Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Sunday, July 14, 2024 85° Today's Paper

Five-0 Redux

Yang more than a ‘Geek God’

<em>The Tweetup group with actor Brian Yang. (Courtesy Benny Fontillas)</em>
The Tweetup group with actor Brian Yang. (Courtesy Benny Fontillas)

Actor and producer Brian Yang, a recurring “Hawaii Five-0” cast member, was gracious enough to take a few hours out of his busy shooting schedule to join fans for pictures and fried saimin at Big City Diner Pearlridge on Aug. 6. Yang was in Hawai‘i to shoot scenes for the hit show and joined up with bloggers Amy Bakari of “TeamH50” and Lisa Woo of “H50hana” to meet fans and to watch a repeat of “Ka Hakakā Maika‘i.”

If Yang walked past you on Kalakaua Avenue, you’d probably say hello and admire his obvious good looks and genuine smile, but you may not recognize him as forensic scientist Dr. Charles Fong. Not that Yang is forgettable in any way, but his character gets more mention by the Five-0 team than actual screen time on the show. For the 25 fans who attended the “Fong-sanity” tweet up, it doesn’t matter when they get to see Yang on screen — they love him all the same.

Yang joined “Five-0” toward the end of the first season in “Ho‘ohuli Na‘au,” and in season two his role expanded into eight of the 23 episodes. His role became larger in the sense that he is now a part of the team — they visit him in his lab, they talk to him on the phone, they mention him in their conversations — yet they don’t always spend a lot of time hanging out with “The Fonger.”

Many fans will also remember Yang as one of the first cast members to join us at a “Hawaii Five-0” fan event, when he attended a pre-“Sunset on the Beach” brunch last September on the day of the season two premiere. During last week’s Tweetup, he again was gracious with his time, taking pictures, signing autographs, and basically just hanging out with Tweetup regulars.

Yang said he likes Tweetups because “it strips down the Hollywood layers — especially in Hawai’i — you can really connect like regular people.”

While Yang may act like a “regular,” he is closer to very special since he seems to shed many of his layers with his fans.

<em>Yang with cupcakes created by Lisa Woo and Keith Sato. (Courtesy Benny Fontillas)</em>
Yang with cupcakes created by Lisa Woo and Keith Sato. (Courtesy Benny Fontillas)

Between bites of Big City Diner noodles and nachos, and dessert provided by Ninja/Hopper Cakes — colorful cupcakes that spelled out FONG-SANITY — Yang took some time out of the night to give me some news on a few of his upcoming projects. I asked him about the movie he was working on last September with his film production company, “408 Films,” then titled “Nightdreamblues.”

According to Yang, the film is in post-production and is now called “Someone I Used to Know.” The film stars Yang (who was also a producer on the film), West Liang, and Eddie Mui, who play three childhood friends who reunite for an impromptu birthday celebration, and during the course of the film “examine their strained relationship and realize that their lives turned out to be nothing like they had imagined.”

He has also been hard at work on a documentary about NBA phenom Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks with 408 Films. They started shooting the documentary during the summer of 2011, long before “Linsanity” exploded in America. It was great to hear Yang’s passion for the film, as he obviously wants to tell the story of a young man who is doing what he loves in a field that is not known for famous Chinese-Americans.

<em>A still image from "Someone I Used To Know," starring West Liang, Eddie Mui and Brian Yang. (Courtesy Brian Yang)</em>
A still image from "Someone I Used To Know," starring West Liang, Eddie Mui and Brian Yang. (Courtesy Brian Yang)

The other project Yang is excited about is playing “Blue Hyena” in the RZA directed martial arts film, “The Man with the Iron Fists.” RZA plays a blacksmith who creates weapons for a small 19th century village in China so they can protect themselves from assassins and warriors. RZA wrote the movie with Eli Roth, which also stars Russell Crowe, MMA fighter Cung Le, and Lucy Liu.

Yang shared that when he auditioned for “Hawaii Five-0,” his hair was just growing back from having to shave it for the film. His character has a showdown with Cung Le’s character, “Bronze Lion.” It will be really interesting to see, yet another departure from his “Charlie Fong” character — Yang fighting with a blue Mohawk. But just by looking at him, I’m sure Yang could definitely hold his own.

We had a great chat, about his up-and-coming projects, as well as about playing Charlie Fong. I told him that I had just recently put two and two together, while watching a classic episode of “Hawaii Five-0,” that his character is a reboot of the character of “Che Fong.” I guess better late to the party than being a no-show.

Che Fong was also a “forensic specialist” on the classic show, but Yang said in his “backstory” he is Dr. Charles Fong and has a master’s degree in forensics. Which is right up Yang’s alley as he studied biology — as well as drama — at the University of California, Berkeley. He seems to work well within the idea that art imitates life. But for Yang, he is far more than the super-smart forensics guy he plays on TV. He’s passionate about acting and making films, he’s grateful for his fans, and he loves working in Hawaii and on “Hawaii Five-0.” He is thankful for everything that comes his way. Perhaps that is why we root for him, regardless of how much time he gets on screen.

Brian Yang is definitely more than the “Geek God” nickname Kono dubbed him with in “Lapa‘au.” He is a charming, extremely intelligent, as well as sincere and completely down-to-earth. When he says that having a Tweetup gets people to “really connect,” he is more than right — because for ‘Five-0’ fans, their connection with him is more than just with his character, but with a pretty terrific person.

Redux Side Note:

This week’s repeat was “Kūpale.” Next week’s “Hawaii Five-0” offering is “Lekiō,” with stellar guest star James Caan who plays private-eye Tony Archer. Dennis Miller also makes an explosive appearance in the first five minutes, and Hawaii entertainer the great Jimmy Borges makes a small cameo.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher who lives and works in Honolulu. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

15 responses to “Yang more than a ‘Geek God’”

  1. Amy Denton says:

    Thanks for the article. Jeremy Lin is now a Houston Rockets player. (I know this because I live near Houston)Does this mean that MAYBE Mr. Yang will grace those of us in Houston, with his presence? 😉
    One can only hope! *g*

  2. Terry says:

    Thanks for the insight into Brian. We don’t usually get the personal observations from interviewers and it’s so great to hear that he’s a down-to-earth guy who enjoys hanging out with his fans. I’ll be looking forward to more Fong on Hawaii Five-0!

    • Wendie Joy says:

      Thanks Terry:) Brian is really a genuine person- and really great with the fans- it was like sitting down with someone you’ve known for a long time, just eating and talking story. I hope to see more of him on Hawaii Five-0 as well:) Thanks for the comment:) ~Wendie

  3. Bert Hayling says:

    One thing that’s becoming more and more obvious as time goes by is that Hawaii Five-0 has, and continues to, draw exceptional people into the H50 Ohana, and Brian Yang fits right in. Decent, down-to-earth, welcoming and genuine — you couldn’t ask for a better combination of qualities. Thanks for sharing your talk, and experience, with us, Wendie! (And thankyou, too, Brian!) 🙂

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great post and I very much like Fong’s character on Five0. The photos and backstory again add to the understanding of the show and lets us get to know the actors as persons.

    • Wendie Joy says:

      Thanks for reading Paul:) I’m glad you got to experience Brian, even if it’s via pictures and words. He is a terrific person and actor and obviously loves his craft and filmmaking:) Mahalo for the comment:) Aloha, Wendie

  5. JessicaB says:

    Another great article. Thank you very much, Wendy and also to Brian who took the time to meet up with everyone. I like his character on H50 very much and am happy to learn more about him. He seems to be a genuine, down-to-earth guy. I like that. Happy everyone had a wonderful time at the tweet-up.

    Keep up your great work, I always look forward to read your reports. I might -to my shame- be a bit lazy with Feedback, but I’ll try and do better. Wanted you to know though all your work and words are greatly appreciated.

  6. Diane says:

    Another great actor and person on H50. I hope we see more of his character.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Wendie, for this great write up about another beloved H5-0 character! Charlie Fong is a great addition to the 5-0 team, and Brian Yang plays this part exceptionally well – hope we will see more of him this new season! I’m excited to hear about his upcoming movie and documentary – they both sound interesting and I’ll watch for their releases. It’s so nice to hear he’s a regular guy who enjoys hanging out with real people, too. Have to say, Wendie, your interviews with the different actors on H5-0 this summer have really brought these actors to life for me – I appreciate their talents so much more now that I’ve seen (through you and your blog) what real people they are! Looking forward to a new season of H5-0 blogs here on the Pulse! (Hoping there will be some Red Carpet interviews this SOTB3 for us?)

    • Wendie Joy says:

      I hope there will be a lot more of these kinds of blogs, as I love meeting the actors who are on the show. Thanks for reading and commenting! Glad you are liking the posts that are not always episode focused. Aloha, Wendie

Leave a Reply