Devon Nekoba is a man many Hawaii residents probably recognize, but are unable to name. People know his voice and his face, but unless they listen to local radio station KUMU 94.7, they are won’t recognize his name. He’s played roles in multiple plays at Kumu Kahua Theatre, including Froggy Kumata in Ed Sakamoto’s “Our Hearts Were Touched with Fire,” and performed with ‘Ōhi‘a Productions, most notably as the Narrator in “Once Upon One Noddah Time.” We’ve also seen him in chocolate macadamia nut commercials and emceeing various local events. Nekoba is a former legislator, a long time radio jock, as well as a talented stage actor. His latest turn as TSA Agent Myers on “Hawaii Five-0” is just another addition to his acting and performance resume.
Nekoba’s quick scene in the March 19 episode, “Kālele,” as a TSA agent explaining the very serious charges against Mary Ann McGarrett to McG and Danno, was a treat for many locals who may have recognized Nekoba’s face and voice. I was thrilled to see my former Gonzaga University classmate and theatre cohort on “Five-0.” It’s been a few years since we ran around in Shakespeare’s forest in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and searched for The One Ring in “The Hobbit.”
My most vivid memory of Nekoba was one late night at the theatre when he rode his bike around the stage as we worked a particularly dramatic scene with two of his actors in preparation for his senior year directorial debut. He’s come a long way from playing Bilbo Baggins and Lysander to working with Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan. And when he shared his experience on the set with me, it was obvious to me that no one was more shocked about his good acting fortune than himself.
Nekoba, a native of Kailua, is mostly known for his radio work. He went to Kailua High School and studied public relations and theatre at Gonzaga before returning home and joining the state legislature as representative for the Maunawili-Kailua district. His experience on stage led him to ADR, his current agency where he is represented by Nazarene Anderson and Ryan Brown.
He said he went to six casting calls with the “awesome” Rachel Sutton and read for several parts before being offered TSA Myers. “Hawaii Five-0” was his first television role.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said, but he definitely felt the pressure to do well and represent Hawaii on set. He said the cast and crew were the “nicest people—top notch,” and he was amazed by the simple things — having his own trailer, his character name on the door, having his own chair (marked “Cast,” but he was seated right next to Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, so he wasn’t going to complain!), and a full craft service table for his three hours on set. He met all of the cast — even members he was not in scenes with, like Grace Park and Taryn Manning, as well as O’Loughlin and Caan.
Said Nekoba, “I had a hard time trying to balance myself — to be professional and to do well, all the while I’m thinking ‘Oh, my God, I’m on Hawaii Five-0!’”
Filming the two minute scene with O’Loughlin and Caan was interesting, he said. It was very fast, and no matter how long he had spent preparing his lines, envisioning what he would do, and how he would act, in his mind, it was completely nervewracking when Nekoba actually executed it in front of the cameras with McGarrett and Danno.
“I was practically running after Alex (in the scene) because he walks so fast,” he said. But after a few takes, Nekoba started to feel more comfortable — or at least that is what I saw when I watched him on television. He said O’Loughlin and Caan had a “nice rapport together” and that Caan’s dog, Dot, was “always with him.” He said there was little tension on the set, besides having to get the job done.
When I asked him what was the most interesting thing about his day, Nekoba told me about encountering Alex O’Loughlin for the first time. When he was about to head toward the set, he saw O’Loughlin waiting by a van and thought, “I’m going to ride with Alex?” When Devon got closer, O’Loughlin put out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Alex.”
“I kept my cool, and said ‘Hi, I’m Devon,’ but I was thinking ‘Um, DOH, of course you are Alex,” he said. It was that kind of open attitude that helped him stay cool most of the day. Once they were in the van, Alex asked him “Hey, do you want to run lines?” and so they spent the van ride to the airport, where the set was, preparing for their scene together.
While shooting his scene for “Kālele” was great, it got even better when two weeks later when Nekoba was called by his agent and told, “they want to use you again.” He’ll reprise his role in either “Pāmake Loa” or “Touch of Death,” the “Hawaii Five-0” portion of crossover episodes with “NCIS: LA,” airing April 30 and May 1.
“So I did my happy dance, because that means I didn’t suck!” Nekoba said.
He said Rachel Sutton had seen there was a need for a TSA agent in the crossover episode, and thought to just use Nekoba again instead of going through another casting call. So he shot one more scene with the ‘Five-0’ crew, this time with Daniel Dae Kim and “NCIS: LA” cast members LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell. Nekoba said it was interesting watching their acting style.
“LL was loose off camera and then he was tense and full of action on camera,” he said. And there was a lot of joking around between LL Cool J and O’Donnell, which also helped disperse the added tension of trying to impress yet another set of high profile actors.
“I just wanted to do well, so that (“Hawaii Five-0”) will keep casting local actors,” Nekoba said.
All the while we were talking, Nekoba kept downplaying his resume and his experience. I found it funny that when he talked about trying to keep it cool and not go overboard when meeting some pretty famous people, as if he wasn’t a well known local personality himself. But I’m sure a lot of us said, “Eh, I know that guy!” when he showed up on “Hawaii Five-0.”
Perhaps now the name Devon Nekoba will be one more people recognize, and not only here in Hawaii. Now when people see him, and he says, “Hi, I’m Devon,” we’ll be the ones saying, “DOH, of course you are.”
Sorry to tell you Dev, but you are no longer anonymous.
Redux Side Note:
If you were listening to Nekoba this morning on KUMU, he spoke on air to Taylor Wily about his “Wrap’um Party of the Year” at Aloha Tower Marketplace this weekend. If you haven’t gotten your tickets for this Saturday, April 21, don’t wait! It will be a super night, with Fiji and Cradle 2 Grave performing, and a red carpet photo op just for the fans. Come and hang out with Kamekona and whoever else arrives for the party. For more information and to get your tickets check out Wily’s website.
Be sure to check out Devon this summer in ‘Ōhi‘a Productions “Happily Evah Aftah” at the University of Hawaii in July. And of course catch him on the radio middays on 94.7 KUMU, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., as well as Saturdays from 6 to 10 p.m.
I hope you all caught this week’s episode, the replay of the Halloween episode “Ka Iwi Kapu,” and don’t forget the rebroadcast of “Lapa‘au” on April 23. And definitely don’t miss the much anticipated crossover plotline between “Hawaii Five-0” and “NCIS: LA” on Monday, April 30 and Tuesday, May 1.
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.