For such a young person, Jonah Ho‘okano has an impressive theatrical resume — as well as the good looks and charisma one would expect from someone much older and experienced.
Last week, we were graced with his good-natured disposition and poised professionalism in the “Hawaii Five-0” episode, “Ka Ho‘oponopono.” Ho‘okano played Jake, one of the two teens who discover the victim dead in her bedroom. He played alongside another Hawaii-based actress, Lea DiMarchi (Courtney), and both were exuberant, mischievous, and well, youthful, as they partied with friends on the beach and snuck into their unfortunate friend’s home. It was refreshing to see real teenagers playing teens on network television.
And as a real teen, Ho‘okano had a different kind of experience on the “Hawaii Five-0” set than other actors I interviewed in the past. Ho‘okano took some time out of his busy schedule before final exams at Kamehameha-Kapālama, where he is a senior and currently one of my haumana (students) in my Fiction Writing Workshop class, to talk to me about his “Five-0” adventures.
Ho‘okano was on set for two days. The first day was to shoot the discovery of the dead body and subsequent questioning by Danno and Kono the morning after; those scenes were filmed at a house in Manoa. The second day was used to shoot the party scene on Sand Island — where most Oahu teens would never go to party with a bonfire and a tiki torch-lit stage, complete with a cool band like Cradle 2 Grave.
Ho‘okano said Scott Caan was a bit of a troublemaker and played pranks on a few of the extras while cameras rolled. (I know, who would have guessed?) He thought Alex O’Loughlin was very cool and professional, although Ho‘okano was really surprised by his accent and how “thick” it was. Grace was a little shy, and the only off-camera interchange they had was when she admired his shoes.
Overall, he said his experience with the actors was positive as well as very interesting to see in person; he said he was treated really well and didn’t feel a lot of “pressure” while on set. It was amazing to listen to Ho‘okano talk about our Five-0 team as casually as if he had met them at Starbucks and stood next to them in line.
As a minor, he and DiMarchi had to have a chaperone at all times and were required to complete three hours of mandatory study time with a tutor during the day. He was given his own trailer where he could rest and study his lines, which were easy to memorize because they were similar to the script used during his auction for the part.
Ho‘okano is no stranger to memorizing lines or auditioning, as his acting resume is long and varied. At Kamehameha, he played the Baker in “Into the Woods,” Melchior in “Spring Awakening,” and is a member of the school’s Concert Glee Club. He also played Radames in “AIDA” and Roger in “RENT” at Mamiya Theatre with Kyle Kakuno, and the Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera,” Action in “West Side Story,” and was an ensemble player in “Miss Saigon” at Paliku Theatre with Ron Bright.
He also played Papa Ge in “Once on This Island” as well as Mr. Wonka in “Willy Wonka” with the Aiea Players. At Manoa Valley Theatre he played Steve in “Hair” and will play Melchior Gabor in their version of “Spring Awakening,” which opens March 8.
If you don’t know a lot about local theatre, many of these parts are usually played by older and more experienced individuals, and I’m sure Ho‘okano handled the roles with as much ease and professionalism — as well as with an amazing voice — as any seasoned actor.
After years of teaching theatre and speech, I can say I have had few students who possess the poise and personality to do well in the world of stage and television, and Jonah Ho‘okano has all that and more. His smile may be easy and bright, but his handsome charm and talent for delivering a line is sure and confident. He is someone we will all remember.
Playing a teen, singing a solo, dancing on the line, or playing whatever character is offered him, Ho‘okano can definitely do it all.
Redux Side Note:
This week’s “Hawaii Five-0” was a rebroadcast of the season two opener, “Ha‘i‘ole.”
Next Monday is a new episode, “Pū‘olo” or “The Package.” Get ready for a McG showdown with his former SEAL team leader, Joe White. I’m hoping for a special delivery of a package full of answers from our “Five-0” crew. And since executive producer Peter Lenkov and David Wolkove wrote the episode, I’m almost positive we’ll be in for a gift-wrapped treat.
Wendie Burbridge is a published writer, playwright and a teacher of literature and fiction writing at Kamehameha Schools-Kapālama. Reach her on Facebook and on Twitter.