BY WENDIE BURBRIDGE / Special to the Star-Advertiser
It’s always such a pleasure to meet Hawaii actors who have had guest spots on “Hawaii Five-0.”
I suppose it’s a cliché to say they are all such great people and so charming, and well, just full of aloha. But it’s really the truth. Even if I only get to talk to them on the phone or exchange emails, I still feel so lucky that they are willing to share their story with me and to let me into their lives.
So I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise to find when I met Z Zoccolante, that she is completely a lovely ray of sunshine. If you don’t remember her name from “Hāʻawe Make Loa,” I’m sure you would have never thought that I would have said that about the actress who played what I called “a stabby stalker.”
Zoccolante was born and raised in Hawaii and graduated from Punahou School, where she was a self-described athlete; fellow basketball players called her “Z,” a nickname that Zoccolante fully embraced. After high school she attended Loyola Marymount University and majored in screenwriting, because at the time she didn’t have her sights on acting — she wanted to write and work in film.
Zoccolante published her first novel in 2004 (“I Invite You to Look Deeper”) and most recently finished editing her own memoir, tentatively titled, “The Twisting War: one woman’s journey from an eating disorder to freedom.” When we talked, she was very candid about her struggles with anorexia and bulimia; she also shared a lot about a short film she wrote and directed, called “Contain the Cry.” In the film, she plays Alexis, the best friend to her heroine in the film and the character who basically tells Zoccolante’s story.
“(I want the film) to be accessible to teens and girls — and their families — who struggle with what I went through,” said Zoccolante. She likened eating disorders to a secret, and the motto of the film is “sharing that secret is the first step to recovery.”
Zoccolante said she would like to see her film shown in high schools in order for a dialogue to start with those who are struggling with these “secrets,” and so she can help others to “find some freedom.”
Freedom is one thing that I think Zoccolante is really in touch with, as she really is a free spirit; so positive and down to earth. She is completely devoted to her acting craft, and attends classes three times a week at Scott Rogers Studios. Her training has definitely paid off, as within a year she was cast in “Hawaii Five-0” as well as “Last Resort.”
When we talked about her time on the “Five-0″ set, she said it was a very positive experience. The cast and crew were “so professional and so supportive.” she said.
Zoccolante had a stunt-double, who filmed the part when she crawls into the hotel room from the balcony, but the rest of the scene was all Z — stalking Behati Prinsloo with a dulled knife and being shot by Scott Caan. She said that everyone was so helpful, as she had never been shot before, so stunt director Jeff Cadiente showed her how to move her body as if she had been shot and what to do with the knife so she wouldn’t fall on it and hurt herself.
“Everyone was awesome,” she said. And even though she had to basically stay in character all day, she still felt appreciated and confident about her performance. She said Prinsloo and Caan were playful and tried to lighten the mood, and at one point Caan interlinked his arm with hers, after he had “shot” her several times.
“Behati was really cute, in one take, Scott took a while to “shoot” me (they were using a cap gun so Zoccolante would know when to fall), and so I kept coming at her, so she screamed and threw the curtain over herself,” she said.
I know after watching the episode, I wanted to know who played Denise Pope, so I was delighted to learn that Zoccolante was a local girl, born and raised on Oʻahu. Dennis Chun, her fellow acting schoolmate, said she is “a hard working and dedicated actress.”
It was very apparent to me that Zoccolante took a lot of time to prepare for her guest spot on “Hawaii Five-0” even to the point where she wrote an entire back story for her character as well as the “letters” her character was supposed to have written Prinsloo in the storyline.
She told me about a scene she filmed that was edited out, where after she sneaks into the hotel room, she sees a one of Prinsloo’s sweaters on her bed and picks it up to “smell it.” The script supervisor told her that it was “so creepy, but so good” how scary she made Denise Pope. A nice testament to an obviously talented actress.
Zoccolante seems not only dedicated to any performance or project she tackles, but also to reaching out and helping others. I hope that we see more of her writing, and more of her talent on stage and on film. If she can reach others and bring her energy and hope to other people’s lives, I think that will be the true image of Z that we will remember.
She may have played a scary stalker on T.V. but she is far from being that dark individual. I, for one, am looking forward to being touched by her light once again.
Redux Side Note:
And next week is a new episode — “Na Kiʻi,” or “The Dolls.” Don’t miss it, as this may be the only new episode for March.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher who lives and works in Honolulu. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.