The producers of CBS’s “Hawaii Five-O” are honoring veterans at this evening’s Sunset on the Beach premiere in Waikiki to commemorate a positive relationship with the U.S. military during the show’s eight seasons. More than 100 active-duty and retired service members have been invited to attend as VIP guests at the Queen’s Surf beach gala over Veterans Day weekend.
“From the inception of the original ‘Hawaii Five-O’ to the development of our reboot, our shows’ ties to the men and women who defend our country have always run deep,” said executive produce Peter Lenkov in an email.
Besides featuring characters that are veterans, most notably Lt. Commander Steve McGarrett, a former U.S. Navy SEAL played by Alex O’Loughlin, the show regularly features real-life veterans as extras as well as in acting roles, and hires them as consultants.
|SUNSET ON THE BEACH
>> When: Red Carpet opens at 5 p.m. today; A concert, ceremony and screening start at 6 p.m.
>> Where: Queen’s Surf Beach, Waikiki
This season, McGarrett is joined by Junior Reigns, another Navy SEAL character (played by Beulah Koale) who wants to join Five-0 upon his return from serving his country.
“You can’t shoot in Oahu without having a profound respect and loyalty to our active and retired service people,” said Lenkov. “That is one of the main reasons we made McGarrett a SEAL, and now with our newest character Junior coming out of the Navy — to show the impact and significance our veterans make in and out of uniform. Their love of country and duty permeates every episode we create and we thought that in some small way, honoring them at our yearly event, we could have a chance to say thank you.”
Reigns shows up on McGarrett’s doorstep, asking to join the force. McGarrett tells him he’s not hiring, but later makes a deal with him, saying he can join upon graduating from the police academy. Upon discovering Reigns is staying at a homeless shelter, McGarrett takes him under his roof.
Bryan Spicer, co-executive producer, said the show has worked with pretty much all of the military branches and bases on the island.
Besides Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, “Hawaii Five-O” has filmed at Tripler Army Medical Center, aboard the USS Missouri and at the Coast Guard Air Station at Barber’s Point. One of the show’s favorite spots is “Sherwood Forest” near Bellows Air Force Station on the windward side of Oahu.
One of the most memorable, according to Spicer, is the season four episode recreating the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, exploring the history of that day as well as the events surrounding it. That episode, “Ho‘onani Makuakane,” also recreated the Honouliuli internment camp where Japanese-Americans were imprisoned.
Two former U.S. Navy SEALs also serve as consultants for the show, according to Spicer, and are on set often “to help coordinate real SEAL movements, to keep an honest portrayal of how a Navy SEAL moves and operates.”
One of them is Jim Beck, a retired Navy SEAL of 30 years, who helps actors maintain authenticity in the way they speak, carry their weapons and interact. Since some of the actors have never held a real gun, he said, he gives them tips to look more natural. Although he can’t change the script, he tries to make sure there’s a sense of realism.
Beck, who will attend the gala this evening, described the set as “laid back” with a family-like atmosphere. He said O’Loughlin and Koale go scuba diving with him every other weekend and described both as “very competent in the water.”
Spicer called the veterans he’s worked with on the show “an inspiration.”
In season four, Bryan Anderson, a U.S. Army sergeant who served two tours in Iraq and lost his legs and left arm in a roadside bomb explosion, appeared as Kirk Emerson in “Pe‘epe‘e Kanaka” (Those Among Us). Anderson, an ambassador for the Gary Sinise Foundation, said it was great.
“The cast and crew were all amazing to me,” said Anderson in an email, adding that actor Scott Caan took him surfing. “They made me feel like family for the time I was there I really hope I get another opportunity to work with them. … I think Alex represents the military community well.”
In an upcoming Christmas episode, Spicer said four real-life veterans and actors representing several branches of the military — Jason Redman, Stephen Jackel, Kathryn Taylor Smith and J. Eddie Martinez — will help round up some thieves over the holidays.
While the relationship with the military has been positive, the overlap of actors portraying veterans and real-life veterans did result in a widely reported clash in an earlier season — between the Greatest Generations Foundation, based in Denver, Colo., and “Five-O.” The foundation in 2011 said it had brought World War II Pearl Harbor veterans to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl while “Five-O” crews were filming , and that they were disrespectful and did not stop production during the national anthem. At that time, Lenkov issued an apology and said the series carried a “demonstrative pro-military message.”
Four years later, that was validated by Got Your 6, a veterans nonprofit in Los Angeles, which selected “Hawaii Five-0” in its first round of “6 Certified” acknowledgments, which are issued to films and TV shows that accurately and responsibly portrayed veterans in popular media in 2015.
“Hawaii Five-0” was selected for its portrayal of McGarrett as a leader and problem solver, according t o Bill Rausch, executive director of Got Your 6.
“Yes, he’s a Navy SEAL and on this elite police task force, but also a normal, every day American,” he said.
Shows often portray veterans as broken, unemployed or suicidal, one-dimensional characters, and while these are real problems, many veterans are also “leaders, problem solvers and civic assets” in the community, he said. Once certified, a show retains that status.
Other television series given the “6 Certified” status that year were “Modern Family,” “The Night Shift,” and “Dancing with the Stars,” which featured Army veteran and double amputee Noah Galloway as a contestant.