One of the many reasons why “Hawaii Five-0” fans love the show has to do with the casting of Hawaiian actors as main or recurring members of the show. One of the most beloved characters is Flippa, played by Shawn Mokuahi Garnett. Flippa, the best cousin and business partner of Kamekona (Taylor Wily), is often seen working alongside the shrimp venture capitalist.
Flippa has been a constant within the Five-0 ohana since the show’s third season. We first met him when he worked security with Kamekona for a Victoria Secret fashion show. Fans quickly fell in love with him because of his willingness to make fun of himself in order to turn a profit or increase sales at the shrimp truck. But fans also love Flippa because of his devotion to his cousin and to the Five-0 team.
In last week’s episode of “Hawaii Five-0,” “Ikiiki i ka la o Keawalua” (“Depressed with the heat of Keawalua”), Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Five-0 worked to find out who murdered Flippa’s friend and bandmate Luka Palakiko (Hale Mawae). It was an episode fans of Garnett were particularly interested in because it featured not only his acting but his musical talent.
Garnett’s character, Shawn “Flippa” Tupuola more often than not is seen as comedic relief on the show, and while Flippa has grown from the bit part Garnett played in the third season — chances to focus on the serious side of Flippa have come few and far between. Fans were very appreciative to see more of the Shawn they know, dedicated to his family and friends, and being able to sing and play his music onstage. Fans love the comedian Flippa, but they know that music and ohana is really where he shows his true heart.
FLIPPA THE MUSICIAN
The last time we spoke to Garnett, was during the fourth season when his character had been added to the recurring cast of “Hawaii Five-0.” At the time, the musician was playing gigs in Hawaii, and according to his Facebook page he has since “toured the U.S., sharing the stage with artists such as Reel Big Fish, Ky-Mani Marley, Mad Caddies, Sublime with Rome, Dirty Heads and Bowling for Soup, to name a few.” His CD, “Slowly but Surely” is available on iTunes and CD Baby, and many fans have been able to purchase his music at his local gigs.
Two of his original songs have been featured on the show: “One Day,” which his character sang on the beach with Max (Masi Oka) and Kamekona in the sixth-season episode, “ʻIʻike Ke Ao” (“For the World to Know”), and “For a While,” when Max said aloha to Five-0 in the seventh-season episode, “Ua hoʻi ka ʻōpua i Awalua” (“The Clouds Always Return to Awalua”).
Fans have also had the treat of seeing him sing and play the ukulele on several occasions, mostly during holiday parties or Five-0 celebrations. “Certainly because of ‘Hawaii Five-0’ I’ve had tons of people come to my gigs,” said Garnett, during a phone call from his home on Oahu last week. “It’s bringing people to the establishment or the restaurant and that’s all I want to do — is help create business wherever I’m playing.”
“The cool factor is that there’s fans, there’s people that come up and they ask me, ‘Are you Flippa?’ First it was, ‘Are you the guy?’ Then it was like, ‘You’re on “Five-0,” you’re Flippa,’ now it’s like, ‘You’re Shawn Garnett.’ Then some of them if they’re really, really into it, ‘You’re Shawn Mokuahi Garnett’ and they use my middle name. So I’m like, oh, if you know my middle name then you’re family.”
Garnett is thankful for the recognition. Many fans have seen him play live at places like Monkeypod Kitchen at Ko Olina and Roy’s Beach House at Turtle Bay Resort. Even fans from the mainland, who see information about his gigs via his Instagram account, make plans during their vacation stays to come out to see him. Garnett says they are always excited to meet someone from their favorite show, and he appreciates their support.
“I tell them, I’m not McGarrett but I’m the guy who touched McGarrett on the shoulder — you can feel the electricity,” said Garnett. “Entertaining is all that I wanted to do, and I’m just fortunate to get a little bit good at it and (be able) to pay the bills.” While Garnett is more than just a “little bit good at it,” his humble reaction to fans who seek him out and want pictures and autographs really shows how down-to-earth he is, and why he is so beloved by fans.
‘WAKE UP AND BE FUNNY’
In the fifth season, Garnett met actor and comedian Augie T on the set of “Ua ʻaihue” (“Stolen”), when Augie T played the judge who crowns Kamekona the winner of a cooking battle against Chef Sam Choy. The two kept in touch, and Augie T would invite Garnett to open for him at various comedy gigs.
Two and a half years ago, Augie T invited Garnett to join his morning radio show on 93.1 Da Pa‘ina (KQMQ-FM). Now Garnett is a fixture on the “Augie T Radio Show” and you can hear him with the comedian every morning from 6 to 10 a.m. “Basically I gotta wake up and be funny. I can do that,” said Garnett. Being funny comes naturally to Garnett, and if you watch his Instagram stories you know that is the truth.
We all know how funny he is on “Hawaii Five-0” and for the most part, he has shared that some of his funniest moments have been his own improvisations. A favorite was during the same episode where he met Augie T, when Kamekona learns that Flippa has signed him up for the cooking battle against Choy. Kamekona called McGarrett “to rough him up a bit” because he is so mad at his cousin for forcing him to face the legendary chef. As he cowers in the shrimp truck, Flippa shouts “I love you!” as Kamekona talks to McGarrett.
Garnett told me he actually didn’t have any lines and it was purely his own reaction to the situation. It’s one of the many memorable moments between Flippa and Kamekona, and we’re just glad he was allowed to be himself in the scene.
Another funny moment with Flippa was when they added a bit of backstory to his character and made Flippa the “Scarface of Sand.” The episode “ʻAʻohe kio pohaku nalo i ke alo pali,” (“On the slope of the cliff, not one jutting rock is hidden from sight”) had McGarrett and Danno (Scott Caan) trying to figure out the underground world of black market sand mining from beaches in Hawaii. Flippa used to deal in black market sand and fills the two in on the big-money operation. For once we learn a little more about Flippa and who he was before he joined Kamekona’s legitimate business operation.
“It was a cool day — but I’m nervous every single time because I don’t want to mess up with the main guys. They have stacks and stacks of lines and I only have four or five lines. It was a cool backstory for Flippa, because not all of Flippa is a dimwit, it showed he has a heart, and there’s more to him than just being funny,” said Garnett.
“It was funny because after the director gave me a note, Scott said, ‘Yeah, can you do it less Hawaiian?’ Because I can go from ‘bruddah’ to ‘dude’ in five seconds,” said Garnett. Caan wasn’t serious, said Garnett, he was just being sarcastic, as if to say Garnett can’t really stop being himself. It helped calm Garnett down, as the scene was humorous yet also helped explain some of the intricacies of sand-mining, which was integral for both the case and for the audience.
One question I always ask actors who have been on “Hawaii Five-0” is to tell a story about their favorite or unforgettable moment. Garnett has many, but a few stand out in his mind.
“Meeting Carol Burnett will always be the coolest. But when Ziggy Marley was on set, he sat next to me — and I always bring my guitar on set — and I gave him my guitar and he started playing ‘I Shot the Sheriff.’ Everyone had wanted him to jam that week, and then he just started playing — that is a moment I won’t forget,” shared Garnett. Marley was a guest star in “Ka Pohaku Kihi Paʻa” (The Solid Cornerstone) and one of his songs was also featured in the soundtrack.
Garnett said the best musical moment he had was one off the “Hawaii Five-0” set when he played ukulele with singer Cindy Lauper at the Sunset on the Beach event in September for the premiere of the ninth season. He said it was amazing to play with someone who he considers a legend. He joined Lauper onstage for her classic song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” He said it was also exciting because his wife, Brandye, got to meet one of her idols.
When I asked him about working with Alex O’Loughlin in his dramatic scene in last week’s episode, “Ikiiki i ka la o Keawalua” (“Depressed with the heat of Keawalua”), his answer illustrated how much of a comedian he is in real life. He said the day was long for him as he had done his morning show with Augie T — and then played a gig — before getting to the set to film the night scene.
“I was TIRED! It was also the first time I didn’t do anything funny. I have done a similar scene like this with Alex, but they cut it out. It was in the episode where they blew up my truck,” shared Garnett via Facebook Messenger.
“Any rate, the scene was short and sweet, we filmed it in a half hour. We filmed the scene (of McGarrett comforting Flippa while he waits in the ambulance) right outside the film studios in the parking lot. There was an extra; her name was Alexis. She played a cop pretending to get a statement from me. Between takes Alex said I should be flirting with her in true Flippa style, and after me and McG hug I motion to her to ‘call me.’ It was a cool scene, I wish I had added some tears but I was too focused on staying up. AND for all you ladies out there, that’s twice I have hugged Alex. Don’t be jelly!” joked Garnett.
Like a true funnyman — and the sweet soul he is, Garnett always has a way to make you feel loved and get you laughing at the same time.
Follow Garnett on Instagram @hawaiiandude77 to get information on his future musical and comedic adventures.