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For isle actors, residuals mean money, memories

By Mike Gordon

LAST UPDATED: 2:25 p.m. HST, Aug 5, 2011

When it comes to television reruns, the checks are always in the mail.

It's like winning the lottery. The royalty checks — commonly called residuals — can arrive long after a series has left prime time, a surprise delivery that keeps on paying for decades.

Of course, the amount dwindles with time to almost laughable lows. But for local actors who landed speaking roles on this past season's "Hawaii Five-0," those initial checks are among the coolest perks of the gig.

Whenever an episode they were in repeats in network prime time — and CBS has aired about 30 repeats so far — actors receive 100 percent of what they earned for their initial performance, according to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the union that oversees "Five-0." And when a show is syndicated, their work keeps paying every time their episode airs, but with smaller and smaller checks until — after a dozen broadcasts — they bottom out at 5 percent of the original paycheck.

The union minimum is $838 per day, but the show's stars — who are union members making over scale — earn much more. According to a review of salaries last fall by TV Guide, Alex O'Loughlin earned $100,000 an episode, and Scott Caan, slightly less at $80,000. They are subject to different residual payments. Although they can negotiate a higher fee, the union guarantees them a minimum of $3,456 an episode, said Christopher de Haan, spokesman for AFTRA.

But residuals are even more valuable for actors who can't command those salaries and who might not work often, de Haan said.

"They are working a job here and a job there," he said. "They rely on residuals to sustain themselves and their families so they can continue to hone their craft and be professionals in this industry."

Fortunately for Hawaii's actors, "Five-0" is scheduled for domestic syndication in 2014, but for those who worked on the other network show that shot here during the recent season — ABC's failed drama "Off the Map" — no such deal exists. ABC isn't planning to rebroadcast any of the episodes, but the series is headed for DVD release and the actors will receive a one-time payment from that deal.

Local actor Dennis Chun, whose day job is with the state Judiciary, has a résumé that includes episodes of the original "Five-0" and five from the new show. He also worked on "Magnum, P.I." and "Jake and the Fat Man."

Those residuals aren't going to make him rich, but they are a nice reminder of what he did.

"I've had some that were less than a dollar," he said. "The first ones are nice, but that's when you say, ‘I better sock it away,' because when you start getting the 75-cent ones, they don't amount to much."

The checks totally surprised Rebecca Maltby, who landed a part in "Baywatch Hawaii" in 2000.

"The residuals are something you don't think about at first," she said. "You are just so happy to get a role. But a year later, all of a sudden you get a check."

Her son, 14-year-old Mickey Graue, worked on six episodes of ABC's "Lost" and has received several thousand dollars in residuals for the last five years. The money will go toward a college education, but it's been a lifesaver, too.

"There were times in the past few years where I was in dire straits financially and he would get a residual check that would help pay the first month's rent," said Maltby, who works from home as a proofreader.

Maltby knows those juicy royalties won't last forever. She need look no further than her own mother, who appeared on the original "Hawaii Five-0." Joyce Maltby still has a few of those checks, uncashed, including one she can't take seriously.

It's for a penny.

And that's a wrap …

Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser's film and television writer. Reach him at 529-4803 or at mgordon@staradvertiser.com.

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