Director Len Wiseman and Executive Producer Peter Lenkov Interview HAWAII FIVE-0

     September 17, 2010

The new CBS drama Hawaii Five-0 is a contemporary take on the classic series about a new elite federalized task force whose mission it is to wipe out the crime that washes up on the Islands’ sun-drenched beaches. Led by Detective Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin), a decorated Naval officer turned cop, the team, which includes Detective Danny “Danno” Williams (Scott Caan), ex-Police Detective Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim) and recent Police Academy graduate Kono (Grace Park), work together to eliminate the seedy elements from the beautiful and serene state.

In a recent interview, executive producer Peter Lenkov and pilot director Len Wiseman talked about how they’re setting this version of Hawaii Five-0 apart from the original, what they went through in determining the perfect cast, developing the shooting style and look for the show, and what viewers can expect in episodes to come. Check out what they had to say after the jump:

Alex-OLoughlin-and-Scott-Caan-of-Hawaii-Five-0Question: Peter, how did you avoid some of the pitfalls of other remakes of classic series, to keep yours so fresh and fun?

Peter: Honestly, just attacking it from a point of view of it just being purely about the script. I didn’t really put that much pressure on myself, in terms of the remake side of it. Definitely, it’s coming from a classic source and I wanted to respect that, but it wasn’t always in my mind to consider it as a remake, instead of the best version of this story and these characters. I wanted to make it as exciting as I could.

Len, since you’re known as the director of Underworld, how did you get involved with this?

Len: There were a lot of Die Hard references in there, even in terms of the tone. But, we don’t want this to be black and grey, and rainy and dark. I think Die Hard balanced out the Underworld darkness.

Can you talk about the casting process for this?

Len: It was a very long process. Peter and I were in Hawaii for a very long time.

Peter: I think we figured out, early on, that the McGarrett and Danny relationship was really central to the show and we had to get that dynamic right. I had met with Daniel Dae Kim early on, when he heard it was being developed, so I always had him in mind when I was writing. I actually had thought of somebody completely different, in terms of the character, but when I met with Daniel and I saw how passionate he was, I felt I was writing the character towards him. I knew he was there.

Len: Originally, he was older.

hawaii_five-0_cast_imagePeter: Yeah, he was the wise uncle of the family. But, when I met Daniel, I just realized he’d be the perfect Chin Ho Kelly. With McGarrett, it’s Jack Lord. It’s such big shoes to fill. The show was on for 12 years. So, we wanted an actor that really didn’t come with a lot of baggage from other roles that he had played. We wanted somebody who could really slip into this role and be Steve McGarrett, and not be associated with other characters. We started looking around at the landscape of who was available. CBS has a huge investment in Alex O’Loughlin, so we met with him, but we were a little skeptical because he had done two shows before. We felt that he was incredibly passionate about the material. He’s a real physical guy, and he wasn’t ever allowed to do any of the stuff that we allowed him to do. He was great in the other roles, but we felt this was the right one for him. It was very easy, after meeting him, to now figure out what we needed, in terms of our Danno.

How does shooting in Hawaii itself play into the show?

Len: It was huge. I like the idea of presenting the two sides of Hawaii. It has its glorious postcard verison, and then these guys also deal with the underbelly of Hawaii, which is quite dark, seedy and dangerous. I hope we pulled that off. When you go out and really show off the island, and then you get closer to that island and deal with what they’re dealing with, you realize that it’s not like everybody’s vacation. You get both sides of it.

Peter: What we want to do, week to week, is really sell every side of Hawaii. Most people know Hawaii from the palm trees and beaches, but there’s a real urban environment, there’s a downtown and there are skyscrapers. What we’re really trying to do is make it a character in the show.

Did you talk to anyone with Lost to find out any of the potential pitfalls?

Len: Sure. Daniel was a bit of our U.P.M., in the beginning. He was filling us in just as we were touching base and getting to know everything there.

How did you develop the visual style and the shooting style of the show?

Len: I’ve not done television before, so I thought, “Okay, I’m going to shoot in more of a television style, in the way that I cover it and how many cameras I have.” And, once I got started, I realized that I don’t know what that is. You can’t train your brain to do that. So, we just moved really, really fast. It was the way that I usually shoot, just much more stressed. It’s added stress, and a few more hours.

Peter: One of the mandates that we laid out to everybody in the beginning was that we want to do event television. What Len shot was a feature-style TV show. We wanted something that felt bigger and worthy of committing yourself for an hour every week. Things are getting bigger and more intricate. In a lot of ways, television is so interesting these days, so we really needed to stand out. What Len did was make the template for a feature, every week. It’s this big, epic story that has a lot of mythology and is beautiful to look at.

Will the show be episodic with a criminal of the week, or will it have a theme throughout the season?

Peter: In terms of week to week, it’s definitely a close-ended procedural. You’ll see stories that are told and, for the most part, ended. Stories are broken down into three parts. There’s an A story, which is your crime. There’s a B story, which is a character story. We really spend a lot of time on our character. And, there’s a C runner, which is added value to the show. That’s something that’s going to be this arc that’s going to run over the course of the first season and, hopefully, the seasons afterwards. We set up a couple of mysteries in the pilot, and we’re going to unfold those mysteries, layer by layer, over the course of the series. So, if you’re a regular viewer, you’re going to be very satisfied at the end of the season. If you’re tuning in every now and then, you’ll see a good procedural show.