Kapi’o News Magazine
Fall Issue: 2013
Interview in December 2012
by Remington Taum
Also posted in Features on Feb 27, 2013
(This is a combination if both the magazine article and the internet article)
On a hot sunny day, during a lunch break on set, I sat down with “Hawaii Five-0” actor, Alex O’Loughlin, who’s starred in the CBS drama “Moonlight”, “The Back-Up Plan” and “August Rush”.
O’Loughlin now has taken on the role of Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett. After participating in a play at nine years old, he was hooked on acting.
Not untill his late teens did O’Loughlin pursue acting. He first went to Los Angeles when he was 21, and through the last 15 years he’s worked to build his career. A character himself. O’Loughlin sat down with me to talk about himself, his acting and of course, “Hawaii Five-0”
Alex: My favorite car? Ah man, good question. I think I’d like probably have to go with an old, hard-top (Pontiac) GTO, like a ‘67. Those old GTOs are beautiful. You know the one they have in “xXx”? At the end of “xXx,” he drives the purple one with a machine gun on the roof … Maybe I’m making the machine gun part up.
Remington: If you could be any animal, what would you be?
Alex: I would be a honey badger, because according to Guinness Book of World Records they’re the most fearsome animal in the whole animal kingdom. They’re badass.
Remington: What is it like playing, I guess recreating a show made many years before?
Alex: It’s a very different show. Today’s “Hawaii Five-0” to the old “Hawaii Five-o…”. Not only have the times changed, but television has changed a lot. Back in the day, the old Five-0, they didn’t have special effects. Today’s audience has so many expectations when they watch television, there’s a certain level of visual effects, there’s a certain level of stunt, there’s a certain level of everything that they expect to see, because that’s the way everybody does it now….. it’s like there’s a formula we have to follow for people to continue to tune in. We get to tell all of these great stories, these Hawaiian stories.
Jack Lord ….. he was a man without a past, a kind of ghost figure, nobody knew anything about him. Where as the Steve McGarrett that I play, in the first scene in the pilot when he is escorting Anton Hess out of Korea you are learning who he is, what he does, where he comes from, that he’s a Navy Seal …. in the teaser of the pilot you already have a vast amount of information about our protagonist.
It plunges you as an audience member, into knowing and hopefully caring about that character, not just about the cop stuff. The way they did it was really smart (the killing of McGarrett’s father), immediately you’re thinking, oh my god, who is this guy, what a tragedy, you’re invested immediately. The set-up is very different.
Remington: How is this season different from the last two? From your experience.
Alex: I actually really like this season. It feels like a lot of things have smoothed out. I’ve relaxed a bit and I’m not taking risks. I’m not doing stunts like I used to. I just can sit back, do my work and be with my family. So actually, for me it’s fantastic. I feel like I’ve got a bit of job security now. Like (during) the first two years, (it was like) the rug could be pulled any minute.
Remington: What would you say is the most rewarding part of your job?
Alex: Well, I have a really great job. I have a lot of fun. I get to tell stories, which is what I love to do most, I get to work with a great group of guys, and I get to do fun “boy stuff” and play with guns. The most rewarding thing about my job, though, is being able to reach people in a way that’s outside of the industry.
If I do a bunch of work and become a person of public interest on some level then I can hopefully use that to generate care in other areas that might be based in community service or philanthropy. I think that’s the most important part of my job as an actor. It’s a way I get to give back.
Remington: How did you end up in the acting industry? Did you plan to do this or did it just kind of happened?
Alex: I’ll never forget the first experience of walking out on the stage, the audience was there in front of me but I couldn’t see them cause of the footlights. But I immediately I knew I could tell them a story…. I had that first subjective of being a guide and from then I always loved it but did not pursue it till years later.
It was one of my friends who enlightened me to the fact that I was an actor, and I had to do something about it. I think that what he meant was I was a show off. I started at the bottom doing some really basic classes, doing some background extra’s work and from there began the slow progression.
I ended up getting a commercial or two, and then I got into a really good drama school and I did my three years, got my degree. I started on the stage, did a couple of movies and moved to Hollywood.
Remington: What would you say for those who are looking to become an actor? What would you suggest to them, the process in it, if they have to put a lot of time, what they should do?
Alex: From the beginning of my career, I’ve always been ready to have everything taken away. If you go to Hollywood to “climb the greasy pole” and you’ve got a dream of how it’s gonna be, you need to let go of that dream immediately because it’s not going to be like that. I’m not saying it’s gonna be worse, it’s just a really tricky business. It’s very competitive.
The two main things I’ve always done is constantly be ready for it all to be taken away, and be OK with that. And be OK with tomorrow, having to do something different and let all this go. Especially in Hollywood, if you’re doing all the right things, going to good classes, you’ve got a good agent, you’re in the run and you’re getting into rooms and nailing auditions … you have to be doing that.
Hollywood is a meritocracy, like when you go to the deli, you have to wait for your number to be call, when they call your number you’ll have your chance to buy your pig so you’d better be ready, you know?
I moved to LA 10 years ago, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. At first when I went there ….. I was really nervous, there weren’t a lot of Australians there. Now, everyone’s there, everyone wants to be working as an actor, and making a living because it beats working. It’s about commitment, dedication, ambition, drive, tenacity ….. it’s about a million things. If you’ve gotta do it, go do it. Just be realistic.
Remington: Who are some of the most influential people in your life?
Alex: My mom is one. And like the other influential people in my life, it’s because of what she’s overcome. But there’s certain men, one of them who is sitting next to me right here (O’Loughlin’s agent), who I’ve known and grown with over the years, whose honor is true.
The people that I look to in my life for inspiration are people that do things for other people, are people that, for whom their main priorities are, love, respect and integrity like my lady, Malia. They’re the ones I’ve surrounded myself with. They’re the ones I hold in deepest admiration. I cut the others loose.
Remington: What’s it like filming a majority of things here in Hawaii? How’s it different from LA or different parts of the world?
Alex: It’s beautiful. Hawaii’s a very special place. There’s an aloha here that’s not necessarily on any other film set you’ve worked on, but it’s more than that.
Working on this land, having this particular earth under our feet when we tell these stories, about these Hawaiian people. And to be considered a (albeit peripheral) part of the community is something I’m extremely proud of. It’s very different here from anywhere else in the world. There’s a lot of power here, a lot of mana, and a lot of history. There’s also a lot of spiritual activity. You have to come and experience it. All that great stuff is the background of this TV show.
Hawaii plays the fifth and probably the most important character of the task force. It’s me Danno, Kono, Chin and Hawaii. We couldn’t do it anywhere else.
(mana – meaning “power, effectiveness, prestige,” where in most cases the power is understood to be supernatural)
Remington: What is the most exciting thing, that’s different, maybe more action, that you’re excited for viewers to see?
Alex: I’m always excited for viewers to tune in and see new “Five-0.” New “Five-0″ is always new cool stuff. Gadgets, guns, cars, action, big waves … There’s also a lot of great character stuff going on with (McGarrett’s) mom, Danno’s daughter and ex … I love that it’s not just procedural.
Remington: So if you could be a super hero, what would it be?
Alex: I had an answer for this …….. Superman, but that’s an obvious one. He does everything man. But I’m sure there’s someone else ….. Ironman’s pretty rad. …. No I gotta say Superman. I love Wolverine. but, Superman flies.