'Hawaii Five-0' extra hopefuls get real-life training in proper police procedure
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jul 16, 2010
The cop held his handgun steady in front of him, aimed at a suicidal man with the barrel of a pistol pressed to his head.
"Tell her I love her, OK? Do that for me."
"You have to help me," the cop said. "Put the weapon down."
The cop asked again, louder this time. He sounded convincing, the voice of authority. Was that Steve McGarrett?
In a blink, the scene went from suicide to something else. Instead of taking his own life, the distraught man shot the cop.
"Oh. Oh, wow. I wasn't ready. I wasn't expecting that."
Lucky for the officer -- aspiring actor Edison Erorita -- and the famous detective's reputation, this was an acting class. Local stuntman and actor Joji Yoshida had gathered a handful of actors, all of them hoping to land parts on the CBS remake of "Hawaii Five-0," to give them a free primer on police procedure.
"I felt my heart racing like I was actually in that thing," Erorita said afterward. "Even though they are considered mock scenes, when you practice these scenes, it gives you a chance to feel what that person would actually feel."
Classes like this are common in Los Angeles, but only rarely offered in the Islands. When Yoshida's class met Saturday at Kahala Elementary School, his goal was to teach the students how to act like a real cop -- how to hold a gun, handcuff a suspect and handle a crisis should the audition suddenly take an unexpected turn.
"Sometimes you do get cast with the right look but if they ask you to say lines and you can't handle the lines, you'll get cut," Yoshida said. "This class will teach you authenticity. If the casting director says, 'Show us how to arrest someone,' with this class you know what to say, how to handcuff him and how to lift him off the ground."
Yoshida got his start in the business as a background actor in 1996 on the TV show "One West Waikiki." The following year he played a background detective in the pilot for an earlier remake of "Five-0" that never aired. That same year, Yoshida started doing stunts and worked on the 1998 movie, "Godzilla." He's been in the movie "Blue Crush" and TV series "Baywatch," "ER" and "Hawaii," the last cop show to film in the Islands.
Yoshida's experience -- as a cop, a soldier and a bad guy -- was marked by bumps and bruises: He's been stabbed, beaten with a bat and thrown to the ground. Like a lot of local actors, he's hoping that the revival of "Five-0" will create opportunities.
"I don't mind getting typecast because it's work and I'll take it," said Yoshida, who's also a personal trainer.
Today's cop dramas are filled with a kind of realism the original "Five-0" never approached and TV audiences have grown to expect even the smallest of parts to ring true.
"You can't be fumbling with your firearm," Yoshida said. "I watch 'Hawaii Five-0' reruns. Sometimes they are fumbling around with the weapon. Sometimes they have to look for the (holster)."
The lead instructor for the course was Kalono Kaumakapili, a former Honolulu police officer who spent 12 years on the force. He wore a holster with a red, plastic handgun, black boots and a snug-fitting olive-drab jumpsuit with "POLICE" emblazoned on the back.
Drawing a bead on reality isn't as easy as it looks on TV. It takes practice to pretend, he said.
"They're gonna know that you are not experts, but if you look like one, that's more points for you," he said. "You don't want the old 'Hawaii Five-0' stigma, where you're the cop standing stiff by the side of his car. You want to look like a policeman."
The first lesson was learning how to hold a gun. Four students grabbed plastic handguns and took aim at the far wall of the cafeteria, fingers on the trigger, which turned out to be the wrong posture.
"Always have your finger outside the trigger guard, Kaumakapili said.
Realism came with a dose of common sense when Kaumakapili had his actors lie on their back and take aim.
"Open your legs so you don't shoot yourself in the feet if the director says, 'Shoot,'" he said.
The same principle applies to a variety of actions that Hollywood passes off as real, such as shoving a gun into the front of your pants or holding it sideways, gangster style, and blasting away without taking aim. That move is called "spray and pray."
Their next lesson was how to arrest a suspect. Again, attention to detail is the key to landing a part, especially when it comes to using handcuffs.
"I strongly urge you to get handcuffs and practice," Kaumakapili said. "Being able to use them looks good on your resume."
Of course, if you sound good, you look good.
"If you guys are on the set, you have to sound real," Kaumakapili said. "If you can stop traffic with your voice, great."
Kaumakapili got help from Ernie Torres, a Navy petty officer who wants to become an actor.
He spent six years in military security, and when he showed the students how to move, it was with the smooth grace of practiced professional.
"The key to looking right is to move with a purpose," he said. "The difference between a movie and reality is the director telling you what to do."
Torres has had speaking parts in a few independent films and is eager for more.
"It's something I enjoy. ... projecting an idea of someone else's creation," he said. "I really enjoy taking on a character and becoming someone else."
Because he's a stuntman at heart, Yoshida finished the class with a bonus lesson: How to get punched, kicked and shot without actually getting punched, kicked or shot. The key is a camera angle that masks the true space between a swinging fist and your nose, as well as the way your head snaps to an imaginary blow.
Or a bone-shattering gunshot.
"You don't want to overact but you want to move your limbs so you don't look stiff when a bullet goes into your body," Yoshida said. "I'm thinking most people haven't been shot or stabbed."
George Russell, who works in the production side of the film and TV industry in Hawaii, felt the class would help him find a place in front of the "Five-0" cameras. But he stressed a larger message: Classes like this are important because they make the local acting community more attractive to producers, he said.
"You can tell we're hungry for it," Russell said. "If you know what you're doing, you increase the value of the show. Every little thing brings the authenticity level up."