Actor Karl Makinen is the first to describe himself as a blue-collar actor — someone who has to work hard for every part they land. He’s made a name for himself as a perennial guest star, with appearances on popular television shows like “CSI,” “NCIS,” “The Unit,” “Prison Break,” “Without a Trace,” and “CSI: Miami.”
Makinen’s resume is long and the variety of roles he has played, from cops to bad guys, is impressive. The New York native is the son of a police officer, who didn’t understand his drive to be an actor until he landed a role on the first season of “NYPD Blue.”
Unfortunately, Makinen played a cop-killer in the episode, but the role helped his father accept that he had what it took to become a successful actor.
Lucky for us, he’s continued with his acting dream and played Jack Anderson in what was probably one of the best guest roles of season four on “Hawaii Five-0.”
Makinen’s character — a bar owner and family man who protected his patrons from local toughs and was an anonymous supporter of the local police — was expertly written by John Dove and smartly directed by Peter Weller.
Looking at the roles Makinen has played throughout his career, often regular guys who are pushed into a corner and forced to protect themselves or their children, you can understand how he was a perfect fit to play Jack Anderson.
Makinen played Anderson as a true good guy, yet someone whose life was a cover for being on the run from the FBI for 20 years. He accidentally killed a woman while trying to escape the police after a liquor store robbery. Even though we know he killed someone, it seemed like he never committed a crime after the robbery and had spent the last 20 years making his amends.
It was hard not to like Anderson and feel empathy for him. He had stayed straight, had a great wife and two small boys and ran a good business. He was friends with Grover (Chi McBride) and seemed to be a friend to all.
Much like the solid guy Makinen seems to be in real life.
I spoke to Makinen with Amy Bakari during the “Amy and Friends Show” on KPRP-AM 650, and he was as easy to talk to as it was to love him as Jack Anderson. Makinen shared a lot about his life and his acting, as well as his experiences on “Hawaii Five-0.”
“I hadn’t been to Hawaii, so that was pretty awesome. It was so beautiful,” he said. “Then to be able to go to a great place like that and to work on ‘Hawaii Five-0,’ which is a great show. And then not only that, as an actor who is ‘guest star guy,’ and most parts I get, are not necessary full with so many levels to play.
“Thanks to writer John Dove, my guest star is the best guest spot I’ve ever had, as far as a character that has that really has a full arc and so many levels to him. It was awesome to get the part. I was really excited.”
Makinen was thrilled to be able to sink his teeth into a meaty part.
“Luckily in my life, I don’t have any sort of major regret,” he said. “But you think about little regrets that you have in life and how they eat away at you. That’s why I love this character.
“He was trying so hard to live this other life, in order to make up for the one that he screwed up. And it took a horrible event for him to really face up to it and that was the only way he was going to move on. They just don’t do that on television. They don’t have this kind of guest spots for actors.
“So when I booked the part, I was so excited, because it meant a lot to me as an actor. I have to work hard for every part I get, and when I get a really great one like this I just really appreciate it and love to do it.”
I asked about working with Peter Weller on set, and Makinen talked about what a great experience it was to work with the popular “Hawaii Five-0” director and actor.
“Peter Weller is a character,” he said. “He’s a super intelligent guy. His brain is always jumping ahead to the next scene. He just let me do my work and guided me. He did a great job.”
Makinen also talked about his favorite parts to play.
“I always play bad guys or cops. I think I just have that look,” he said. “Cop parts for me are not as fun as the bad guy. When you play a bad guy, there are so many levels; it’s so much fun.
“Usually I play straight up bad guys, so my mom and dad sometimes ask if they are going to bring me back for another episode. And I have to say no, I’m the bad guy, I either die or go to jail.”
Well, sometimes on “Hawaii Five-0” the bad guys come back.
Makinen also spoke fondly of shooting at The Hideaway Bar in Waikiki.
“That was my last day of shooting and I had all those fight scenes,” he said. “I practiced for three hours and it was hot and humid. We didn’t get to the fight until about 11:30 at night, but after I met Peter Weller and Laurie Fortier, who played my wife, and we hung out there with the crew.
“That bar has such character. It’s a little dive bar in the midst of this big city. It was great.”
Makinen knows about bars with character as his most recent passion is running his two Los Angeles area restaurants.
“It’s a love of mine. I love food, and I love great people. I love entertaining guests,” he said. “It’s a gastropub called The Local Peasant. Local beer, local wine, local produce, local people, I try to hire local employees.
“It’s chef-driven, upscale pub food. It’s amazing. I love it.”
Tell him Five-0 sent you.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
If you haven’t seen Ian Anthony Dale’s latest project, the Steven Bochco summer drama series, “Murder in the First,” on TNT, it replays Saturday with a new episode Monday. Dale stars as Lt. Jim Koto, a Stanford graduate and head of the San Francisco Police Department’s homicide unit.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.