Of all the villains we’ve seen in “Hawaii Five-0,” Hawaii-based actor Vince Shin played the type of antagonist viewers felt more empathy for than the normal bad guy as the “North Korean Combatant” in the most moving episode of season three, “ʻŌlelo Paʻa” (“The Promise”).
Shin spoke mostly Korean in the episode and had several action scenes in which he “helped” McGarrett and Catherine Rollins find the real remains of McG’s SEAL brother, Freddie Hart (Alan Ritchson). While Shin played the one of several bad guys in the episode, he definitely made an impression with fans as someone we were supposed to hate, but probably didn’t deserve to be blown up by a McG grenade.
Obviously, his ability to play a realistic North Korean combatant had more to do with his acting ability than just his Korean heritage. As a professional actor who got his start in Korean television, Shin was the perfect person for this seemingly anonymous role.
Shin was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, but came to Hawaii in 1982 for his sophomore year of high school. He graduated from Roosevelt High School, then went on to study accounting at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa.
After UH, he returned to South Korea to act. He made his television debut in Korean soap operas — well known in the United States today as K-Dramas. He starred in television shows in Korea for 10 years and also wrote film and play scripts. He most recently played Mr. Oh in a short film by Brent Anbe, “Ajumma! Are you Krazy???” Anbe wrote and directed the film, which is about local ladies who love K-Dramas.
According to Shin, in Korea the soap operas he starred in weren’t “as big of a deal as they are now.” He acted alongside Lee Byung-hun, who played Storm Shadow in “GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra.” He then moved from acting in television dramas to Korean stage and writing.
Once he returned to Hawaii, Shin got married, had two children and decided to focus on his photography talents. His company, Love Story Weddings Photography, keeps him busy and grounded.
“My work on stage and directing really helps me to see a love story and photograph it well,” he said.
Shin had great stories about his time on the “Hawaii Five-0” set. He shot for three days in Mililani and Waialua for the “North Korea” scenes. He did most of his stunts, except for the scenes when he rolled out of the car and when Alex O’Loughlin jumped on him to catch him — those were performed by a stunt double. He worked with Jeff Cadiente on using weapons and shooting, as well as how to properly roll out of the car.
Shin said he auditioned once and he was quickly cast. He was supposed to speak more Korean in the original script and O’Loughlin was supposed to in turn speak Korean to Shin’s character, but Shin said he and O’Loughlin talked about speaking Korean and Shin suggested that “an actor need to be an expert in the language” or basically he can make a fool out of himself. O’Loughlin agreed, and they worked out simple words and phrases for McGarrett to speak.
“So when Alex says “pah” in Korean, that means “dig,” which is what my character was supposed to do, and that was enough,” Shin said.
He also talked about working with O’Loughlin and Michelle Borth, which “was really great,” even though they didn’t know Shin was a trained television actor.
“Michelle is really down-to-earth, she really helped me a lot,” said Shin. “Alex was concerned when he had to hold a knife to my throat, and I told him, you have to make it look realistic — do it for real — put it to my neck.”
The next morning, he found a red mark on his neck.
“Alex said, “I’m so sorry, Vince!” and I told him, no, no, that’s good, that how good we did in the scene,” Shin said.
In addition to the stories about the show’s stars, Shin was very grateful about the kind of treatment he got on set.
“I’m a very unknown actor (in Hawaii), but they still treated me so well,” he said. “During one of the breaks, it started to drizzle and I felt an umbrella over me!
“I told them, ‘I can hold my own umbrella, thanks.’ After every cut, they’d ask me if I wanted some water — room temperature or ice cold? It was a huge treat.”
He said all of his friends in Hawai’i know about his earlier career about acting in Korea, but they had never really seen him act before “Hawaii Five-0.” They were really thrilled about the size of his part and how long he was on screen. And while they didn’t like his demise, they were still impressed by the size and breadth of his role.
Shin was a pleasure to talk to, not only because he obviously knows television acting and directing, but he was so gracious and wonderful to fans when they met him at the “H50 Ohana Fan Wrap Party” in April. He took the time to talk to everyone, pose for pictures, and even had a few minutes to answer my questions.
Many of us really enjoyed “ʻŌlelo Paʻa,” so while Shin thought it was a treat to be catered to on-set, we thought it was definitely a treat to meet him.
Redux Side Note:
On Monday, June 10, fans got together to kick off the “H50hana Summer Tweetup Series” at Big City Diner Pearlridge. Fans watched “Kapu”, which aired during the soon-to-end Monday night timeslot.
There will be a special repeat of “Hawaii Five-0” this Friday, June 14, with “Hana I Wā ‘Ia.” Monday episodes are scheduled during the 9:00 p.m. slot until June 17. “Five-0” will make it’s official move to Friday nights at 8:00 p.m. in Hawaii when “Under the Dome” takes over the Monday night timeslot on June 24.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher who lives and works in Honolulu. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.