This is definitely not your parents’, or grandparents’ Hawaii Five-0, which premiered on TV on September 26, 1968. In the ‘reboot’ of the classic series, a new elite federalized task force is formed to wipe out the crime that plagues the beautiful islands of Hawaii.
Detective Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) heads the team, with Danny ‘Danno’ Williams (Scott Caan), a newly relocated New Jersey cop, as his partner. The cast is rounded out by Daniel Dae Kim as Chin Ho Kelly, an ex-Honolulu Policeman.
I spoke with the show’s producers Alex Kurtzman and Peter Lenkov about their take on the new series.
I notice the word ‘reboot’ being bandied about quite a bit. Why are you avoiding the world ‘remake’?
Alex Kurtzman: I think, for me, the world ‘remake’ suggests that we’re doing exactly the same thing, just doing it again. And I think in our experience with Star Trek, we felt like you have to find the spirit of what that original franchise was about, and you have to really be true to it, and then you have to expand on it and bring it into the modern time with whatever rules will govern it.
In the original series, Danno, is very much the sidekick. McGarrett get to do everything. Here it seems like more of a buddy piece. Was that your design?
Peter Lenkov: What made the original show so good and so memorable were the cases week to week. I think what we wanted to do was really go into these characters, but we felt we needed McGarrett to play off somebody.
I think when we started to think about the Danno character, we really felt like it would be a good foil in some ways. You get some good drama out of the relationship if you have someone who is a fish out of water.
So really by design originally, it was that these two guys would be front and center in the show, McGarrett clearly leading the unit and Danno being his right-hand man, but really being an equal in terms of his experience and what he brings to the table.
Can you talk about theme for the series?
Alex Kurtzman: When you look at something new, you say, ‘Okay, I have to play with it. I have to figure out what I’m going to keep and what I’m going to reinvent.’ And it had been suggested at one point that we get a really popular rock star to come in and redo the theme with an electric guitar. And we thought, ‘Okay, let’s explore it. Let’s see how that goes.’
Looking at it (we realized), you cannot change the original theme. There are few themes that are as good as the 5-0 theme, and (we thought) we have to be utterly respectful to the point that we found the original musicians who did the original theme, and brought them back in to re-record it. At the end of the day, why mess with something that’s perfect?
Is it a reflection of our times that nowadays we can accept a leading character who is not absolutely good or bad, who is a flawed human being?
Peter Lenkov: What makes Steve McGarrett and Danny Williams so interesting is that they are a little gray, and I think there are some flaws in them. That’s what makes them so watchable. They make mistakes and they’re human, and I think that them being real comes across and that’s why you gravitate to these guys. I think that’s why it really clicked and it worked for us.
We’re fans of flawed heroes. I think when you see somebody week to week that always wins and gets his man it gets a little boring. You want to see something that feels very real and very true, and we strive for that, and for these characters to really bring out the best in each other, but really feel real to the audience that’s watching them.
Has Daniel Dae Kim been any sort of resource having spent most of the last few years there doing Lost?
Peter Lenkov: He’s sort of the unofficial mayor of Waikiki. He’s been an amazing resource for us and opened a lot of doors for us shooting-wise. He really does know literally everybody. There are about 860.000 people in Honolulu, and I think he knows every one of them.
How has Hawaii changed since the last series was shot?
Peter Lenkov: In terms of its strategic importance, it’s really the first border in the United States on that side of the world. And I think that still exists. We obviously know all the threats that are coming from North Korea and Asia. And that’s actually helping our storytelling. We’re a story that’s set in Hawaii, but there’s such global stakes to that region that we want to take advantage of that in our storytelling.
Were there any things in particular from the original series that you wanted to get rid of?
Peter Lenkov: I don’t think we were trying to get rid of anything. I think what was appealing to us about this show was that we were fans of the original show. We didn’t want to throw things out that worked.
So you’ll see little tributes to the original; show. There’s McGarrett’s car, the one that Jack Lord drove, which is sitting in a garage that our Steve McGarrett is going to be working on and getting rebuilt. It was an important car for his father.
A new viewer may just gloss over it and may not recognize it. But for somebody who’s seen the original show, they’ll see that we really took great care and respect for the original material.