s no guarantee I’ll ever be invited back to a Hawaiian Airlines lounge, let alone Hawaii. So much of the time, I don’t have the time to sign up for a TV show forever because of music. So, when these things come up, like Criminal Minds, Burn Notice and this, it’s just fun and challenging. I really enjoy it, and I take it seriously. I always respect everyone around me and appreciate that I really am possibly the least experienced. I hope I’m not the weakest link, but I’m definitely the least experienced. But, I try to fake it. I try to poker face my way through it.
It must be nice to shoot in a place as beautiful as Hawaii.
ROSSDALE: The day before I left to fly in New York, I went in the ocean and was just lying on my black looking up at the sky, which was that Hawaii blue. Just that moment was worth the entire thing. The ocean is everything. It can heal you.
I heard you in an interview talking very sincerely about how you want to make a rock record that matters and that people care about, which I found totally refreshing because you weren’t just focused on sales as the priority. Have you always put the art over the commerce, or did it take a certain level of maturity in life to really be able to say that and mean it?
ROSSDALE: Thank you for saying that. When I first began Bush, it was the least ambitious I’d ever been, in my life. I was in rock music in London when it was the height of Brit pop, with The Kinks revival and Suede and Blur and Oasis, and all of those really great bands that were of a certain style. If I’d really been smart and commercially minded, I would have just got myself a blazer and some Stay Press and some Fred Perry tops, and just gone out and tried to do it like everyone else. Instead, I did this ridiculous thing of trying to do this music. I remember when I first heard those demos, I said to myself, “This is such a relief. I’m no longer trying to be somebody that I think someone might like.” When I was lucky enough to be successful, I distanced myself completely from the whole thing of units and selling copies. I just wanted to keep everyone who comes to see me happy. I spend so much time after my shows talking to people who come from all over the world to see me. I’ll go out and sign a picture and have a chat. I’ve always been at pains not to take myself seriously, but I think that the work that we’ve done and the records we’ve made had a real impact for some people. Every time I try to disown that concept for myself, which is a really healthy perspective, they bring it back all the time. It’s so serious and so real and so tangible that you don’t want to taint it with anything other than the thing itself. I was tickled pink with my very zen self, walking around saying that I made a record because I wanted to make a record. That’s so beautiful. It’s like a haiku poem. That takes away all the tension and the expectation. I just want to try to do something interesting. I’ve always thought that you just make everything as best as you can, and then, one day, people will look objectively at what you do, from a distance, and see its quality. All you try to do is keep the standard up so that, one day, when I sit back and I look at it all, I can feel really good about it.
You’ve had a really interesting path in music, having achieved huge success with Bush, and then you had a successful solo career, and now you’re back with Bush. Are you surprised with that path and how reinvigorated you seem to be with your music now, or does it feel like you may never have made it back to Bush, if you hadn’t taken that time way?
ROSSDALE: My intention was to revitalize Bush, back in 2002, and do The Pixies/Breeders, Tool/A Perfect Circle thing, when people do these side projects. I thought that was an interesting time to do that. It was a bad time for the word Bush, for a few years, so I put that on hold for a solo career, and I had a monster success off of the solo career. I begged them to not put the ballad out. I was like, “Can I not have an up-tempo song first?” With the ballad, people were like, “Is he a crooner now? What’s going on?!” And then, I went to play live, and that was where the disconnect began. Half the audience wanted me to bleed all over the drums and do a Bush show, and the other half wanted me to play nothing but ballads. I was like, “What have I become?” My label at the time, Interscope, really wanted me to just go in and do another solo record and build on that, which was quite a decent start to build on, but I was just suffering too much from insomnia. I thought, “I should just do Bush again. I think that it’s unfinished business. It never even ended. It just fizzled and stopped.”
So, I just took a leap of faith, and that was what The Sea of Memories was. I was like, “I don’t even care what happens. I just want to be able to sit there and look at a Bush CD I made this year. Whether or not it’s successful, I know I put the concept to bed.” And then, I had the success with “The Sound of Winter,” and that all moved along the momentum. So, when it came time to do this record, I wanted to do something exciting that could contend with the rest of the set. I’ve always been really passionate about music. It’s just funny that different projects bring you into focus or out of focus. My Institute record, that I did after Bush in 2002, I’m so proud of. I wish those songs were Bush songs because then I could play them still. One day, people will sit back and be like, “Okay, that’s a record he didn’t do with Bush, but that’s a fucking cool record!” To me, that’s a job done. You can’t expect every record to be huge and successful, and I’ve certainly had my share of that. I’ve had one or two quiet records. My Golden State record and that Institute record were the only two records I’ve made, in my entire career, that didn’t have monster hits off of them. That’s pretty healthy. If you go through Neil Young’s catalogue, for all of those amazing songs, there are songs that add to that and give it texture. I’m happy with those records.
You named the last Bush album Man on the Run, and you talked about doing so because of the incredible pace we all live at. As someone who is clearly a hands-on father, have you found a pace that you can live in to balance work and family?
ROSSDALE: Somehow, something is always suffering. Someone is always losing out somehow. If you pick one kid up, you’re not picking the other one up. You just try to minimize those small let-downs because, in a way, life is a series of let-downs from everyone, all the time. We don’t mean it, but it happens. So, I just try to minimize that and spread them wide. It’s like a relay race of being ignored. It is really challenging, but whenever I get asked that stuff, I feel really self-conscious about it. I feel really lucky because we have a lot of help. When I first began to be a dad with Gwen [Stefani], I was amazed at what she went through. It goes without saying that what a girl goes through, boys could not even comprehend. If we get the flu, we need a week. We’re idiots. But what was the most powerful realization to me was, how do single mothers with a low income cope? I can’t complain about my dumb life. That’s what was most revelatory to me. I see it with my own sister. She doesn’t have anyone helping. She has two kids and a job, and her boyfriend has a full-time job. She’s just amazing and inspiring. She gets it done, and she’s so efficient. She’s more efficient than I am. I want her to come and train my kids. It just illuminates the power of any single parent, way and above my own trials and tribulations with it.
ROSSDALE: Who doesn’t love Game of Thrones? Sons of Anarchy is funny and thug-ish. I love Shameless. I just sit with my hat tipped, waiting for something to happen, more than going out after the shows.
If you had more time to do more acting, would you want to take on bigger roles?
ROSSDALE: It’s the obvious next thing, in a sense. By just passing through things, I continue to slightly limit myself. I want the jobs that don’t say that much. I’m often the stepping stone or the conduit from one thing to another. I love the idea of existing in a film and growing and having bigger arcs, and being in scenes where you’re just being, as opposed to talking. That’ one of my ambitions, lying ahead.
When you have so much on your plate, is it hard to still get excited about touring and playing live, or do you still enjoy it as much as you always have?
ROSSDALE: I do. It’s a very selfish time. When I’m here at home, my responsibilities are far greater. I’m forced to be way more selfless. My priorities are so far down the list that it’s hard to see them. And yet, when I’m on tour, I basically have to get the show right, every night, but the days are really constructed around selfish activities for self-improvement, or not. That’s where I feel guilty because I know that life is going on full-speed when I’m not around. But at the same time, it’s half of what I do. Everything that I do is geared towards playing that show, and I love that show so much. I love the live arena and the human connection. It’s so gratifying to everyone when you get a show right. I spend my days depressed thinking, “What am I doing?,” and I spend my nights elated and thinking, “This is the greatest thing I could ever think of doing!”
Every show has to be like the last show you’re ever going to play, or else there’s no point in playing it. It’s a humongous effort. Some people really like the physicality of it, and other people get torn apart by it. For some reason, I don’t know what it is, but the masochist in me loves the grind of it. I love playing 10 shows in a row where it’s like, “Oh, my god, how are we gonna make it?!” And then, there’s the camaraderie between the band. And there’s the camaraderie of making up, if they’re pissing you off for a few days. You go, “Oh, I love them! It’s all right. I’m the jerk.” All of that stuff is the human drama. And when you travel in a small group like we do, with about 14 people that travel with us full-time, it is a traveling circus. Most people who are on the road are pretty damaged. It’s an escapist’s life. It’s not a life that forces you to look in the mirror at where you’re at and what you’re doing. It’s one where you leave the mirror behind. I think that appeals to something in all of us. On the open road, all of your regrets are out the window.
The 100th episode of Hawaii Five-0 airs on CBS on November 7th.