Ever since the first scene in July, when the stars of "Hawaii Five-0" raced into the spotlight with tire-squealing action, the pace of production has been brutal.
The first season of any show, even one with a pedigree like CBS Television’s "Five-0," challenges everyone involved to learn their parts, their places and the personalities they are bringing to life. There’s a lot to do and barely enough time to do it — every episode, five to six days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day.
"Television is very exhausting," said Alex O’Loughlin, who stars as the show’s dynamic leader, Steve McGarrett. "You kind of forfeit your life to work in TV."
But now the show is halfway through the season, which will include a pair of bonus episodes next spring, bringing the season total to 24. The principal cast members — O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park — have found their marks and decided what they like about the network’s biggest hit of the season.
They’re passionate about the show but they’re tired. Up close, during time off so they could meet with a group international press gathered recently in Waikiki, they seem beat.
"With this show the work just keeps coming," said the 34-year-old O’Loughlin. "It just doesn’t stop, and so you kind of do it and it’s gone and you’re on to the next thing. But it never goes away."
The Australian actor, whose accent vanishes in front of the cameras, has said before that he values character development. At a recent dinner meeting with an executive producer, he got a sense of the story arc coming in the second half of the season.
"I was very excited walking out of that," he said. "There’s a lot of great stuff coming up for me."
Even so, his McGarrett already stands apart from the version originated by Jack Lord. He is physical, from the roundhouse kick he gave to Patrick Gallagher — Coach Tanaka from "Glee" — to the roll in the sheets with Michelle Borth, whom HBO subscribers will remember for her explicit sex scenes in "Tell Me You Love Me."
"I think it’s becoming more and more fun for me to play," he said. "In the beginning you find your feet, you find your balance — how am I going to do this? But now it’s at a place where I am pretty clear on Steve and how he moves and what his pure objectives are."
O’Loughlin says he’s searching for McGarrett’s humanity.
"It’s been challenging," he said. "More challenging than most of the characters I have played."
TWO THINGS that Daniel Dae Kim has discovered he likes about his character, Chin Ho Kelly: Honor counts for a lot, and fans know the actor actually speaks English.
When he was in ABC’s "Lost," his character, Jin, mostly spoke Korean.
"There was a perception I couldn’t speak English very well," Kim said. "I actually take it as a compliment because it means that people believed my character 100 percent."
His role as Chin has allowed Kim to share what he has learned about Hawaii, which he made his full-time home after starring on "Lost."
"He has what is commonly called the aloha spirit," Kim said of Chin. "I think he really loves this island, and I think he loves the people here and I think there is a warmth about him when he is around people he trusts that I don’t think any of the other characters have."
Off camera, the 42-year-old Kim is sharing that warmth with local actors who have appeared in minor roles or as extras.
"We have provided a lot of jobs here in Hawaii, and the fact that aspiring local actors are getting a chance on one of the biggest platforms there is is almost an irreplaceable opportunity," he said. "I’m happy to be a part of being able to provide that."
GRACE PARK is feeling lonely in the crowd of hunks on "Five-0." The crime fighters need more gender equity — and she’s asked the show’s creators to cast another woman as a regular.
"There’s a different dynamic with two women versus a girl and a guy," she said. "I wouldn’t have to be the only girl … the girl that always has to be hot. I don’t want to always be the one in a bikini. Let me be the normal one. Let me be Mary Ann; let someone else be Ginger."
Park’s version of Kono, a young police academy graduate, "is the girl next door" who goes undercover.
"It’s not like she’s always in a slinky dress," says the 36-year-old Park.
But it’s logical for her character to grow: Kono is young and has a lot to learn about life. Park wants Kono to have her values challenged, to struggle with decisions.
"I would also like her to experience who she is as a person and what makes her her by being in these situations," Park said. "Right now I don’t see too much of that."
FOR SCOTT CAAN, the role of Danny "Danno" Williams has consumed a lot of the time he might normally have spent writing screenplays or developing his own films. He’s enjoying it but says "there is no chance" he would stay with the show for same length of time — 12 years — that the original "Five-0" was on the air.
"It’s a lot more work than I thought it was going to be," he said. "It surprised me. Honestly, I think this is the kind of thing that when you are done you get to look back on how great it was, because when you are in the first season of a show, what I am learning is that everyone is scrambling to learn what they have to do."
At first the 34-year-old Caan wrote notes all over his scripts and often called the show’s writers to talk about what they created.
"I started to imagine the anxiety they had as my name popped up on their phone," he said. "Then I would look over at Alex and say, ‘What are you doing?’ And he’s calling them."
Now Caan doesn’t have the energy for it.
The show’s Nielsen ratings, which have been steady at about 10 million viewers, don’t concern him, either, and he barely pays attention to them.
"If it’s not good, I want it to be gone," he said. "If the show is good, I want it to have 50 million viewers, and if it’s bad, I want them to cancel it."
A devoted surfer with 45 boards, Caan says his comfort level with pronouncing Hawaiian words comes from hanging out at his favorite break.
"Everybody mocks Hawaii in the world," he said. "They all imitate Hawaii. There is a form of pidgin in every surf town in the world. There’s people at my local surf spot that talk like Hawaiians, so I already had a pretty good idea of pidgin. But the good news is, I don’t ever have to pronounce anything right because I’m from New Jersey."
AND that’s a wrap.
Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser’s film and television writer. His "Outtakes" column appears Sundays. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.