For all intents and purposes, Jeff Cadiente is a “Hollywood Stuntman.” He grew up in Hollywood as the son of actor and stuntman Dave Cadiente and started working in the television and film industry at 18 years old.
But when you meet Cadiente, “Hollywood” is not a word you would use to describe him. He looks and acts like a homegrown Hawaii boy, tan and at ease in his own skin, someone you can sit and talk story with over a couple of beers and a bowl full of poke. He is wonderfully gracious and first to give credit to his crew and the people he works with for his success and good fortune.
Stuntmen are folks who seem a little crazy. They are willing to crash a car, take a bullet or fall from a ten-story building, and are usually the embodiment of the term “tough as nails.” They are also folks who, although behind the scenes, are still important to the action and production of a television show.
Cadiente, who has been with “Hawaii Five-0” since season one as stunt coordinator (he even directed last week’s episode”), has been integral to the success of the action-packed show.
As a kid, Cadiente knew he wanted to be a stuntman as he watched his dad work in the industry — but his father told him he needed to “pay his dues.” So Cadiente went to work as an extra and made a good living behind the scenes, learning the ropes on set. Instead of waiting his turn to be in the background, he watched the crew and learned proper set etiquette along with how to work in front of the camera and what every department did on set.
“There’s no stunt school, so I would always hang out with the stunt guys, watching and learning,” he said.
Cadiente got his shot on the set of “Disorganized Crime” as a stunt double for Lou Diamond Phillips, who he called a “mentor and friend.” Cadiente was also close with Brandon Lee (Bruce Lee’s son) and worked as his stunt double on “The Crow” before his death.
“I’ll never forget it, I was actually dead broke, had no money in my account, and I had to make this decision, whether to take this stunt double job for three days, or stay with my new job,” he said.
Cadiente had just found a steady day job that would be more consistent than stunt work. But he decided to take a leap of faith, not even knowing the job was to double for Phillips. After working for several months on “Disorganized Crime,” he followed Phillips to work on his next film, “Renegade.”
“Lou was actually the one who introduced me to Brandon (Lee) and that was how I got in and came up through the ranks,” said Cadiente.
Working on “The Crow,” as well as “Rapid Fire” was “the best and worst job I ever had.
“Best because I was working with Brandon and I got to do every single stunt imaginable — high falls, water, car work, explosions — so it was a stuntman’s dream,” Cadiente said. “After the accident (Lee was killed in an accidental shooting on the set of “The Crow”), I had to take his place because the family wouldn’t allow the movie to be made with just anyone. … It was a tough one because I had to wear this mask to be Brandon. And with him being gone, it was hard.”
After “The Crow,” Cadiente started to move into stunt coordinating. His resume is long and varied, starting with his first stunt work in “Scarface,” to the Philips and Lee movies, and then working on several major television series as stunt coordinator.
He said “Martial Law” with Arsenio Hall, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, and Hawaii’s own Kelly Hu, was the “biggest action show at the time,” until his work on “24” and then on “Hawaii Five-0.”
Cadiente said he does a lot of “feature type stunts” on “Hawaii Five-0” and he has been nominated for an Emmy for his stunt coordination in season two for “Ka Meʻe” and “Ua Hiki Mai Kapalena Pau” in season one. He said most of the time he is doing second unit directing, which is working with only the action, stunt doubles, and car chases before the scene cuts back to first unit, which involves principal actors in close-ups and dialogue.
Caidente said while he enjoys that kind of work, he loved directing and being at the helm. He said it helped that he is “pretty much ʻohana, because when you’re family and you get along with the crew, it really helps make everything work well.
“The entire cast and crew gave me ultimate respect, they knew that I was invested in the show, that I did my homework, and I knew the story. They listened to what I had to say and they knew I could answer their questions because I knew the script probably better than they did.
“I’m here every day, so I knew what to expect from the crew and it was easy to relate to them, and I knew how to be efficient with their time. And when I asked them, they delivered. I’m pretty proud of them.”
Cadiente said his favorite parts of “Hoa Pili” were the carguments, “which were really fun.
“I did a lot of sitting back and laughing while they did their stuff. The chemistry with Alex (O’Loughlin) and Scott (Caan) is amazing, they are so professional and they are so funny. But probably my favorite scene was the helicopter scene at the end of the show, with Masi (Oka), Taylor (Wily), Scott, and Alex. It was the most fun I had directing, I was literally laughing out loud.”
I asked Cadiente about the cast and their own stunt talents, and he was quick to talk about the fact that “Five-0” is probably the most “athletic, gifted, talented cast on television.” He said on “24,” lead actor Kiefer Sutherland was the same way, yet with the “Hawaii Five-0” cast all of them are on that level.
“Especially Alex (O’Loughlin),” he said. “He is the most talented athletic guy that I know, he can do Jiu Jitsu, he can box, he can ride motorcycles, horses, he’s just amazing.
“In the first season he did about 95 percent of his stunts, and only in the big stunts would I use his stunt double, Justin Sundquist.”
(Sundquist is also Cadiente’s assistant, who also takes over to shoot scenes and covers for Cadiente when he is needed to work elsewhere on set.)
Cadiente said Scott Caan is just as athletic as O’Loughlin, as “he can play every sport there is, he’s an amazing surfer, and really good at Jiu Jitsu, and in fight scenes—unfortunately there isn’t a lot of stunts for him written into the script. And he comes from a family of stuntmen and horsemen. His uncle is famous cowboy stuntman, Walter Scott, so he comes from a good background and knows action.”
Caan’s stunt double is Big Island local Noah Johnson, who is an amazing big wave surfer, and Cadiente has turned Johnson into a strong stunt double. A bit ironic that Caan is a surfer, who is doubled by a surfer, yet Caan’s character doesn’t surf on the show.
Cadiente on Daniel Dae Kim: “Daniel Dae Kim does an amazing job riding motorcycles and ATVs, he’s done some great car stunts and fight scenes. He’s a really good athlete as well.
And Grace Park: “Grace is really gifted, she does a lot of fighting, and she’s great with close-ups that she needs to sell. For wide shots I’ll bring in her double Lauren Kim, who’s a great stuntwoman.”
(Daniel Dae Kim’s stunt double is Hawaii local Danny Kim, a fifth-degree black belt master in Tae Kwon Do, and doubled for him DDK on “LOST.”)
It was easy to get Cadiente to gush about his cast and his crew. He’s friends with them, O’Loughlin in particular, and he spoke about them like a proud teacher and trainer. His background in learning martial arts with stuntman Gene LeBell, as well as training in Gracie Jiu Jitsu with Hawaii martial artists Bill Ryusaki and Ed Parker, has helped him be well-rounded to specifically choreograph any kind of fight scene that “Five-0” demands.
Adding to the ‘ohana Cadiente has experienced on the show, his girlfriend Jacqueline Cryan works on set as a stunt performer and their daughter, Jaycee, doubled as Rachel’s (Claire van der Boom) newborn in season two. Jaycee was a newborn herself when she was on the show, and Cryan has doubled for Grace Park, along with other guest actresses on the show. Cryan was most recently seen in “Na Kiʻi” as one of the roller derby girls, and she doubled for “Crimson Bride” actress Tiffany Dupont.
Along with baby Jaycee, who is now 16 months old, Cadiente has two older daughters, Jasmyn and Jolie.
Cadiente would like to do more directing on “Hawaii Five-0,” he said.
“I really want to show that I can do more than just stunts and action. That I can direct a character driven show and really tell a story.”
After watching “Hoa Pili,” which for the most part was one episode that was not completely action-driven, I think Cadiente has a good shot at being in the director’s chair in the future. He may have been born and raised in California, but Hawai‘i is home to him now, and I am glad he embraced Hawaii as his own.
We did get a bit of good news that season four had been green lit by CBS. Hang on for a hot season three finale, as the title for the last episode was also announced. “Aloha Malama Pono” airs May 20.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher who lives and works in Honolulu. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.