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Taylor Wily, who played Kamekona in ‘Hawaii Five-0,’ dies at age 56

                                Taylor Wily
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Taylor Wily

Taylor Wily — television and film actor beloved for his work on producer Peter Lenkov’s reboot of “Hawaii Five-0,” but also known as a former sumotori and mixed martial arts fighter — died Wednesday. He was 56.

Paul Almond, a legal representative for Wily, confirmed his death. The location and cause of his death were not immediately available.

“I am devastated,” Lenkov wrote on Instagram wrote. “Heartbroken.”

“T, as I told you many times, I fell in love with you at the first audition,” he wrote Thursday night. “You came in with a towel on your head mopping up sweat, and I was smitten. You charmed me into making you a regular … on the show … and in my life. You were family. And I will miss you every day, brother.

“When we spoke last week, we laughed at how right you were from Day 1,” Lenkov continued. “Five-0 was our dream job. And I was so lucky we got to share that magic together.”

Musician Sean Na‘auao remembered “playing semipro football with him for a team called the Kauai Enforcers on Kauai. Before that I played football against him in high school when he was at Kahuku. We were lifelong athlete friends.”

Born June 14, 1968, on Oahu, Taylor Tuli Wily grew up in Laie.

He left Hawaii for Japan in March 1987 to join sumo legend Takamiyama Daigoro’s Azumazeki sumo stable. Wrestling as sumotori Takamikuni he won his first 14 matches; at almost 440 pounds, he was one of the largest wrestlers in sumo. Takamikuni reached the rank of makushita 2 in March 1989 but knee problems caused his retirement in July of that year.

Wily pursued a career with New Japan Pro-­Wrestling then moved on to mixed martial arts where he competed under the name Teila Tuli in the first-ever Ultimate Fighting Championship bout. His MMA career ended with TKO in his first and only match.

In a 2016 interview with Sherdog, a YouTube channel dedicated to the UFC, Wily discussed why he was billed as Teila Tuli for his UFC match. “They didn’t want me to come with such an English name,” he said. “So I took Taylor and spelled it the way we spell it here in Polynesia, Teila, and used my middle name, Tuli, and got rid of Wily.”

Back in Hawaii, Wily found his calling in film and TV with memorable appearances in the Fox television drama “North Shore” in 2004 and in the 2008 romantic comedy film “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

Four years later Wily entered Lenkov’s universe of television network crime dramas when he was cast as Kamekona Tupuola, a resourceful ex-convict and confidential informant turned entrepreneur, on the reboot of “Hawaii Five-0”

The character became so popular with viewers that Lenkov provided him with an origin story and expanded Wily’s participation in the show. Wily also appeared in an episode of “MacGyver” in 2017, and then on “Magnum P.I.” in 2018.

Honolulu City Council Member, film actor and entertainer Augie Tulba met Wily when they were auditioning for the same roles in films and commercials. What could have been a rivalry became a friendship instead.

“They would send me out on auditions for ‘Polynesian male,” Tulba said Friday, laughing at the memories. “When I saw Taylor I’d walk out (of the audition) because I knew he was going to get it. All the time! That would be my running joke whenever I’d see him, even when I did ‘Hawaii Five-0’ with him. When he and (Hawaii recording artist) Fiji came to one of my shows out in Laie I told that story and then I did an impersonation of him and he said ‘You do me better than me.’

“I’m glad I got to know him,” Tulba said. “He was such a happy soul. I’m glad I lost parts to him instead of someone else.”

Wily is survived by his wife, Halona Wily; son, YoungAsia Wily; daughter, Tulalagalaga Tatalo Wily; and siblings.

Memorial plans have not been announced.

The New York Times contributed to this report.

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