The bad news for TV veteran Jean Smart was good news for Hawaii actors. When her character, Gov. Pat Jameson, was murdered in the finale of season one of "Hawaii Five-0," the door opened for the show’s creators to cast someone who knows mauka from makai.
It could happen. "Five-0" executive producer Peter Lenkov recently told a Zap2it.com blogger that he wanted to find an actor in Hawaii. He even indicated it would be a man.
The show, which resumes filming in the isles this month, will definitely have new faces in the next season, including Terry O’Quinn from ABC’s "Lost" and Tom Sizemore, the tough-guy actor from "Saving Private Ryan" and "Black Hawk Down." CBS hasn’t said who is on the short list or even if Lenkov will get his way, so we conducted a straw poll to find potential candidates.
Even though the risks of the on-screen office include assassination by arch villain Wo Fat, being governor in the Hawaii of "Five-0" is an attractive job.
"You bet it appeals to me," said Ned Van Zandt, a veteran actor who divides his time between Kailua and Los Angeles. Turns out he was already on the campaign trail. After reading the blog, Van Zandt told his agent to look into the part.
The actor has appeared in films and television since 1976 and his recent credits include "Lost," the locally made film "Princess Kaiulani," the Showtime series "Weeds" and the indie film "One Kine Day."
But he has a "Five-0" connection, too. Van Zandt appeared as U.S. Air Force Gen. Tom Nathanson in an episode last September.
"He was a character that could come back but he could also be the John McCain of the Pacific," Van Zandt said. "I think he would be a no-nonsense kind of guy who, with his military background, has more knowledge about how these special forces work."
Another actor with the distinguished look of a leader is comedian Andy Bumatai. He has television and film experience dating back to 1980, including a pair of recurring roles on series shot in the islands: As Danny "Pipeline" Kahala in UPN’s "Marker" and as Detective Gordon Pahu Jr. in the short-lived NBC series "Hawaii" in 2004. His Kahala character was even part of the CBS "Hawaii Five-0" pilot that was shot in 1997.
Still, Bumatai believes there are better local actors.
"It’s kind of off my radar unless they are looking for the gray-haired governor," Bumatai said. "They probably won’t consider anyone over 30. And at this point, my expectations, at 57, is if they call me, cool. TV is a young person’s sport."
That isn’t to say that a role on "Five-0" doesn’t appeal to Bumatai, who has a weekly stand-up comedy gig at Dragon Upstairs along with private performances.
"I wouldn’t mind any part in ‘Hawaii Five-0,’" he said. "But if I had to wave a magic wand and make up a part, I would be a ruthless killer who was funny."
The strongest candidate might be actor and entertainer Esmond Chung because he has on-the-job experience. No, he wasn’t a politician, but he played the lieutenant governor in the failed 1997 "Five-0" pilot.
In that pilot, one-time McGarrett sidekick Danny "Danno" Williams — played by the late James MacArthur — was the governor. When he gets shot in the opening scene, Chung fills in.
Chung didn’t know about the new role, but if called upon, he’ll serve.
"Actually, I am trying to get on to ‘Five-0’ as a recurring character," he said. "I’m sort of in between jobs right now."
Chung has a familiar face. His list of acting credits includes "Lost," "Princess Kaiulani," "50 First Dates" and older TV shows that were shot in Hawaii: "One West Waikiki," "Jake and the Fatman" and "Magnum, P.I."
He even worked as an extra on the first season of the new "Five-0."
"People will see my face and say, ‘Oh, I remember that guy,’" Chung said. "I have been an entertainer for years."
But could he lead the state of "Five-0," which is more of a minefield than the state Legislature? And how would he manage the headstrong Steve McGarrett, who was last seen under arrest for the murder of the governor?
"I don’t know what kind of relationship they want the governor to have with McGarrett," Chung said. "I envision this as someone who knew his father, who could be sort of a mentor."
The new season of "Hawaii Five-0" will debut Sept. 19 on KGMB after a special Hawaii premiere at Sunset on the Beach on Sept. 10.
Vote for governor of “Hawaii Five-0” in our online poll at honolulupulse.com