Hawaii actress Jennie Lee Sine has had to work very hard to infuse her personal beliefs into her guest appearances on “Hawaii Five-0.”
Not that this was a complete stretch for her, but as a yoga therapist who strives to find a blessing in each moment of her life, she has to find an authenticity in each role she portrays — even when she’s playing a kidnap victim. Well, two different victims: one who is fighting for her life, and the other who is trying to protect her family.
Thankfully, Sine’s real life is more about joy and serenity than what she has had to portray on screen.
This week’s “Hawaii Five-0” repeat is the episode Sine was in during season five, and I was happy to have gotten some behind the scenes information and learn about Sine’s experiences on set.
Sine has played two roles on “Hawaii Five-0” that have been as far away from her real life as anyone can get. As “Stephanie” in season one’s “Hoʻāpono” (“Accept”), Sine was kidnapped by guest star Adam Beach’s character, a Navy SEAL accused of murdering his wife, and held hostage on the USS Battleship Missouri Memorial. In last season’s “E ʻImi Pono” (“Searching for the Truth”), Sine was kidnapped when she and her family take a cab driven by guest star Barkhad Abdi’s character, a Congolese warlord on the run from Five-0.
Finding authenticity can be the biggest challenge for some actors. When I met Sine for a quick lunch at Nico’s Pier 38 a few weeks ago, I found her to be gentle and kind, and very at ease with herself. I recognized her immediately from both her roles; to sit and talk with her and experience her calm graciousness was very refreshing.
Sine shared her experiences from both episodes, including what it was like working with two special guest stars as well as Alex O’Loughlin.
“I guess I scream and cry really well! Even though Iʻm a super happy person; I teach peace, love, and light,” said Sine as we laughed at the obvious juxtaposition between her real personality and the characters she played. But that’s how it goes with most of the actors I’ve met; they are often nothing like what we see on screen.
Sine experienced something similar when she met guest star Abdi, who “looked like a terrorist, but is the nicest guy in the world.” She worked with the Academy Award-nominated actor for a day within the confines of a small taxicab. Abdi’s character kidnapped her, daughter Elyssa Joy and dad Brian Gibson (both Joy and Gibson are also Hawaii actors).
“My daughter is being held at gunpoint, and the terrorist, played by Barkhad, turns and shoots my husband and I am reacting to the chaos around me,” explained Sine.
She was most impressed by Abdi, who she had a good time with “in between the screaming and crying.”
“Barkhad talked a lot about what he learned from Tom Hanks while working on ‘Captain Phillips,’” said Sine.
Like Hanks, who Abdi said did a lot of his own stunts in the film they worked on together, Sine said Abdi also did his own stunt in the scene where McGarrett pulled him out of the cab.
“Literally he was dragged out of the window and thrown down on the street, over and over,” said Sine. “He was awesome.”
I asked Sine about working on “Hoʻāpono,” which filmed on the USS Missouri for a week in 2010.
“I was blessed to work with Alex both times,” she said. “I mostly worked with him from the main cast in the two episodes I was in. But I have met Daniel (Dae Kim) and Scott (Caan) on set. They are fun to work with and super professional.”
Sine also got to talk to guest star Robert Loggia, who she said was “really great and he was very invested in his role.”
“My first scene was when Adam Beach’s character grabbed me on the stairwell on the outside of the ship, and that was pretty intense because he sparred no physicality,” she said. “But I didn’t mind because it put me into the mind of the character.”
Sine’s other credits include “Days of our Lives” and “The Bold and the Beautiful,” as well as many national commercials and smaller affiliate television shows.
When I asked Sine how she came to Hawaii after working in Hollywood and then moving to Boston, where she operated a yoga studio, she was frank with her answer.
“Yoga brought me to Hawaii,” said Sine. She wanted to start off fresh and now has a successful yoga therapy and meditation practice in Kailua. Her first book, “True Yoga,” which is scheduled for release in January, is about the deeper teachings and the inner practices of yoga.
“I know yoga as a lifestyle, as a way of looking at every situation, every relationship. The yoga therapy I do with clients is centered around the philosophical teachings of yoga and how it has all the answers for navigating the challenges of life,” she said. “Whether it’s practicing something like contentment when things are really challenging and trying to find the blessing within that moment, or practicing devotion when your life is chaotic and that’s your anchor.
“Those are the type of yoga teachings that anchor me, and I try to share that with my students and my clients, and that is what ‘True Yoga’ is about.”
I asked how she thought yoga effected her acting, and if she used her philosophy in her performances.
“What yoga has taught me is a lot of authenticity with myself and the inner experience of what you’re going through,” Sine said. “As human beings we all are the same—we have common experiences. So even if I haven’t necessarily had my daughter kidnapped, if I go into that authentic place that loves my son, and thinks about how I would feel if that were my son, then my acting is going to come from a place of integrity and realism. It’s just being in touch with that inner experience in being human.”
Sine also talked about how great the crew of the show — the folks who work very hard to created an authentic “Hawaii Five-0” universe — was to her, even though she played two minor characters.
“Everybody on the set is so great,” she said. “Allison Liddi Brown, the director of ‘E ʻImi Pono,’ was very interactive. She was great to work with. As was Peter Lenkov, who wrote ‘Hoʻāpono.’ He was in that cabin with us in that scene.
“As an actor with a smaller part you don’t often think that you would get a lot of direction, but both times they were super-involved with me.”
While Sine may have played two smaller parts, she definitely brought her truth of self into her roles and blessed viewers with two authentic performances.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
Earlier this summer I had the pleasure of catching one of the many gigs “Hawaii Five-0” actor Shawn Mokuahi Garnett played at Monkeypod Kitchen Ko Olina.
He is a treat to hear live. It’s just Shawn and a guitar, and he pretty much can sing and play just about anything.
His own music is equally as good as his covers. Garnett was kind enough to gift my son with his latest CD, “Slowly But Surely,” and we spent most days listening to it while driving around Oahu.
It’s a perfect summer time beach CD, or something to listen to if you just need to mentally escape back to the islands. The music is contemporary, with a few songs I could really imagine being on the soundtrack of “Five-0,” especially the song “Warm Embrace,” which has a perfect stanza that sounds like McGarrett and crew’s crime fighting philosophy.
I see people with their guns
Taking lives one by one
Oh, I don’t wanna be around here anymore
I see riots on the streets, there’s riots everywhere
Riots on the sea, there’s riots in the air
You get lonely
And outta place
Can someone please hold me
With your warm embrace?
If you want to sample Garnett’s original music or order a copy of his CD, visit his Facebook page or purchase via iTunes or CDBaby.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.