TVaddict: As I’m sure you know, HAWAII FIVE-0 will be the third go-around with CBS. Would it be fair to say you feel more confident this time around?
Alex: Yeah, I do. I don’t want to take anything away from the other shows I’ve done because I’ve worked with some incredible people and some wonderful showrunners. But the thing is there’s a reason things either work or don’t work in television. And I don’t know what the answer is. I just sort of keep blundering along to the next thing and hoping. That said, this has — the team behind this, I mean, the two men who are at the helm of this show (Peter and Alex) and the writing staff that we have, it just feels, everyone feels so capable. And having seen what they did with the pilot, there’s just something special about it. So I mean if this one doesn’t go, I’m completely bewildered and have no idea how television works at all.
TVaddict: Where do you start when it comes to tackling a role that is this iconic. Do you go back and look at the original series or do you just start from the script you’re given and take it from square one?
Alex: If you can remember, the old show was taken off TV 40 years ago and there’s been a lot of changes in television both in terms of the way we act stylistically and what we can do with special effects, stunts and all the rest of it. So it’s not a remake. We’re not kind of picking up where they left off. It’s a reboot, and the characters are very different. In the old show, you don’t know much about the character Jack Lord played. Whereas in our new show, you learn a lot about Steve McGarrett and I just did my character work based on the script that these guys wrote.
TVaddict: In terms of character work, the old McGarrett was stoic and unbending whereas your take seems to be more colorful. How did you come up with that and what was your take on McGarrett’s version?
Alex: I love Jack Lord’s McGarrett. I love Jack Lord’s hair. I love Jack Lord’s version. I think he started blue steel, the look that he does, he’s awesome. None of which I can get away with today in 2010 on television! Look, Steve McGarrett, my Steve McGarrett is a little different. You learn a lot about our Steve McGarrett in the very beginning, and so I had a lot to work with — stuff about his father, about his family, about his estrangement from them, about his military background, about the level of training that he’s done. I mean, it takes a lot of dedication and a lot of perseverance to get — not only get to something like the Navy Seals — but to actually get through and to be in the field with a team like that.
So this guy, he’s a really interesting case study for me as an actor and as a sort of researcher of human movement. My job is character. That’s the only thing that I have any kind of control over. It’s the only thing I have any input into, really, I mean, at the end of the day and that’s what I’ve been trained in and that’s what I really enjoy doing. So I guess I came to this and did the character work that I always do. And I found a lot of layers to this guy.
TVaddict: Do you think it’s a reflection of our times that nowadays we can accept a leading character who is not absolutely good or absolutely bad, that you can show a flawed human being?
Alex: I think so. In some of the other work I’ve done, the other bits get cut out and they will show you one version of the performance that I’ve done, but I never deliver a performance on the day that is just one thing, because it’s inaccurate to all of us. None of us are just purely benevolent or malevolent. I mean, it’s not possible in human nature, unless you’re Ghandi. The more flaw you bring to a character or the more balance you give your character with flaw, the closer that character moves towards everyman, you know. And if that character is an everyman, then we can all sit back and relate to them like we can’t relate to a superhero.
TVsddict: Has your co-star Daniel Dae Kim been helpful in acclimating you to shooting in Hawaii?
Alex: He has. He showed me where all the good sushi was. [Interjects executive producer Peter Lenkov, “He’s sort of the unofficial mayor of Waikiki”]
That’s true, his poster’s in every shaved ice shop.