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Five-0 Redux

Why we love McGarrett

  • CBS
  • CBS

Most times, when I ask fans why they like “Hawaii Five-0” their answer tends to include the mention of the character Steve McGarrett. Sure, I also get: “I love the scenery” and “McG and Danno (Scott Caan) are awesome together.” I get a few: “I loved Daniel Dae Kim on “Lost” so I followed him,” and several times I’ve heard “Kono (Grace Park) is very beautiful.” But really, the resounding reason why folks watch “Hawaii Five-0” is because of its lead character, Steve McGarrett, and the actor who portrays him, Alex O’Loughlin.

It was not surprising that fans had quite a lot to say about McGarrett in the fan favorite survey I sent out last week. Sandra Dellano, a “Hawaii Five-0” fan from New York, said in her survey response: “He’s a talented actor who has many skills. Plus he is easy on the eyes. Love him.” For the most part, this is what many fans think of O’Loughlin– that it’s because of his acting talent and good looks that they have a reason to watch the show every week.

But as someone who has met the actor on several occasions, and been lucky enough to get his insight into what makes McGarrett tick– he is far from just another gorgeous actor with a great body and a killer smile. True, he does have that, but I don’t think a television show can last for seven seasons based solely on the good looks of the series star.

Still, O’Loughlin is obviously a huge part of the success of “Hawaii Five-0.” It takes a solid actor, with top notch skills, to lead a hit show– regardless of amazing scenery, cool action, or other good looking co-stars. While many think he is completely underappreciated by critics, who see him only as a “pretty boy television star,” fans around the world had quite a bit to say about the strength of his acting talent, his skill at showing true emotion, and his solid physical ability in order to handle the action and stunt work necessary to play McG.

A real life hero

Fan Linda Kelly said it best in the fan survey: “He is usually the hero we all wish existed in real life.” McGarrett is a US Navy SEAL, and his training gives him an edge when he has to fight his way out of most physical challenges. But while he has the reflexes and reactions of a warrior, he still has the heart of a everyman. He always aids the underdog, helps the weak and the vulnerable, and is always willing to sacrifice himself in order to save his friends. Thankfully, he has never had to give up his life for anyone– but he always seems willing and ready to do it.

What I think sets McGarrett apart is that he is always thinking about the bigger picture as the leader of the Five-0 Task Force. He firmly believes that he is there to protect Hawaiʻi and her people. Itʻs not just about catching criminals and putting the bad guys in jail, it’s also about getting the biggest fish in order to keep the entire pond safe.

Like in the season finale, McGarrett wanted to do more than just catch a drug dealer who had caused a plague of deadly overdoses– he also wanted to stop the flow of drugs from entering Hawaiʻi. And like a true hero, he almost had to give up his life in order to make this happen.

Tough guy with a tender heart

Arkansas fan, Amanda Hopkins, said about McGarrett in her survey response: “His tough exterior and his tender heart make Steve a remarkable character.” Many fans made similar comments about McGarrett and the juxtaposition between his SEAL training, and his willingness to show mercy and raw emotion.

I think it is another reason why he is so beloved. We love that he chooses his friends– and those they love– over solving a case or getting the upper hand in an investigation. Like when he shot the man who was holding Chin’s niece hostage, even though the kidnapper was the key to finding Michelle Shioma, the Yakuza boss intent on killing the Five-0 crew. Or when he stands by Kono and tells HPD that her husband, Adam (Ian Anthony Dale), who is serving an 18-month sentence for murder, was not a willing participant in a mass breakout of Halawa.

This is not a new element of McGarrett’s depth. In past seasons he has used all of his will and ability in order to save his friends. He was willing to give up his badge in order to save Danno from dying in a Colombian Prison, and he put his life and military career on the line to help Catherine (Michelle Borth) find the Afghani boy whose family once saved her life. Of course, this is just two examples, but it reminds us that McGarrett is not heartless and cold. His warmth and love of his ʻohana again makes him a different kind of tough guy.

The soul of the team

I could not have said it better than fan Karin Murbach Ziedas from São Paulo, Brazil, who said in her survey response: “(McGarrett) is the soul of the team.” For some that may seem like too much of a metaphysical description of McG, but if we look at how he treats the team, and then how the team treats others, it makes so much more sense. He set the bar with establishing an ʻohana, or family, more than just a group of people who happen to work together. By extension, everyone who has come into their midst is also now a part of their family.

He is definitely the center of the spoke that holds the team together. It started with the core four: Danno, Chin, and Kono; and in time, they added Max (Masi Oka), Kamekona (Taylor Wily), Catherine, Lou (Chi McBride), and Jerry (Jorge Garcia). While there are many other characters who are included within the ʻohana, like Adam, Duke (Dennis Chun), Flippa (Shawn Mokuahi Garnett), Kawika (Kala Alexander), Gracie (Teilor Grubbs), and Nahele (Kekoa Kekumano)– they just add more to the ʻohana that is Five-0.

While for the most part, McGarrett is often seen as the ultimate head of the task force, he is always willing to allow others to step up to the plate and take the lead. He is not afraid to stand behind someone, even if that takes him out of the spotlight. This is also a way to describe O’Loughlin as an actor. He is definitely very similar to the character he plays– a tough guy hero to some, and the tender-hearted soul of “Hawaii Five-0” to most.


Congratulations to Daniel Dae Kim who is busy during his summer hiatus this year, playing the King of Siam in “The King and I.” If you live or are traveling to the East Coast, try and catch his Broadway debut at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center before June 26.

June 11 is Kamehameha Day in Hawaiʻi and the day is marked by many special events held around the state. The biggest event to celebrate the state holiday, will be the 100th Annual King Kamehameha Day Floral Parade, which takes place on Saturday at 9 am at the ʻIolani Palace. This year, “Hawaii Five-0” actor Dennis Chun, who plays Sgt. Duke Lukela, will participate in the event.

Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter  and Instagram.

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