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‘Soul Surfer’ lets locals play more than bit parts

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There are a lot of local actors in the background of the new film "Soul Surfer," but there are two who really make a splash: Sonya Balmores Chung and Cody Gomes.

Chung, 24, plays the rival of the film’s main character, Bethany Hamilton, the Kauai surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack and went on to become a champion anyway. Her role as surfer Malina Birch is fictional and blends all the hard-charging competitors on the surf contest circuit. She’s the mean girl.

Gomes, 22, plays Keoki, a fictional soft-spoken skateboarding friend of Hamilton whose part hints at a relationship that doesn’t exist.

Both view their roles as great exposure.

Chung, a Miss Hawaii Teen USA winner in 2004, previously starred in the TV series "Beyond the Break," which was shot in Makaha. "I was the sweet, naive, nice local girl, ‘Let’s all get along, aloha spirit,’" she said by telephone from her home in Kala heo, Kauai. "This was way more exciting. To try something different and show that side of myself to audiences was fun."

Chung, who also models, happens to be a personal friend of the Hamilton family and competed against Bethany in surf contests when she was 15. She attended a recent screening on Kauai hosted by the Hamiltons.

"I cried so much," Chung said. "I was so impressed at how they put it together. I’m really, really happy with how it turned out."

Gomes was initially in the hunt for a small part with a single line but was asked to take on a larger role when he arrived at the audition. It was a blessing, Gomes said, because his time on the "Soul Surfer" set gave this one-time high school wrestler the confidence to win a guest role on an episode of "Hawaii Five-0."

In fact, the Kahaluu native recently moved to Los Angeles, quitting his job at Gomes School Bus to pursue acting full time. He took a bit of Hamilton inspiration with him.

"The overall message I think Bethany has is to be yourself and go after your dreams," he said. "We all have our downfalls, but it’s how you pick yourself up from that downfall that truly makes a statement on who you are."

THE CREATORS of "Hawaii Five-0" are making good on a promise made to local actors in February and have scheduled a free afternoon workshop for today. But it’s by invitation only, so if you haven’t heard about it, you’re not invited — this time.

Series star Daniel Dae Kim, who plays Chin Ho Kelly on the show and has made Hawaii his home, said the "Five-0" casting director worked with local acting coaches, managers and theaters to come up with the first list of 24 people. All of them have not previously appeared on the show.

"It’s important to emphasize that if a student isn’t able to participate this time around that we plan on having other workshops in the future," Kim said in an email. "We’re only limiting the ‘class’ size in order to give each participant individual, personalized attention."

Kim has been a key player in creating the workshops, which will start with a four-hour class with acting coach Scott Rogers.

"There’s definitely a strong enough base here to build on," Kim said of Hawaii’s acting community. "What’s lacking is actors’ ability to work on their craft on a regular basis. Just like in sports, the way to get better is to practice."

AND that’s a wrap.

Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser’s film and television writer. Reach him at 529-4803 or at


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