Although she works in one of the most popular vacation spots on the planet, "Hawaii Five-0" star Grace Park sees Hawaii as less of a paradise and just the place where she works through numerous pages of the script — often loaded with big stunts and special effects — before the sun goes down.
Plus, she considers herself more of a city person.
"Not everybody’s into sun and surf," Park says. "People go to Hawaii for a lot of different reasons, and I’ve come to understand them better. But I am more suited for the big city. And, when you talk about the location, it’s usually the highlights. No one talks about all the work, which is usually about 95 percent grunt work."
That’s why she’s enjoying her time off since filming for the fifth season of "Hawaii Five-0" ended a few weeks ago. One of the last episodes of the CBS series for this year was particularly tough because most of it deals with her character’s past.
Park has built a career out of playing characters who look fragile but are tough. On "Battlestar Galactica" she played a female humanoid Cylon model, and now she’s surfing champion turned police officer Kono Kalakaua on "Hawaii Five-0."
Park, who was born in Los Angeles but grew up in Canada, started acting in her early 20s. She appeared as a series regular on the Canadian series "Edgemont." Her other TV work includes "Jake 2.0," "The Cleaner" and "The Border."
From the start of "Five-0" in 2010, Park’s character has been just one of the guys.
"She does have some opportunities to be a female, but she is just working in such a male world," Park says.
A little bit of what has made her character so tough will be revealed in the episode airing Friday, in which Kono goes on a symbolic solo outrigger canoe trip around the Hawaiian Islands. She’s forced to fight for her life when she hits a patch of wild weather.
The episode reveals some of Kono’s past, which includes showing her as a young girl with her parents and why she has such a connection with the water. Park likes that Kono’s past is being revealed. The episode gave her more insight into her character.
It’s a role she earned the hard way. During filming of the first episode, Park had a surfing scene that was shot in choppy water. After multiple scenes battling tough surf, Park was so traumatized that she doesn’t do a lot of surfing anymore.
That hasn’t slowed her from playing the character, who has been involved in plenty of big stunts and has had some very emotional scenes.
In one early episode, Kono visits the morgue to pay her respects to a mentor who has died. Park played the scene with great emotion. When the episode aired, the sequence had been cut. Park was told it was too depressing.
Laughing, she says, "I don’t know what they expected. I asked to have a minute with my mentor. I wore myself out doing that scene."
The next big emotional moment — more for the fans than for her — came in the third season when Kono went on the run after being accused of a murder that she didn’t commit. She was barely on the show for five episodes, and the fan reaction was fear that she was leaving the series.
That reaction shows how much fans have embraced Park’s work. She still has plenty of fans from the updated "Battlestar Galactica."
"Shooting ‘Battlestar’ was like making a five-year film. It was like lightning in a bottle. I had done some TV before that, but ‘Battlestar’ became my template," Park said. "And then I did a few other series, and when I got to ‘Five-0′ I thought it was ‘so TV.’"
"Hawaii Five-0" is broadcast at 8 p.m. Fridays on CBS.