Hawaii-born actor Shawn Thomsen is best known for his comedic talents, but he’s also a very passionate and community minded young man.
Many “Hawaii Five-0” fans know Thomsen as the spunky, super self-confident Pua Kai, who started off season four as an HPD Recruit in “Aloha Kekahi i Kekahi” (“Love One Another”) and returned as rookie HPD Officer Kai toward the end of the season in “Peʻepeʻe Kānaka” (“Those Among Us”). His blatant flirting with Kono (Grace Park) was endearing, and while Kai’s aggressive moves may have backfired for him, he still came off as sweet and charming.
Thomsen seems to have set up the Pua Kai character in season three, when he played an unnamed security guard in “Pā‘ani” (The Game). In his scene, Thomsen informed Kono he was on his way to becoming a police officer.
“This was the set up for Pua Kai and his connection to Kono,” Thomsen said.
When he showed up in the following season opener guarding the perimeter of Five-0 headquarters, we saw how his dedication to security had been raised to a new level.
While we all loved how serious Kai was about his job — from his extensive research into the criminal mind as a security guard, to his firm hand as an HPD recruit — we also enjoyed Thomsen’s obvious comic nature, which delightfully flowed through his character.
Thomsen played Kai as a dedicated and serious character, yet we have to laugh at his over-exuberance. When Kai wouldn’t allow Kamekona (Taylor Wily) to get to his ʻohana who were being held hostage in “Aloha Kekahi i Kekahi” and helped McGarrett (Alex OʻLoughlin) and Kono find and process evidence in “Peʻepeʻe Kānaka,” I loved the humor generated by his appearances.
While his character could have come across as irritating and self-important, I saw him as someone I could not stay mad at for long. I was as charmed by Pua Kai as Kono seemed to have been.
Thomsen was gracious enough to talk about his experience on set and what it was like working with the cast and crew.
“The crew is amazing,” he said. “Everyone is so polite and happy and they make you feel really comfortable — and they are fast!
“Makeup/hair and costume is prepped, and when you are called to set, they set you up with props, and you are wired for sound — sometimes at the same time. They are so gentle. It’s a like cool breeze has passed through you. Everyone was just so amazing.”
Thomsen said he learned a lot from his scenes with Park.
“With Grace, both times we barely had time to go over lines beforehand and we only went through our lines as were learning how the scene was going to be shot, which was exciting.
“I learned a lot in the short time we had to work together and I am really grateful for those experiences. One thing that she said that I will always remember: ‘Try to hold on to the moment in the scene.’ It’s such great advice to give to anyone and you can’t really learn that in a book. You actually have to experience it.”
THOMSEN’S SCENE with Taylor Wily made him feel like he was working with an old friend.
“I admit I was really nervous about working on the scene with Taylor because I wasn’t sure if it was to be serious or comical,” he said. “There were some lines I wasn’t sure how to deliver, so I waited until I was called to set and met up with Taylor to see how to react off of how he delivered his lines.
“Taylor is a really cool and relaxed person, so it was kind of like hanging out with family, which set my nerves at ease. It took a while to get to our scene, so we kept running lines with each other so we wouldn’t have to do it cold when it came time to shoot. I had a lot of fun working with him.”
Thomsen said he was “super nervous” to shoot the ending of “Peʻepeʻe Kānaka.”
“The rest of the cast (Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, and Daniel Dae Kim) was there and I had never worked with anyone other than Grace and Taylor,” he said. “I just sat the table with them for the scene at Tropics. But they are really great people. Alex was really nice when I met him. Grace is really fun to work with. I learned a lot just working with her in those scenes.”
Thomsen, who works for Xerox Hawaii at the Hilton Hawaiian Village’s business center, said he was surprised by the amount of fans who stopped to watch them film.
“Since I work at the Hilton, that was another reason why I was so nervous,” he said. “Some of the people who were watching were people I work with, and of course, one of them yelled, ‘Eh das Shawn!’ which brought on more nerves.
“On my break I noticed that the TVs inside the bar also had us on screen, and I felt even more pressure to try and at least keep up with the pros. When we did the run-through, I was just in awe of everyone at the table. There was this radiant glow exuding from each and every one of them, from the way their bodies were positioned, the way they delivered their lines, and how in-sync they were with each other.”
Thomsen is a very familiar face to Hawaii residents. Born and raised on Oahu, he is a graduate of Waipahu High School and Leeward Community College. While he was interested in acting “since small kid time,” he wasn’t involved in theatre until a friend from high school suggested he take a drama class.
“After that it just snowballed,” he said.
SINCE COLLEGE, Thomsen has done his fair share of community theatre. His extensive resume includes Kumu Kahua’s “Moa A Mo’i – Chicken into King,” the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival’s “Timon” and “The Belles Stratagem” at The Actors Group.
“I also did some background work on “Journey 2: Mysterious Island” and “All For Melissa,” as well as a commercial for Helping Hands Hawaii,” he added.
Thomsen and his friends also started the improvisational theater group In Your Face Improv, and he helped organize the nonprofit Honolulu Broadway Babies, which “raises awareness for a continuing education program in Hawaii and fundraises for charities that help those who are developmentally challenged.”
This year marks the 10th anniversary of HBB. As show director, Thomsen and crew will present “A.W.O.L. (Artist With Out Limits)” from Aug. 21-23 to celebrate.
“Our shows always feature new and rising local talent from children to adults,” Thomsen said. “We also have some well-known local talents such as Mandy Suganama from KUMU-FM’s ‘Mandy in the Morning Show.’
“What is so special about our shows are that we actually fly in artists who have been on Broadway. This year we are we will have Trisha Mae who played Gigi in ‘Miss Saigon’ and Mimi in ‘Rent’; Marc Dalio who played Chris in ‘Miss Saigon’ and Gaston and the Beast in ‘Beauty and the Beast’; Audri Dalio who played Kim in ‘Miss Saigon’ and Jasmine in ‘Aladdin’; and Kristian Lei, who played Kim in ‘Miss Saigon’ and Nala in ‘The Lion King.’”
Thomsen will also be busy this summer acting in Kumu Kahua Theatre’s remount of “Flowers of Hawaii” by Lee Cataluna, which opens July 24 and runs until Aug. 3.
We hope to see more of Thomsen in future “Hawaii Five-0” episodes as well.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
If you need a refresher on Shawn Thomsen, catch a special repeat of the season four opener, “Aloha Kekahi i Kekahi” (“Love One Another”), on CBS Saturday.
CBS will also air “Pale ʻia” (“Buried Secrets”) and TNT will air “Ma Ke Kahakai” (“At the Shore”) on Wednesday.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.