When I first saw Hawaii actor Kainalu Hecomovich, I swore I was looking at a flashback image of Duke Kahanamoku.
He is, quite literally, the perfect visual image of a young Hawaiian male, with dark brown eyes set in handsome features and a square jaw with a determined and driven look. Yet, the character Hecomovich played in season three of “Hawaii Five-0” was not necessarily the type of person Hawaiians would want associated with them, or the great Duke himself.
So when I had a chance to hear Hecomovich’s story, I was happy to know the “Local Tweaker” from “Kahu” (“Guardian”) doesn’t even come close to what this young actor and director is actually like.
“Crazy good,” was executive producer Peter Lenkov’s reaction to Hecomovich’s audition, according to casting director Rachel Sutton. After auditioning several times, Hecomovich was ready to show off his two decades of television, film, and commercial acting experience.
Hecomovich, who graduated from Punahou School, gave me quite a bit of behind the scenes insight to not only his preparation for filming, but how he worked with actors Alex O’Loughlin, Michelle Borth and Dennis Chun.
In “Kahu,” Hecomovich was in two scenes — one where he carjacks McGarrett (O’Loughlin) and Catherine (Borth) as they eat plate lunches in the parking lot of Rainbow Drive-In, and in a shorter scene when McG brings him into HPD headquarters and hands him off to a laughing Sgt. Duke Lukela (Chun).
“After rehearsing the carjacking scene, Alex could see I was torn between two choices: being a ‘crazy tweaker,’ or being a ‘really crazy tweaker,’” said Hecomovich. “He took me aside and said, ‘Hey, look — our job is to be as truthful as possible under these imaginary circumstances.’
“For me, that really hit home. Then Alex said, ‘After today, you’re gonna be an Oscar award-winning actor.’ It made me smile and took a lot of the pressure off.”
After talking with O’Loughlin, they had a quick break before it was showtime. In order for Hecomovich to get into character, he went to listen to music and warm up his body.
“I had my prop gun in my waistband, and I began to dance slightly off-set,” said Hecomovich. “I was moving to the music, getting into character. While I was preparing, the owner of Rainbow’s told production staff to call the cops because there was a crackhead on set!
“They looked over at me, with my headphones on, dancing, blocking it all out, and laughed. They said ‘No, that’s an actor!’ The owner said I was pretty good! He came up after the scene and asked for a picture.”
A consummate performer, Hecomovich would take different approaches to his acting while shooting the scene.
“I would ask myself questions before takes, ‘How bad do you want this? Then go get it.’ For one take, I did a 180 and experimented with vulnerability,” he said. “What if this guy needed the car to take his mother to the hospital? That made me cry, and the entire take I was in tears.
“Of all the takes, they used that one as my reaction shot — you can see in the scene that I am actually in tears.”
IN THE arrest scene, Hecomovich mentioned another “moment of magic and improv.” Before each take, he would shadowbox and even punch himself to get emotionally into the moment.
“Alex was watching my preparation and said, ‘Sometimes Scott and I will slap each other in the face before takes,’” said Hecomovich. “During the next take, Alex was charged up and accidentally pushed me into (a) locked glass door. After the take, he said, ‘Sorry, bro, you ok?’
“When I told him that I was fine, he said, ‘Good. I’ll hit you harder in the next take.’ After a moment he said, ‘Wait, that gives me an idea. This is gonna be funny.’
“So in the next take, the sound you hear in the scene is my face really smashing into the glass door. My neck hurt for a week afterward, but it was so worth it. Alex is a true leading man in every sense of the word. He leads by example, manages a daunting, physically action-packed shooting schedule with aplomb and treats everyone he encounters with respect and aloha.
“What people don’t realize is action stars act and do a lot of their own stunts. I was physically and emotionally exhausted after just two days of filming with Alex, and I had the weekend break in between.”
As candid as Hecomovich was about working with O’Loughlin, he had equally great things to say about Borth and Chun.
“Michelle is a total pro, bringing her unique energy to each take,” he said. “She has a big heart and a hug for local actors. She is a pleasure to work with and she’s even more beautiful in person.”
“Chun is a classic veteran actor who realizes that his continued training is the key to his success.”
FOR THE last two years, Hecomovich has pursued his acting and film career by working on various TV and film sets and taking UH Pacific New Media courses so he can produce his own content. He also teaches at American Renaissance Academy and is planning his next movie for the Sundance Native Film Lab.
“Being an actor in Hawaii is not easy,” said Hecomovich. “If you really want it, sometimes you have to make it happen. I want to show the world that Hawaii actors can act, that we want to get our stories out there, and if anyone is going to make film here, local hires will deliver and deliver big!
“People watch “Hawaii Five-0” and movies filmed in Hawaii to see the beauty of the islands and its people. So let’s create beautiful art and make successful TV and films together — letʻs live the dream.”
You can follow Hecomovich on Twitter and Instagram. He also has an Facebook page where you can watch his newest short film, “Legend of the Bearwolf Clan,” co-starring fellow “Five-0” actor Will Oak Wild.
Redux Side Note:
While everyone waits for a new episode on Jan. 10, “Five-0” fans got four great repeats to help them bide their time.