Grace Park can be described in many ways. She’s an intelligent, strong, beautiful woman who has been successful in two television series reboots and is a role model for Asian actresses around the world. She’s not just eye-candy, but an integral part of the Five-0 Team’s Core Four and another reason why fans love “Hawaii Five-0.”
Yet, of all of the “Five-0” characters, Kono Kalākaua may be the one who makes the most sense to us mere mortals. She’s not a SEAL like Alex O’Loughlin’s McGarrett, she’s not a seasoned detective like Scott Caan’s Danno, and she doesn’t have the years of police experience like Daniel Dae Kim’s Chin Ho.
Kono started off a rookie, and after four years she has definitely earned her place as an equal part of the team. And while Park was no rookie actress when the show started in 2010, she was definitely a new face on primetime American television.
Park got her start playing small roles on television and in films, then was cast in Canadian teen drama “Edgemont,” about suburban kids living in Vancouver, British Columbia (where Park was raised). Her next big break was the hit Sci-Fi Channel reboot of “Battlestar Galactica” as Lt. Sharon ‘Boomer’ Valerii/Lt. Sharon ‘Athena’ Agathon. Fans fell in love with Park, who played a Cylon who believed she was human.
When Park was cast on “Five-0,” many hoped “Galactica” fans would follow. Other fans were pleased the new “Five-0” would have a strong female presence. Park’s character is definitely beloved by fans who admire Kono’s resilience and courage, and how she is driven by love — of her cousin, of her profession, and of her man. These are all traits viewers can relate to and understand.
Park’s character is a definite twist from the original Kono. The part was first created by Hawaiian actor Gilbert Lani Kauhi, better known as Zulu. Many were surprised to find out a woman would play the part in the reboot, and a non-Hawaiian woman at that. Yet Park seems to play a local girl and ex-surfing pro with ease.
It’s interesting that Park has been in two television remakes where her character was once played by males. But Park seems to have not only pulled off the gender switch, but has made both characters her own.
Kono has never been boring or simple, and Park has taken a character who could have played a more peripheral role and built her into one fans love.
Some of Park’s best work has been when she is torn between her feelings of loyalty to someone she loves and doing her job. In “ʻOhana (“Family”), Kono gave up her own graduation from the police academy in order to help the team solve a case.
In “Ma‘ema‘e” (“Clean”), she secretly went undercover in order to help Capt. Fryer (Tom Sizemore), even though it put her at odds with her cousin Chin and her boss McG.
When Kono chose her love for Adam over staying safe and home with her team in “Aloha, Mālama Pono” (“Farewell and Take Care”), we were all torn by her decision. While we wanted Kono to stay with her team, we also wanted her to be with her love, Adam. Kono went to protect Adam just as much as she went because she loved him.
One of the things I really love about Kono is that she is such a tough girl, but still has such a big heart. When Adam saved Kono in “Lā o nā Mākuahine” (“Mother’s Day”), we were so happy Kono survived, and even after Kono’s near death, she spent much of the episode worried about Chin and mourning the loss of his wife, Malia (Reiko Aylesworth).
Still, she got right into the action, helping to catch the bad guys, and jumping on the hood of a car to shoot Toothpick (Karl Herlinger) and get his death rattle confession.
Because that’s our girl.
In this last season though, I’m hard pressed to call Kono a girl. Park has matured her character from the hot-headed surfer who will beat the lights out of any man who dares steal her wave, to someone a little more thoughtful, taking her time to reveal just how strong she really can be.
One of Park’s best scenes was in “Ma Lalo o ka ‘Ili” (“Beneath the Surface”) when she reveals to the selfish Kelly Donovan (Conor Leslie), that all the work she had done to set up her boyfriend to take the fall for killing her father was in vain.
Kono whispered, “You get nothing,” because the father had let his million dollar policy lapse right before his daughter had him killed. Kono’s quiet venom was just as strong as if she had hit the girl with a roundhouse kick.
Kono really is definitely a character we enjoy watching, whether she’s fighting a bad guy, taking a shot from above, crying with a victim or hugging someone she loves. Park is terrific in all ways as Kono; a woman who hurts and struggles, yet can pick herself up, dust herself off, and state with steely grace, “Bring it on, boys.”
REDUX SIDE NOTE:
A very special thanks to all the “Hawaii Five-0” fans who voted in my “Fan Favorites Revealed” post. It’s always great to get everyone’s opinions and see how you all seem to agree on most things “Five-0.”
Unfortunately, there was no “Hawaii Five-0” Friday for us this week on CBS with the start of preseason NFL football. But next week the repeats return with the chilling “Peʻepeʻe Kānaka” (“Those Among Us”), directed by Jeff Cadiente.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.