Call it a close-up without the camera or an audition without a speaking part at stake, but the recent panel discussion from the casting gatekeepers of "Hawaii Five-0" definitely gave aspiring local actors an inside track on how to land a part on the successful TV series.
They packed the 300-seat Tenney Theatre to capacity for the first of a series of similar events promised by the "Five-0" team. The show’s current visionary, executive producer Peter Lenkov, has wanted to create events like it ever since he arrived in Hawaii to shoot the pilot a year ago.
Lenkov told the actors he wanted to nurture their talent and felt he could tap into the steady pool of guest actors and directors who would be coming to Hawaii for "Five-0."
"Why not get these people to contribute back to the community and get the local talent camera-ready for our show?" he said.
So far, the CBS series has cast 120 Hawaii actors through its first 20 episodes. But there’s a downside to that, Lenkov said. "We feel that at some point we will run out of local talent," he said. "And that’s one of the reasons for this panel."
Lenkov and "Five-0" regular Daniel Dae Kim (Chin Ho Kelly) organized the event that brought together actors Alex O’Loughlin (Steve McGarrett) and Grace Park (Kono Kalakaua), co-executive producer and director Brad Turner, guest director Duane Clark and Rachel Sutton, the show’s casting agent.
"I think there is a ton of guest-starring roles for local people," Sutton said. "There are heaps and heaps and heaps of local roles."
The invitation-only audience arrived nearly two hours ahead of time and came prepared with professional photos of themselves for the casting agent. The group was as diverse as a carnival crowd: beautiful young men and women, silver-haired seniors and an array of everyday humanity — tall, short, round, hairy.
J. Philip Koontz of Ewa Beach sat near the front, eager for advice. Unlike most of the audience, he had already had a small part on "Five-0." He’d also had a recurring role on ABC’s "Lost," which shot in Hawaii for six seasons.
"I just want some more insight," he said. "This is my career."
Hawaii’s actors are ready for the demands of working on "Five-0," Koontz said.
"I think there’s a misconception that the level of talent compared to Los Angeles is not good here, and that’s not true," he said.
Throughout the nearly four-hour event, the panel’s loudest message was that actors need training. Actor Joe Wilson felt the same way.
"I think the actors who train regularly and work on their craft are way more prepared," he said.
Patience was another drumbeat from the "Five-0" panel — and Wilson knows a bit about that. He’s auditioned three times for "Five-0" without landing a part, despite regular work with an acting coach and experience on "Lost" as well as three feature films shot in Hawaii last year: "Soul Surfer," "The Descendants" and "Battleship."
"We have a core group of actors here who are exceptional, and we’re all waiting for our shot," said Wilson, a Hawaii Kai resident who also sells yachts.
Everyone there saw it as an opportunity. The chance to informally question a director or casting agent is invaluable for actors, said Scott Robertson, a former child actor who once appeared in an episode of "The Brady Bunch." Now an associate professor of computer science at the University of Hawaii, Robertson is trying to get back on television and has auditioned for "Five-0" four times.
"It’s really hard to see what is going on, on the other side of the audition," he said. "You always see it from your side, not theirs. It’s important to know what they think."
O’Loughlin offered an array of tips as he waxed poetic about his days as a young actor, which included background work on the Tom Cruise movie "Mission: Impossible II."
Everything you do is an experience you can draw upon for a role, he said. Never mind that the project you’re in isn’t good; shine as bright as you can. And find the truth.
"We are either in the truth or we’re not," O’Loughlin said. "The truth is difficult to get to. This conversation we are having is the truth. We get to this place and the cameras are rolling, we’re great."
The Australian actor underscored the sincerity of the show’s effort to encourage local actors with a slight departure from the panel’s mantra of preparation. He wanted the local actors to know why he wants to inspire them: He feels welcome in Hawaii.
"We all come together whatever color our skin is," O’Loughlin said. "I don’t want to feel that because I am a haole that I am less kamaaina than everybody else here. I am buying a house here. I am going to be raising a family. This is my home. My heart’s here now."
He stared hard at the sea of faces as if the camera was rolling in an audition.
"This is us trying to unify Hawaii and make everybody a part of our show," he said. "And we need your help as much as you need ours."
AND that’s a wrap.
Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser’s film and television writer. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.