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Saturday, October 25, 2014         

OUTTAKES


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TV writer with isle ties plots stories for 'Five-0'

By Mike Gordon

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Alex O'Loughlin and his crime-fighting crew might be the stars of "Hawaii Five-0," but they don't take aim at a bad guy unless a writer tells them they should.

And in this reboot season, the "Five-0" unit has collared thugs with the help of Kyle Harimoto, a 36-year-old screenwriter whose family ties to the islands stretch back to plantation-era immigrants. He brings a love of Hawaii that the show's executive producers, notably Peter Lenkov, found invaluable from the start.

"Everyone at CBS knew it was always my passion to do anything involved in Honolulu," Harimoto said by telephone from his office at Paramount Studios.

Although he grew up in Southern California, where he still lives and works, Harimoto and his sister Lani spent every summer and Christmas vacation in Hawaii, staying with relatives in Honolulu. His parents attended public school here — his mother at McKinley and his father at Kaimuki — and they wanted their children to know where they came from.

"When CBS said it wanted to set the show there, I knew there wouldn't be another writer who would have as much of a love of Honolulu as I do," Harimoto said. "I have so many formative memories of growing up there and playing basketball on the courts at Kaimuki and learning to surf at Queen's Surf and the Wall."

Writing wasn't an early calling for Harimoto, who briefly attended the University of Hawaii at Hilo before graduating from Arizona State University with a degree in criminal justice. After earning an M.B.A. in finance and marketing from the University of Illinois, he got a job in the mailroom at United Talent Agency in Beverly Hills in 1999.

He eventually got into writing and worked on NBC's "Las Vegas" for three years. He believes he learned to write through osmosis.

"There is no other way to learn television and film writing unless you have consumed thousands of hours of films and movies," he said. "The pacing isn't something you can teach anyone."

Harimoto has co-written Episodes 2, 5, 11 and 14, which films this week. Plots involve gang wars at Kukui High School, a bomb strapped to Chin Ho's chest and assassins in the jungle.

His favorite is "Ko'olauloa," which focused on the murder of a surf industry executive on the North Shore. He co-wrote that with Carol Barbee.

And, yes, everyone involved talked about whether to say "flip-flops" or "slippers" and concluded that most viewers outside of Hawaii would be too confused, Harimoto said.

Still, "Five-0" is giving Harimoto free rein to tap into the things that make Hawaii unique.

"It's not going to get any better than writing a big-budget TV show set in Honolulu," he said. "As long as this show is on television, I feel I can tell stories on this show that I can't tell on any other show I have been on or will be on because of the place it is and the diversity of the culture."

WORD LAST WEEK that CBS planned to expand its cast of series regulars sparked a frenzy among actors here and on the mainland. An industry casting notice was put online Tuesday, and the show had received 3,000 inquiries by the next afternoon.

"Five-0" wants someone — male or female, 20- to 30-something — to play a serious character with "a practical joker's sense of humor" and a degree from Harvard.

The flood of inquiries prompted Rachel Sutton, the show's local casting director, to post a note of caution on the Hawaii Actors Network website. Anyone who thinks they are right for the part should seriously consider their acting skills before applying, she wrote.

In a statement later, she said some of the industry's finest actors had applied.

"It will be a tough role to land for even the most seasoned and established actor," she said. "I can't wait to see who finally wins the prize."

"FIVE-0" ALSO announced the addition of a love interest for Daniel Dae Kim's character, Chin Ho Kelly. Reiko Aylesworth, who was on ABC's "Lost" and Fox's "24," will play his ex-fiancee, Malia. Aylesworth will be in town this week.

"She's a good friend and a very talented actor," Kim said. "It's also nice that she could pass for a local here. It's a big plus for the show's authenticity."

AND that's a wrap.

Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser film and television writer. His "Outtakes" column appears Sundays. Reach him at 529-4803 or mgordon@staradvertiser.com.






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