Fans were thrilled when news broke Wednesday about two new actors joining the cast of “Hawaii Five-0” and recurring cast member Ian Anthony Dale being elevated to series regular. Dale is most familiar to viewers as Adam Noshimuri, who was introduced in Season 2 as a Yakuza-connected businessman and boyfriend and then husband to Five-0 team member Kono Kalakaua (played by Grace Park, who exited the show over an apparent contract dispute with CBS).
Dale can currently be seen in the summer asteroid-heading-to-Earth series “Salvation,” airing Wednesdays on CBS.
New to “Hawaii Five-0” is Meaghan Rath, who will play Tani Rey, and Beulah Koale, who plays former Navy SEAL Junior Reigns.
Fans may have missed the fact that along with Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, Chi McBride and Jorge Garcia, recurring cast members Taylor Wily, Kimee Balmilero and Dennis Chun were also listed in the announcement as starring cast members. That means that along with Dale, the three have been elevated to series regulars.
Beth Haiken, vice president of CBS Entertainment Communications, confirmed this via phone on Thursday. As the network does not comment on contracts, we don’t know if this means a pay raise for the four actors or more screen time.
Regardless, for Hawaii actors, this is outstanding news. As Wily, Balmilero and Chun are from Hawaii, this will shine more light on our local talent. All three will continue to add to the diversity of the show’s cast and perhaps calm some of the criticism that dogged CBS after the departure of series stars Daniel Dae Kim and Park.
Two of the biggest criticisms the show has faced in the last month have not only been about the pay discrepancy alluded to in Kim’s July 5 farewell post on Facebook to fans, but also the low number of Asian and Hawaiian actors within the main cast of a show shot and set in Hawaii. With the addition of Dale, who is Asian, Rath is part Goan Indian and Koale was born in New Zealand and is of Samoan descent.
Wily is also of Samoan descent and hails from Laie, and Balmilero is of Filipino descent from Kaneohe. Chun also grew up in Hawaii, and all three call the islands home.
Chun, in a recurring role as HPD Sgt. Duke Lukela, is one of the few actors of part-Hawaiian ancestry in a major television series. Outside of the original “Hawaii Five-O” cast, the only other actors of Native Hawaiian descent who have been series regulars are Elsie Sniffen, who played Nui Shaw in “One West Waikiki”; noted film and TV actor David Strathairn, who starred in the Syfy series “Alphas”; and Jason Momoa, whose TV resume includes “Baywatch: Hawaii,” “North Shore,” “Stargate Atlantis” and “Game of Thrones.”
Chun has a direct tie to the original cast of “Hawaii Five-O,” as he is the son of Kam Fong, who played Chin Ho Kelly from 1968 to 1978.
The original “Hawaii Five-O” had several Native Hawaiian actors who were main cast members over the 12 seasons of the classic series that starred Jack Lord as Steven McGarrett. Gilbert Lani Kauhi, better known as Zulu, played Kono from the start of the show until Season 4, and Douglas Mossman was Frank Kamanain Season 7. Singer-actor Moe Keale, who was of pure Hawaiian ancestry, portrayed Truck Kealoha in Season 12, and Herman Wedemeyer, the original Duke Lukela, was a main cast member from Seasons 4 through 12.
Chun and Wily help to round out the cast of “Hawaii Five-0” not just by their Asian and Polynesian diversity, but as longtime members of the “Five-0” ohana, as both actors launched their roles in Season 1.
Wily’s Kamekona was the confidential informant Chin Ho (Daniel Dae Kim) takes to McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Danno (Scott Caan) in the pilot episode. Kamekona is not only a good friend to Five-0, as he gives the team a place to meet outside of their headquarters, but he also possesses a wealth of knowledge from straddling both sides of the law.
While his character has a lot to offer in the form of comic relief, he also is a safe haven for the team on many levels. Fans have loved watching him grow his many businesses, from shave ice to shrimp truck to helicopters to a catamaran. Since Season 1, Kamekona has been a mainstay within the Five-0 team, and I’m glad that will continue into Season 8.
Likewise, we first met Chun’s Sgt. Duke Lukela in “Hana ʻaʻa Makehewa” (“Desperate Measures”) in Season 1, and from that moment on, Duke became a fan favorite.
Always one to help the Five-0 team, Duke knows how to aide the unconventional McGarrett and his task force in a way that lets them know he has their back, even when they stray over the line of “normal” law enforcement conduct. His character has certainly grown over seven seasons, as we have seen him go from being their crime scene contact to helping them with case work.
We have even gotten some backstory on Duke because he was a contemporary of McGarrett’s father, John (William Sadler). He often joins the team for holiday parties and off-duty gatherings at Kamekona’s, and viewers also met his wife, Nalani (played by Chun’s real-life partner, artist Laura Mellow). Duke has saved the day on several occasions, staking out suspects, looking into evidence without raising too many flags, and even literally swooping in to rescue the team with helicopters and the calvary.
Balmilero just recently joined the team during Season 7 in preparation for the departure of series regular Masi Oka, who played medical examiner Dr. Max Bergman. Unlike Max, Balmilero’s Dr. Noelani Cunha seems to be even more hands-on in the team’s cases, as she is often called to help stitch up members and friends of the task force.
She is also quick to remind McG that she usually deals with the dead, rather than the living. Still, her character is fun to watch. She may not be as quirky as Max, but I love how well she has folded into the Five-0 team, working quite well within their established tone and patterns.
Elevating Balmilero, Wily and Dale to the main cast is a smart move for CBS and the series.
While news that several recurring cast members have moved up to series regulars might not seem to be a major deal, for the fans who love them and are still very sad about the loss of Kim and Park, this will be the good news they have wanted since Season 8 shooting started this summer.
Hopefully, the move will spark more opportunity for Hawaii actors, and give Chun, Wily and Balmilero stronger storylines and more screen time. If nothing else, we’re all very glad to see them promoted to the full-time cast because, as we know, they will represent Hawaii with their amazing talent and with great aloha.
Wendie Burbridge writes the “Five-0 Redux” blog for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, offering episode recaps, cultural insight and other news and views on “Hawaii Five-0.” She is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.