When TV viewers last visited the tropical shores of “Hawaii Five-0,” a shocked Steve McGarrett was coming face-to-face with his mother, a woman presumed dead for 20 years. Now, as Season 3 of the turbo-charged crime series gets set to launch (10 p.m. Sept. 24, CBS), Emmy winner Christine Lahti has come aboard to play Doris McGarrett in a recurring role. But don’t expect a joyous family reunion. These two have issues.
On the other hand, O’Loughlin’s personal life appears to be substantially brighter. The Aussie actor says he’s “doing great” following a brief rehab stint earlier this year for prescription pain medication — a problem stemming from a shoulder injury sustained while filming the show. Moreover, he and girlfriend, model Malia Jones, are expecting their first child together in a few weeks (He has a teen son, Saxon, from a previous relationship).
An amiable O’Loughlin, looking tan and fit, took time recently to field some questions during a break from production on the Honolulu sound stages of “Hawaii Five-0.”
– By Chuck Barney,
18 September 2012
Question: So give us the lay of the land. Where do McGarrett and his mother stand when the season launches?
Alex: Oh my God, it’s a pretty epic revelation that he has to process. The minute he starts to let himself feel the love and the emotion that comes from missing his mom for all those years, it’s kind of squashed by mistrust and resentment.
Essentially, all the turmoil in McGarrett’s life, including the murder of his father, is directly attributable to the decisions she’s made. It bring some more wrinkles to his already wrinkled personality.
Question: Do you love playing that?
Alex: Yeah, man, that’s the stuff. Anyone can do the cops-and-robbers stuff — “Put the gun down!” But this is the emotional tapestry that makes McGarrett who he is — the stuff that we’ve been weaving over the past few years.
Question: “Hawaii Five-0” thrives on action, beautiful scenery and crime cases. Do you think your show has a healthy amount of that “character stuff”?
Alex: Yeah, if you look at our show compared to other procedurals on TV, we get to do a lot of that. Much of what we do is driven by arcing storylines that go over multiple episodes. … And I stipulated that coming in when I met with producers. I didn’t want to do the same things that other cop shows are doing on TV and neither did they. (Executive producer) Peter Lenkov is constantly coming up with new and exciting storylines.
Question: What’s it like working with Christine Lahti?
Alex: Oh, man, she’s more decorated than Patton. It’s really marvelous to work with her and she’s playing the role pitch-perfect, I think. … It’s really great for all four (main cast members) to work with new people.
Of course, we always try to keep things fresh, but it’s kind of like doing a play with the same people all the time. Christine and the other guest actors we have, bring new flavors, a new flair and a new rhythm. We’re six episodes in (production) and I feel like this is our best season so far. It really feels silky smooth.
Question: How are you different from Steve McGarrett?
Alex: Well, I tend to move like him and look like him. And I can take a beating fairly well. (Laughs). But I’m much more sensitive than him. Some of the things he’s been through would have driven me to tears. … There’s a darkness that follows him that I don’t understand and I probably don’t want to.
Question: One of the great things that differentiates your version of “Hawaii Five-0” from the original is the playful banter between your character and Danny Williams (Scott Caan). How did that chemistry develop?
Alex: It’s been there from the very beginning. We had to do a live feed (screen test) for network executives back in LA. We were basically just reading off a script and it was there. We get each other’s energy and we have a similar sense of humor. It’s like a good marriage.
Question: Do you ever hear from old-school locals in Hawaii telling you that your McGarrett, or your show, isn’t enough like the original?
Alex: Not so much anymore, but in the beginning I had some of that. I was in a store in the (North Shore town) Haleiwa and this little woman who was about 4-foot-2 came up to me. She got right up in my face and said, “Hey, haole, we don’t say ‘Bro’ here. We say, ‘Brah!’ You got that?” Man, I thought she was going to lay me out. I just said, “Yes, ma’am” and moved on.
Question: Living here can be a little different. Was it an easy transition?
Alex: No, not at first. When I got here to shoot the pilot, they put me up in the Hilton Hawaiian Village (near Waikiki). I’m not a totally shy guy, but I’m a little agoraphobic. I’m not a big fan of crowds. That place was teeming with people and it really freaked me out. I thought: “So this is what Hawaii is?”
When I came back to shoot the series, I was actually dreading it. But then I got my own place and settled in. I started meeting people and finding my favorite watering holes and I discovered the real Hawaii. … The people here are kind of like what you find back home in Australia. They’re very friendly. There’s a similar kind of ease to them.
Question: Have you taken up any of the local activities, say surfing? And what about the food?
Alex: I’ve always been a pretty strong swimmer, but when it came to surfing I was kind of a laughing-stock in Australia. Now I have a vast collection of surfboards. I’m still not very good, but I’m improving. As for the food, I’ve tried most of the local delicacies. I’m still working on poi, but just can’t get into it. I love Kona coffee, though. It’s the best.
Question: So it sounds like you’re pretty immersed.
Alex: Absolutely. I have a house here. I’m having a little Hawaiian baby in about 4-5 weeks. I’ve been blessed by the Kahunas here and was given a Hawaiian name. And my 15-year-old goes to school here. I feel blessed to be part of these islands and part of this culture. This is home now.
Question: With a baby on the way, do you feel like you need to be a little more careful with yourself? Like back off some dangerous stunt work?
Alex: Of course, when you become a parent, you try to be a little more sensible and a little less stupid. And even before, I was trying to exercise a certain sensibility just for my own self-preservation — especially after I got injured. I’ve always felt a little guilty about turning down stunt work, but less so now. It’s just the right thing to do. I’m not in my 20’s anymore.
Question: A lot of fans of this show dig it when you shed your shirt and reveal that sculpted body. Can you give us a feel for what your workouts entail?
Alex: I’ve always been pretty athletic. I run and bike a lot, do some occasional weight work. But for the past six months or so, my main thing has been jiu-jitsu. I love it so much and feel like I get a really good workout from it. I do it at least three times a week.
Question: You probably know nothing about this, but last spring, our publications put together a “TV Crush Tournament,” where we had readers vote for their dreamiest prime-time stars. You won the male side of the tourney with ease.
Alex: Really? That’s awesome. Wow, I feel humbled and validated. (Laughs). Who was my competition?
Question: Just about anyone you can think of. All the top stars. It came down between you and Jensen Ackles of “Supernatural.”
Alex: Wow. Pretty cool.
Question: Seriously, though, your fan base is incredibly passionate. How does that make you feel?
Alex: I’m continually amazed at the amount of support my fans show me. I recently wrote a blog post trying to express my appreciation. … I’m actually surprised (by the support) sometimes because I don’t feel like I’m a very good celebrity. I don’t have a Twitter account. I barely manage my Facebook page and I don’t get to my e-mail often enough.
Then I watch my own work and I’m not a fan of it. I don’t see it. (Laughs). … Frankly, I probably wouldn’t have this job without the fans.