Each season “Hawaii Five-0” has featured guest actors who have often brought more to the show than viewers expect. Usually, a guest star is listed in the press release with little fanfare or special highlight. Yet their performances have helped to add to the show’s continued success. Many guest stars are simply unforgettable, and fans have rallied around them via social media– praising them as much as they do their beloved series regulars. It is a testament to a great show that even the guest actors have helped to elevate and deepen Five-0 storylines and character arcs.
Several guest actors really stood out in season eight. For the most part, they play characters who engage Five-0 in the case of the week. Several actors have even helped to raise awareness of real-life issues– like Veterans Affairs, and the very timely topic of suicide– which is often more rewarding than the typical high-intensity action of the show.
Jason Redman, Steven Jackel, J. Eddie Martinez, Kathryn Taylor-Smith, Zachary Perez-Rukavina as The Veterans.
The yearly Christmas episode is often a sweetly-wrapped sentimental story that brings the entire team together in order for the show to end the calendar year. This year’s episode was a reminder that sometimes Santa can sometimes be the one on the naughty list, as the team seeks to capture two armored-car robbing Santas within a local mall. The real-life veteran guest stars who helped McGarrett and the team catch the bad Santas– included retired Navy SEAL, Lieutenant Jason Redman, who was struck in the face by machine gun fire during one of his many missions in Fallujah, Iraq; retired U.S. Army Sgt. Steven Jackel (who sadly died a few weeks after the airing of his episode), a double-amputee who survived an IED blast in Afghanistan; former Marine J. Eddie Martinez; and former Navy Reservist Kathryn Taylor-Smith. Zachary Perez-Rukavina, who had a rare sarcoma cancer which caused his left forearm to be amputated, also played one of the veterans.
All five actors guest starred in the Dec. 22 episode “ʻOni kalalea ke kū a ka lāʻau loa” (“A Tall Tree Stands Above the Others”). What made their performances so great was the fact that they used their skills as former soldiers in order to help catch the bad guys and solve the case. All five had a chance to shine in the episode as they aided Five-0 with intel about the layout of the mall, computer skills to quickly scan IDs, bomb blast expertise, medic training, and use of a titanium limb for additional super-strength.
It was refreshing to see all five give very natural performances. Especially the two veterans who are not experienced actors– both Redman and Jackel had little to no acting experience, while Martinez, Taylor-Smith, and Perez-Rukavina are trained actors. All could easily return to guest star again in their same roles, as they melded well with the series regulars, and added more depth and credibility to the show.
Devon Sawa as Brad Woodward
One of the strongest guest performances of season eight was in the Jan. 13 episode, “O ka mea ua hala, ua hala ia” (“What is Gone is Gone”). Devon Sawa played a suicidal Brad Woodward, who was being blamed for the death of his wife. She had actually committed suicide, but when Brad tried to stop her– the evidence of their struggle caused HPD to look at him as her killer. He was heartbroken for not saving her, and for leaving her alone, so she was able to go through with taking her own life.
Sawa’s restraint– he made Brad’s pain very real and not overwrought or melodramatic– helped to keep the episode realistic and believable. It also paired well with Chi McBride’s acting– as Lou Grover is the one to reach out to help Brad and talk him out of killing himself. Grover shares his own personal experience with depression and guilt, and opens up to the distraught Brad in a way that the two men connect on a human level. It’s Lou sitting in the car with Brad– not Capt. Gover trying to talk down a suicidal murder suspect. Both men give stellar performances, and helped to bring to light the sadly very topical issue of suicide.
After this week’s reported suicides of both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, Sawa’s performance, as well as the public service announcement McBride did at the conclusion of the episode, was a timely reminder to help those in need, and to reach out whenever necessary. Sometimes it just takes one person to reach out and make a connection for someone to get the help they need.
Frankie Faison as Leroy Davis; and Ryan BIttle as John McGarrett
While hitmen are not always characters that should be celebrated, Frankie Faison’s portrayal of the repentant hitman Leroy Davis, made him one of the best villains of this season. Faison played the role without apology– he was guilty and he knew it– but he was going to confess to the one man who might be able to bring peace to those he had harmed in the past.
That man was John McGarrett, played by Ryan Bittle. But by the time Davis was ready to confess– and lead McGarrett to all of the graves of his victims– there is a new McGarrett in town, John’s son– Steven, played by series regular Alex O’Loughlin.
Both Faison and Bittle guest starred in the April 7 episode, “ʻAʻohe mea make i ka hewa; make no i ka mihi ʻole” (“No one has ever died for the mistakes he has made; only because he didn’t repent”). Neither men were in the same scenes– Bittle played McGarrett’s father in flashback, and Faison played the older version of the bane of John’s existence in present day scenes with Steve. Yet both actors were exceedingly strong as two characters who wanted to make things right. Davis is confessing to ease his conscience– and because he is dying of a brain disease and may not remember where his victims are if he waits any longer, and John is trying to find out where a fellow police detective is buried to give his family peace.
Bittle, while in only a few short scenes in the episode, plays John McGarrett like a younger William Sadler– who played John McGarrett since the Pilot episode. Bittle looks exactly like William Sadler’s twin at age 35, and both are strong actors. It was smart casting, and refreshing to see Bittle play the 1975 version of Papa McG. When Bittle plays the scene where John learns that his son is being born– just as he is closing in on capturing Davis– the look on his face is priceless.
Faison’s scenes with O’Loughlin are equally as strong, and both men play the reality of the situation as realistically and naturally as possible. Davis is likeable as the remorseful hitman, and that says a lot for Faison’s ability to make a despicable man genuine and someone you feel bad is going to die in prison.
Shi Ne Nielson as Carrie, Sgt. Duke Lukela’s daughter
The April 28 episode, “Kōpī wale no i ka iʻa a ʻeu no ka ilo” (“Though the fish is well salted, the maggots crawl”) was an episode fans had been waiting to see for months. The episode focused on Sgt. Duke, played by series regular Dennis Chun, who takes the law into his own hands to save his kidnapped granddaughter Akela, played with perfect sweetness by Cidni Romias.
But Duke’s daughter Carrie, played by Shi Ne Nielson, was a good mix of concerned mother and daughter, as she is the one who has to face Five-0 and cover up what her father has done– in order to help save her own daughter. We understand that to Duke– both his daughter and his granddaughter are in danger and he will ruin his own career to save her. Yet Carrie is put between saving her daughter, and her father, by lying to Five-0.
Nielson plays her scenes with McGarrett and Danny (Scott Caan) very well– we don’t quite believe her when she says she hasn’t spoken to her dad all morning, but we’re not sure why we don’t believe her. She is also quite believable as a grief-stricken mother– and the kidnapping scene is heartbreakingly real. Nielson pulls off the fearful, distraught nature of a mother who desperately wants her child back. While we are glad it is not real– it is played well and with perfect restraint to keep the scenes from becoming unrealistic or overly emotional.
Her best scene is the happy reunion scene in the end when Carrie and Akela arrive to visit Duke in the hospital. Along with Laura Mellow, who plays Nalani Lukela, the scene is sweet and such a relief. As a viewer, you see that happiness as the ordeal is over for Carrie and her daughter– yet we can’t help but wonder what Duke’s future holds.
Of course, only a new season can answer these questions. And perhaps also tell us if we might see some of the guest stars back for another round. Fans would without a doubt cheer if these names returned in season nine.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright, and teacher. Reach her at Five0Redux@gmail.com.