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Five-0 Redux

Be the background

Close your eyes for a minute and envision the opening shots of one of your favorite “Hawaii Five-0” episodes. Got it? Okay, for the purpose of this exercise, let’s use the Spectacucon episode “Na Me‘e Lāua Na Paio” as an example. See in your mind’s eye beach shots of sun, surf, fancy hotels, and then a familiar close up of a hotel pool where a little boy and his mommy are playing “look Ma, no hands,” which unfortunately ends in deathly disaster. Remember the scene? Good. Did you notice anything else? Yes, there’s no McG and his gorgeous aneurism face to distract us, nor is Kono hanging out in a bikini, but think about what is in the background.

Yes, people. Other people in the scene walking past Mommy reading her celebrity gossip rag, girls laying out on beach chairs, other kids in the pool, a beach ball being bounced around, a lifeguard in red shorts.

Bet you didn’t remember all those folks in the scene did you? But they are important, as important as little Dylan and his Mommy, as important as the tights-wearing Captain Fallout who fell onto Mommy’s cozy gossip-loving cabana. They’re called Extras—or Background—in the television and movie industry, and while they seem insignificant to the movement of the plot or the development of the major characters, they are as important as Kamehameha’s statue and Diamond Head is to establishing the setting of “Hawaii Five-0.”

I mean, can you imagine a beach with no bikini clad women or hot-dogging surfers? Or a hotel pool sans people holding umbrella drinks? Not very realistic. Extras help to create a look, and while you may not remember them specifically—unless you know a few who have been lucky enough to be in certain scenes—you don’t pay any attention to them when they fuzzily wander through on our television sets.

If you don’t notice the people in the scenes, then they are doing exactly what the director needs them to do. Be nondescript, be innocuous, BE the Background.

I worked with Extras in the mid-90’s on the pilot for the series “Amazing Grace,” with Patty Duke, Dan Lauria and Joe Spano, and on major motion pictures, like Disclosure and Georgia, that were being filmed in the Pacific Northwest. Don’t even bother to look in IMDB, I was never mentioned because they normally don’t list “Peon to the Peon” in the credits. When I worked with Extras Casting, I did everything from working a “Cattle Call” to casting extras, to working on set as a PA (production assistant) getting Extras vouchered, costumed, fed, and on set when called for by the First AD (assistant director). Believe me, there are many Assistant Directors in television. There’s a Second AD, and sometimes there’s a Second Second AD. I’m not kidding, when I tell you half the battle of being on a movie set is learning the jargon.

I will tell you that it was a great time in my life and I learned a lot about working with people. Yes, I know that sounded like a complete cliché, but when you have to cold call people to convince them that yes, working a 12-hour day for minimum wage and then only getting to see the top of their own head in the shot when it finally airs, is a really fun time, and then sitting with them for all those hours while they wait to get on set for 10 minutes, you really DO learn how to work with people. And you learn quickly.

So in the next few Five-0 Redux blogs I’ll be talking to a few Extras who have experienced the “Hawaii Five-0” set and who have been featured in specific shots because of their own special talents. I’ll fill you in on all the fun and not-so much fun aspects of being on a real television set. Sometimes it’s more about waiting than working, and a lot of hurry-up! Now—WAIT. And wait some more.

Okay, I don’t want to scare you into not signing up to be an Extra, because it is a fun time. You do get to see the stars and they are really nice to everyone. Well, they were in my experience, and I haven’t heard different about the Five-0 crew. And watching a set come to life with all the cameras and lights and scenes being shot with military precision is something not many of us get to experience. So hang on for more insider info from a few Season One extras who have experienced being on the Five-0 team—at least for a day or two. Not many of us have been invited into the inner fold, and we’ll get to experience “Hawaii Five-0” at least vicariously through a few lucky locals.


Wendie Burbridge is a published writer, playwright and a teacher of literature and fiction writing at Kamehameha Schools-Kapālama. Reach her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Five0Redux and Twitter @WendieJoy.

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  • Being an extra is NOT an exciting job, but it can be fun for the time you are there.  Yes, it can be a v-e-r-y long day sometimes, so think about that before you commit.  I once worked background on LOST and to the horror of the background PA, we ALL wanted to leave at 2:30pm because we were hot and tired.  The poor guy was literally pleading with us to stay till 06:00pm.  The food is something to look forward to however…if that helps.

  • Hi Wendie – well I have first hand experience working on a short-film movie set for a friend who’s an actress and writer and I was called in as a favor and let me tell you there is a lot of waiting around but what you don’t know about filming is absolutely fascinating.  So I think its a great idea to talk to some of the extras that worked on this fabulous show and to read about what they experienced during their time on the set and if they had a chance to meet any of the cast or say hello or see something that we otherwise would never experience otherwise.  So bring it on!! lol!!  Look forward to staying tuned. 

  • Wendie,
    Great first post of the summer season regarding the extra process. Your links to other articles was also appreciated. Also liked the photos that added to your comments.
    I know how to subscribe to each new thread. However is there a way to subscribe to all of your posts when they first appear. I just happened to see if there was anything new on your blog, and found this one. Thank you.
    Paul

    • I’m not sure about the subscription part- but if you follow my main page- you can bookmark that and see what’s new: http://www.honolulupulse.com/category/blogs/five-0-redux
      I will be posting every Tuesday morning, either about the Repeat or something for my summer series:) Thanks for reading and commenting! Aloha, WJ

  • I had the great pleasue of being an extra in the first season as part of Kamekonas family in the episode “Kai’e’e”, the Tsinami episode.  Never done anything like it before, VERY fun, especially having my own half a second shot all to myself being anrgy that Grace won the card game lol.

  • Being an extra is fun. My 68 year-old sweetie played a fisherman down at Pier 37 in a recent episode. He’s a for real former commercial fisherman.  His prop was supposed to be a cooler but he asked if he could be coiling longline instead like he did on the job, and that’s what he’s doing as he walks the dock behind our stars.  We could spot him in his camos.

  • Being an extra is fun. My 68 year-old sweetie played a fisherman down at Pier 37 in a recent episode. He’s a for real former commercial fisherman.  His prop was supposed to be a cooler but he asked if he could be coiling longline instead like he did on the job, and that’s what he’s doing as he walks the dock behind our stars.  We could spot him in his camos.

  • Being an extra is fun. My 68 year-old sweetie played a fisherman down at Pier 37 in a recent episode. He’s a for real former commercial fisherman.  His prop was supposed to be a cooler but he asked if he could be coiling longline instead like he did on the job, and that’s what he’s doing as he walks the dock behind our stars.  We could spot him in his camos.

  • Being an extra is fun. My 68 year-old sweetie played a fisherman down at Pier 37 in a recent episode. He’s a for real former commercial fisherman.  His prop was supposed to be a cooler but he asked if he could be coiling longline instead like he did on the job, and that’s what he’s doing as he walks the dock behind our stars.  We could spot him in his camos.

  • When Scott Caan was hired to play Det Danny Williams, he muttered he didn’t forsee staying on the show long. He has other projects he wants to pursue. After the 1st seasons finale, he echoed similar feelings. His ex-wife and daughter left for the mainland at the seasons finale. Maybe Danno will follow too and the end of Danno. Create a new character. Hire Colt Brennan, the Heisman trophy runner-up as “Colt” Williams? He’s a celebrity in the sports world. He holds numerous NCAA records for passing. .He loves Hawaii and won’t defect. He’s handsome, effervescent good looks, are you listening Peter Lenkov? It’s a homerun win win situation. .

    • Nope that would never happen!!  Scott knows and understands how important his character of Danno is and he never actually said he would leave – he just thought it would be fun to film H50 in New Jersey if he were expected to follow Rachel but I’m sure he was referring to another easier kinder time.  The character Danno would never abandon Steve in his hour of need and Scott would never dream of leaving the show. Scott may have other interests to pursue and he’s doing that right now but he will most definitely come back to work on Hawaii Five-0 for season 2 and hopefully for further seasons ahead since he know great opportunities of working on such a great show like H50 are not readily available.

    • Nope that would never happen!!  Scott knows and understands how important his character of Danno is and he never actually said he would leave – he just thought it would be fun to film H50 in New Jersey if he were expected to follow Rachel but I’m sure he was referring to another easier kinder time.  The character Danno would never abandon Steve in his hour of need and Scott would never dream of leaving the show. Scott may have other interests to pursue and he’s doing that right now but he will most definitely come back to work on Hawaii Five-0 for season 2 and hopefully for further seasons ahead since he know great opportunities of working on such a great show like H50 are not readily available.

    • Nope that would never happen!!  Scott knows and understands how important his character of Danno is and he never actually said he would leave – he just thought it would be fun to film H50 in New Jersey if he were expected to follow Rachel but I’m sure he was referring to another easier kinder time.  The character Danno would never abandon Steve in his hour of need and Scott would never dream of leaving the show. Scott may have other interests to pursue and he’s doing that right now but he will most definitely come back to work on Hawaii Five-0 for season 2 and hopefully for further seasons ahead since he know great opportunities of working on such a great show like H50 are not readily available.

  • My friend was an extra and asked Grace Park for an autograph. His past experience was that actors and actresses on sets were very nice and obliging and had no problem giving autographs. She basically turned her back on him and walked away. Not very nice in real life at all he said.The next time he was an extra, five-o had a form all extras must sign saying that they were not allowed to ask the actors or actresses for autographs. Just thought I’d share this since it kind of made me change my feeling about Grace Park.

    • What you don’t realize is Ms. Park is working. This is her job. Being asked by extras for autographs, photos, what have you, can be very distracting when an actor is concentrating on their character. I’m surprised your friend was an extra a second time! That almost never happens. You’re friend is very lucky. Had I been the actor, I would’ve had your friend removed from the set and placed on a “do not call” list, never to work on the show again.

    • Anybody who works on a show as an extra should already know that asking for pictures and photographs of the stars is a huge no-no.  You are not allowed to engage them in conversation either…that’s just the way this biz works.  If any one does not like that, they have no business being an extra!  Now, some of these Hollywood actors notoriously refuse to give you the time of day when they are off the set.  That is a different story.  That is fair game to conclude that they are rude.

  • Great blog Wendie – Well, its really hard to imagine not seeing the silver camaro whizzing racing to another crime scene with the siren blaring on a busy down down area with all the excitement of large crowds I’d imagine it must be relatively quiet with normal everyday living for all Hawaiians!!  

    How does one forget the beauty of the island, guess even though our favorite heroes are not around, everything that’s so beautiful about the island remains the same.  As for background work…if I could have a choice – would love to play McGarrett’s jailer…..I’d happily give him a key to the lock on the cell door – which is probably not part of the script but I just don’t think I can stand a minute more of seeing this awful image in my mind of seeing Navy Seal Lt. Commander Steve McGarett locked up in a world he doesn’t belong in. 

    As for the beautiful people that make up for all the grace and glamor of the island, sadly they are never part of the story for us since we are so focussed on what’s happening in the scene to notice what’s going on behind the scenes – hardly seems fair but after watching the episodes repeatedly – its hard to ignore the charm and elegance of beautiful ladies wearing itsy bitsy bikinis and cute guys who are superbly tanned wearing board shorts and riding the waves or just enjoying a spectator’s view of what the film crew is doing on the set!!! 

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