Michael Ng is the kind of actor who gives new meaning to the word humble. While he has had two substantial guest roles on “Hawaii Five-0,” and a recurring role on ABC’s “Last Resort.” he still credits time and place for being the reason for his continuing success.
Many may remember Ng’s role as Rafe Tong, a suspect who is interrogated “McG style” by Danno (Scott Caan) and Chin (Daniel Dae Kim) in “Alaheo Pau ‘Ole” (“Gone Forever”) from season two. Most recently Ng portrayed Kyle Tamuro, the grandson of a remorseful Japanese spy, in “Ua ola loko i ke aloha” (“Love Gives Life Within”) who comes to Five-0 headquarters to turn himself in for shooting a young boy.
While the Rafe Tong character in “Alaheo Pau ‘Ole” was more of a criminal who Five-0 shakes down for more information, the Kyle Tamuro character in “Ua ola loko i ke aloha” was more emotional and had more backstory which made him a more sympathetic character rather than an all out villain.
Born and raised in Hawaiʻi, Ng started acting at Kaimukī High School and caught the acting bug early on. After graduating with his theatre degree from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Ng moved to Los Angeles and worked on television shows like “Alias,” “Criminal Minds,” “Big Time Rush” and “ICarly.” But in 2010, Ng returned home to care for his ailing father, and as luck would have it, “Hawaii Five-0” started shooting in his hometown that same year.
“My friends make fun of me. They say: you come home and you booked two shows!” Ng shared from his home in McCully, during a phone call earlier this week. “I guess I’m just lucky— it’s really about time and place,” said Ng.
After Ng played Rafe Tong, he booked the role of Cameron Pitts on “Last Resort,” which also filmed on Oʻahu.
I wanted to talk to Ng back in 2011 when he first was on “Hawaii Five-0.” His scene stood out to me because Danno and Chin interrogate his character after finding his driver’s license at the crime scene. And when he’s reluctant to talk, Danno forces him to hold a grenade and then pulls the pin to get him to spill. Chin admonishes Danno by saying, “You’ve been hanging with McGarrett too long.”
But the scene worked, Ng acknowledged, mainly because of Caan and his talent and giving nature.
“That was experience was awesome,” said Ng, about his time on “Alaheo Pau ‘Ole.”
“I am always very nervous when I get on set because I don’t know what to expect. You hear stories about the actors, but both were really generous. We were shooting right before Thanksgiving (in 2011), and at the end of our time together, we all got in the van which was going to take us back to base camp— and Scott shook my hand and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. He was very gracious,” said Ng.
“On set, when Daniel and Scott and I were doing one of the takes, we wanted to rev up the intensity of the scene, because, you know, I have a grenade in my hand, and so we were improvising. And Scott was really giving it back and it really revved up the tension. I thought that was very generous of him.
Lots of actors that I’ve worked with they kind of just stick to their own thing and let the director take care of you, but he was throwing out different lines and making me think as an actor and making me respond in character. That really helps with the acting and making it natural and in the moment. Most actors are too concerned about their own thing, they are not going to be as giving in a scene as Scott was,” shared Ng.
And Ng would know about acting— not only is he television trained, Ng has a long resume full of Hawaiʻi theatre credits. He got his start at Kumu Kahua theatre playing meaty roles in local favorites like “A’ala Park” and “Eating Chicken Feet.” Most notably he was in the Hawai’i debut of Milton Murayama’s novel “All I Asking for Is My Body” playing Tosh, the older brother of the protagonist, Kiyo, which portrayed their lives on a sugar plantation in the 1940s.
He also was in many productions of Lisa Matsumoto’s beloved local-style fairy tales: “Once Upon One Time,” “Once Upon One Noddah Time,” “Once Upon One Kapakahi Time,” and “The Princess and the Iso Peanut, to name a few.
After his time on “Hawaii Five-0,” Ng basically fell into a part on “Last Resort.”
“I was really fortunate. It was kind of a whirlwind casting. I was cast in the morning and then they asked me to come to the studio that afternoon to start shooting,” said Ng.
“My part was Chief Petty Officer Cameron Pitts— he was pretty much the “Sulu” on the sub— the guy who does the tech stuff, shared Ng.
Ng was in 11 of the 13 episodes, as unfortunately the show was cancelled and not picked up to finish the season. Still he credits his year on ABC as a great learning experience and did enjoy playing a part not like any he had done before.
After “Last Resort” wrapped, Ng went back to work at his alma mater, Kaimukī High School, as an acting teacher and production director. This year he is directing the spring musical “Once on this Island.” Previously, he directed “Grease,” “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” and an original mini-musical titled “Wolf Tails.”
After “Last Resort,” Ng dove into his role as director and teacher, and was surprised when he was called back to play “Kyle Tamuro” this season.
“I have to thank Rachel Sutton— I was super grateful they took a chance and brought me back. Hawaii actors struggle, and for them to believe in us— it’s really nice,” shared Ng.
While it had been four years since Ng was on the “Five-0” set, he was even more nervous because it had been two years since he had done any acting.
After “Last Resort” he was cast in the Cameron Crowe film, “Aloha,” but unfortunately, his part did not make the final cut.
“So I was really nervous. But everyone made me feel comfortable, as soon as I got on set it was like a little reunion, because I knew so many people from “Last Resort”— so it was great. But still I nervous because you don’t want to mess up. But I tell eveyrone, you have to go on “Five-0”— it’s the best set I’ve ever worked on,” said Ng.
As Kyle in “Ua ola loko i ke aloha” he shot two days, one day in the “Japanese bunker” at Kualoa Ranch and one day at Aliʻiōlani Hale where he surrenders to Five-0.
“Daniel remembered me from the last time and Chi was also great— I’m a fan of his from “The Terminal.” I’ve read a whole bunch of stuff about how nice Alex is and sometimes you read something and you don’t really know if it’s true or not. But he was so nice. People are not just saying that, said Ng.
Ng was eager to share this story with me about his latest experience on set. We talked a bit about the fact that some of the actors have gotten some bad press for not being very nice, but that our experiences have not reflected that negativity.
“The day I shot at Ali’iolani Hale, we all rode in the van together, and I sat in the back. I was too shy and didn’t say anything. When I arrived on set I was immediately met by the props guy, and he showed me the guns that they were pointed at me— just to pretty much make sure I knew they were not loaded.
And then I heard a voice behind me, greeting me: “Hey, I didn’t get a chance to introduce myself. My name is Alex.” I mean who does that? I’ve never worked with an actor who did that at the get-go. For a main actor to do that, it really sets a tone. I’d never met him and never worked with him previously, so as an actor I’m really grateful for that.
I’m the new guy it’s always hard to be the guest actor, but when someone does that it really helps me. Alex was really down to earth, there is no actor persona. He really is a great guy,” shared Ng.
So the stories are true. And I would say the same about Ng. He really is a great guy. Perhaps a bit too modest about his amazing experiences on television and on our Hawaiʻi stages— but really, aren’t we all glad when a guy like Michael Ng finally gets his moment to shine?
You can follow Ng on Facebook to see all of his upcoming events.
And you can also find info about “Once On This Island” at www.khspac.org. You can purchase tickets for the February 19 to March 6 production and find out more information here.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.