#H50: #AlexOLoughlin on playing the Hollywood game

Hawaii Five-0 star Alex O’Loughlin on bruises, fame, playing the Hollywood game

27 Oct 2016

I don’t want to go back to Hollywood. I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t know if I want to keep doing this. Yeah, maybe [I would give up acting]. I don’t know. I’m just being honest.

Alex O’Loughlin

posted in The Sydney Morning Herald


With an acting degree from NIDA to his name and an airline ticket to Hollywood in his back pocket, Alex O’Loughlin embarked on an acting career for all the wrong reasons, the 40-year-old star of Hawaii Five-0 now admits.

“Whether or not I would have admitted it at the time, what I wanted to experience was fame,” he says. “I wanted to make some money, but I wanted to really just be in the running at the higher level. I wanted to be on billboards and I wanted people to go, oh, that’s that guy.”

You might argue that as the star of one of the most successful television series in the world – the CBS Studios reboot of the iconic ’70s tropical cop drama of the same name – he’s at least achieved what he set out to do.

“I think that that was the drive but I don’t know why, because I hate celebrity,” O’Loughlin says.

“The minute I got a taste of it, I was like, oh, this has nothing to do with anything,” he adds. “I think for me, it was very important to go to the heart of all that stuff and see it from close up to realise that that wasn’t what I wanted.”


At just over 185cm tall, O’Loughlin cuts a formidable figure as he walks onto the sound stage. Production on the seventh season of Hawaii Five-0 is well underway and, though he is just starting his day, he moves with the slightly bruised carriage of a man whose work exacts a physical toll. As roles go, this is an unusually tough one.

As we talk, he rattles off an eye-watering list of injuries, from herniated discs in his neck, nerve damage, torn shoulder muscles, torn bicep tendons and more.

“When I show all the medical records to the doctor each year for my physical, the one for this season was funny,” he observes wryly. “She was just like, are you f—ing kidding me?”

Looking back, O’Loughlin isn’t sure the career windfall – the gig, the fame that came with it and the financial security – was worth the physical cost.

“It’s taken a toll that I don’t think is worth the money and I wish I had made different decisions from the beginning,” he admits.

One cost is a loss of innocence, he says.

“Now it’s all gone, and a part of me has become one of those actors that I used to look at and go, oh, what’s wrong with him? If you don’t become the guy that immediately has really staunch boundaries, you get really hurt, you get taken advantage of.”


But in transactional terms there are benefits. He now works in the top tier of network television. And after Hawaii Five-0, he will no doubt have his pick of series. But creatively the profit is less easy to measure. He does not, for one, watch his own work back.

“Every time I watch it, I get deeply, deeply depressed; I can’t watch myself … I start thinking about what I’m looking like, what I sound like, all that other nonsense.”

Graduating from Australia’s most prestigious drama school, Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art, O’Loughlin notes he learned lessons he was not even aware he was being taught.

“There is a lot you don’t get to understand or comprehend until you find yourself in a work environment needing to juggle six cats,” he says. “Needing to retain huge amounts of dialogue, getting through a giant page count and being able to compartmentalise.”

But it taught him that great performance is a case of all or nothing.

“It comes down to that but I didn’t get that right away,” he says. “The first few jobs, not only was I shit, but I felt relatively overwhelmed. I’ve never been as overwhelmed as I have on this job but I’ve never managed anything as well as I’ve managed this, I think.”


Taking on the role of policeman Steve McGarrett six years ago, O’Loughlin turned to a good friend, Justified and Sons of Anarchy star Walton Goggins, for advice.

“I called him panicking, and he was like, would you relax? He said you can show up every day and hit your mark, and save yourself the pain, the trouble and the stress, or you can care as much as you do, until the final breath of the show, and become better than you are,” O’Loughlin recalls.

“This was an opportunity for a master’s degree in front of the camera,” he adds. “And it was one of the more important things anyone said to me when I came on to this. I really took those words on board, and I’ve tried to approach it like that and think like a director all the time and learn as much as I can.”


Life after Hawaii Five-0 is more nebulous, mainly because O’Loughlin doesn’t want to leave Hawaii itself. He certainly doesn’t want to trade Hawaii for Los Angeles.

“I’m blessed into these islands. I’ve got a [Hawaiian] name, my children have Hawaiian names, I’m married to a Hawaiian girl,” he says. O’Loughlin married surfer/model Malia Jones in 2014 and they are raising three sons, one each from previous relationships and a third, born in 2012.

O’Loughlin also built a house – by hand, with a couple of mates from Sydney – in which he and his family now live.

“It holds incredible significance to me,” he says. “I don’t ever want to leave it.”

Even if the price is to give up acting? “I don’t want to go back to Hollywood,” he says.

“I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t know if I want to to keep doing this. Yeah, maybe [I would give up acting]. I don’t know. I’m just being honest.”

All of that said, he is not unhappy with his life.

“I don’t think there’s a destination in this [but] I’m well on my way to become the man that I hoped I would become one day, a man that reflects similar qualities to the men that I’ve looked up to in my life,” O’Loughlin says.

“And that is a direct result of the people that I’ve had the good fortune to be in contact with, befriend, get close to, and a lot of that has been because I have had this great opportunity on this show.”

O’Loughlin pauses. “When I sit back and look at it … I try to get objective and look at the great journey,” he says. “I don’t know what’s up there. I think there’s something bigger there. I feel comforted when I look at the great journey of my life so far because I feel like there’s something next to me. Does that make sense?”





Filed under Alex O´Loughlin, articles, Interviews

36 responses to “#H50: #AlexOLoughlin on playing the Hollywood game

  1. Kathysr

    Well, WOW, wow and more wow. Now we know exactly how much and how seriously Alex’s been injured doing Hawaii Five-O. My body aches for all of his injuries. OUCH!! Torn shoulder? Herniated disc in the back? That often requires surgery. Sounds like he’s walking with a noticeable limp now. He’s in the middle of a powerful existential dilemma on which way to go in life. At this time it sounds like he wouldn’t do a series in LA. He’s now totally grounded in Hawaii. I think he’s found all his true deep, spiritual happiness there–career, wife, son, LIFE. It’s one of the things I love about him, how incredibly deeply he commits to something once he decides to do it.

    But we need to take his musings with a grain of salt, too. This interview is in the middle of that grueling 24 episode filming schedule, so right about now Alex is in his most physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted state. I remember other huge stars doing similar interviews in the middle of their TV series. Once they finally had the chance to REST and regain their energies, they ultimately made different career decisions and stayed in the business. My take is that Alex is really exhausted and in a lot of physical pain right now. I find it interesting that he’s doing a lot of interviews now. He’s usually pretty quiet, isn’t he?

    Maybe Steve McGarrett needs to command his team in a wheelchair for a while. Give the poor guy a rest!!!


  2. I agree, hopefully he is just very tired physically and psychologically at the moment but he might feel better after another hiatus and hopefully more positive if there is a S8.
    And after Five 0 he could take on less physically challenging roles and just commute if he doesn’t fancy moving back to LA.
    That’s what Chi does.
    Or something might pop up again in HI, like it happened to Daniel after Lost.


  3. Magnólia

    Precisa de uma pausa. Mas não desista. Tem grande talento e carisma! Saúde 🎸🌻


  4. Kathysr

    James Garner was totally exhausted and seriously injured during his six years on ROCKFORD FILES. He had multiple knee surgeries and his knees were permanently injured. Tom Selleck was physically and mentally exhausted doing MAGNUM PI. The shooting schedule pressure is relentless. The hours are insane.

    I remember Scott saying that doing the show was like doing a new independent film each week and never being prepared. Just Trying to remember all that dialogue is crazy. And then the entire cast has to do intricate blocking and rehearsals for those extended, complicated action scenes. Takes time and intense concentration to do it.

    Alex does the most physically challenging work that I’ve seen on any television show and in most theatrical films. I groan when he jumps off buildings, jumps on top of cars, bounces off this, falls and rolls on the ground, etc. Hopefully his stunt double is doing most of this now.

    He’s just a very tired guy right now. When he regains his perspective, he’ll be able to commute to work all over the world. He can take his family with him. You can bring teachers, nannies and tutors with you to home school your kids when you’re on location. You can do distance learning, on line learning, so nothing is a problem. You can do anything today.


  5. SanDee

    In addition to the exhaustion and physical injuries everyone has mentioned, there’s also the fact that Alex just turned forty, a time when most people sort of take stock of their lives and compare where they are with where they thought they’d be at this stage of life. They try to envision what the next 40 years will hold. He needs to regain physical wellness and everything else will follow. I wouldn’t hold him time every thing he said in this interview. Time and tide. It will all work out for him. He’s too good a man for anything else.


  6. SanDee

    Meant to say “hold him TO everything he said,” although just holding him would suit me just fine! 😚


    • Kathysr

      Wouldn’t we all love to hold him. Turning 40 is a HUGE emotional and spiritual watershed moment in our lives and no one understands it until you experience it. You face your own mortality for the first time. You realize that you’re not a kid anymore and that half your life is behind you. And you really do evaluate where you are in life, where you thought you’d be at this age, and where you wish to go from now on. Alex had JUST turned 40 when he did these interviews. Great comment. He’s in the middle of a lot of thinking out loud right now.


      • Lynne

        Agree with everything, 40 is huge- plus, Alex is grounded. But he has an almost 20 yr old ( maybe Saxon already is) and a 4 yr old ( I can’t remember how old Spike is)! What a man has to balance with that wide spread is challenging and from what I’ve read he would give his all to each of his children, let alone to a marriage. TV series work is hard, long and can be grueling. Just hope he is able to continue with his Judo/ Jujitsu because that seems to ground him as well. Many of us get to transcend thru this passage with just a few close peeps; he has to do this in the public arena. He has played his cards close to the breast especially for the last few years. He is always pleasant with his fans and I have NEVER read anything negative. Poor guy can’t even go to Whole Foods without someone wanting to snap a photo ( of course if I saw him I’d be asking for one too!). I think he will just continue to do what is right for him, his family and for the series. (LOVE all the gifs and thank you)


  7. karen

    Maybe like a mini mid life crisis. Next he’ll be going out and buying a red sports car! But he has a wife now that he appears to adore, and she will help him in his decisions. I’m glad that he wants to make Oahu his home.


    • gracenotpark

      Heh! More like a new bike…to add to his collection.


      • I think he is done collecting them as well – part of the family and the age, I think.
        He gave his latest one away …..


        • gracenotpark

          He did? Oh man! Our guy is growing up! 😉
          I do hope he is physically ok…he used to be so excited about doing stunts himself. Age is a bitch, y’all! And he’d be entertaining just sitting in a chair, delivering his lines. Show should write him maybe a bit older and wiser and less immortal. He’s worth taking care of.


          • I think a family man with a wife and two young boys that he spends all his spare time with to enjoy them, and a job that keeps him busy for such long grueling hours, realised he does not have time to drive around alone on a bike.
            Add to that maybe aches and pains and I think it was a wise choice.
            I just hope the Network and producer listen to their star this time around and support him better than in Season 2


  8. A very introspective article. He’s much more ‘beaten up’ that what we knew and don’t forget he’s had problems with pain killers in the past because of how brutal filming H5-0 is. The information he reveals here is very personal, he really opened up to this writer, which he seems to do more in Aussie interviews. I read this and adore him even more!


    • I totally agree Janno .


      • kathysr

        I bet the poor guy’s doing this without any pain medication this time around. He’s been in pain since the first season. I think that’s when he initially injured his shoulder. And then it’s just been injury on top of injury. I hope that CBS and the studio are providing him with comprehensive and intensive multiple modalities of physical therapy treatments, to keep him mobile, relax the muscles and to greatly reduce the pain He should have a chiropractic and massage therapy table table in his trailer!


  9. I had to go back and read the interview again in order to grasp all he said. I agree that turning 40 might have made him do some soul searching. Hopefully, he will find peace within himself. I just want to give him a hug right now!


  10. Kelbelle

    Wow from me too. So sorry that he’s hurting, but wonderful to read his words from his heart. Thank you everyone for your sharing your thoughts. Didn’t think I could love him more ❤️❤️❤️


  11. Wonderful comments ladies . Kudos to all of you Wishing Alex all the very best from the day of this interview in Oz to “Forever”.
    I have had NO internet service for almost a week and have missed every body here A LOT !!!!


  12. S.Stone

    What a great interview, very honest.


  13. First things first because it is a pet peeve of mine. I’ve learned to not use brackets or anything else that’s no direct quote in a – well – direct quote. Because the reader does not know what happened, did the reporter ask a question about that, did the interviewee told him more than the reporter let us know or is the reporter just implying that in this case Alex has meant it this way, is it a wild guess? And what else is the reporter leaving out? Whatever it is, it invites speculation.

    Ok. On to Alex.

    I always thought I could not adore this man more but then something happens. Like this interview.
    He has turned 40 and like most of the people I know he ponders about life, about his achievements and about his future. A pretty normal thing to do. But – and here he differs from a lot people I know – he is extremely grateful and happy about how his life panned out. And not because he is arrogant or self-important. Me, leiCa, would say he has achieved so much because of his social skills, commitment, tenacity and talent. But he would say because “sometimes the planets align and give you just what you need.”
    When it comes to his work it just shows what he said years ago, that he always does things with all of his heart. I love him for this and IMHO it has to be the way you do things esp. when you’re working in a team.
    He is still into BJJ and I guess it helps a lot. Not only to stay in physical shape, but also to clear his mind, stay in mental shape so to speak. Not to forget that he made a lot of great friends (as far as we ‘know’ them). He is a little bit like Steve here.
    So to answer Alex question:
    Yes it makes sense Alex. It makes perfect sense. I wish more people would realize that, when it comes down to it, their life is a good one.


    • gracenotpark

      Agree! If there was a “like” button I’d tap it. 😉


    • I share your doubts about the words in brackets, but I think in this case it is not used incorrectly. If you look at the words just before and after it, and the whole context. However, it is clear that it is just thoughts and I have had a feeling for a long time already that Alex might have those kind of thoughts.
      And it clearly says maybe – meaning there is thinking, but no clear direction yet. Time, his love for the craft and opportunities will show him the path.
      Alex’s honesty here is kind of inspiring me to share an post with some honest thought from me as a fangirl about him and the show as well (But I doubt if Paula would approve of me posting it 😀 )

      And that is why I adore him and the main reason why I even bother being here sharing him with others. >>>> When it comes to his work it just shows what he said years ago, that he always does things with all of his heart. I love him for this and IMHO it has to be the way you do things esp. when you’re working in a team.


  14. lindae5o

    I love this article so much, even though it makes me sad. I feel so bad for Alex, that he is in pain. I know we will all be devastated, if he is forced to give up his acting career.
    When HF-0 ends, I hope he will take a long break to chill out. It’s certainly possible, with an understanding family, to travel to where the work is, and still keep Hawaii as his home base.
    Alex is such a gifted actor, with many more roads to travel in his career, IMO. Let’s hope the Fates will allow him to carry on doing the work that he loves.


  15. Sophie

    Well I know his Hawaii 50 job is taking a huge toll on his health but it would not be sad if he quit acting and we the fans will never see him doing other acting less challening roles? I mean is sad for an actor to be typecast in only one role in his acting life and that is what is happening to Alex he will only be typecast as te4ve MC and nothing more. We fans would love to see him expand his acting skills. I mean he could take a big break or a big hiatus and take care of himself and relax and unwind, but he has to make a living out of something? He studied acting cause that is what he loved and throw that awa ?

    I dont find that fair. We would love to see him doing other roles, less challenging for his health of course do other characters to see other of his acting skills, immerse in other roles, and if he quits, that wotn be posible.
    It be a waste of a talented actor to quit acting just like that.. I sense in his interviews when he mentions he is already 40 he always talk as ithat numebr is old, like he feels old or something. Common 40 is not being old. why he feels that? I think he is having a mid life crisis.


  16. Kathysr

    He’s feeling old because his body’s hurting so much right now and his body may feel about 50-60 years old. When he started the role in 2010, he was a very young, healthy and boyish 33. When I watch the first year’s episodes, year, Alex has changed physically a lot since then. He looked so young back then. And sometimes I think he looks tired and in pain on screen. I can see it.

    When the series concludes, he should take a long time off, to rest his body and to regain his wonderful, positive outlook on life. I really worry about him like a mom would worry about her son. I want Alex to do what’s best for Alex. They’re already half way through shooting this season. So, he has to just grind it out and get through it. Then he can decide what he wants to do. I do think CBS will go for an eighth season, since the viewership is really up this year, at least 1 million more viewers per episode, and the numbers are holding. It’s quite amazing.

    He’s made enough money on this series that financially he may never need to work again. So, his future plans will be doing just what he wants to do. I’d love to see him in other roles, too. I hope this isn’t the end of his career.

    He’s really tired now. I wish the show would start to accommodate his physical ailments and write Steve McGarrett in a less physically demanding way. It would really help Alex.


  17. Angela Dunning

    I Will wish him all the best in the world, but will miss Him and H50.
    I am sure he will be able to do what ever comes his way in life. May God Bless you. Always look to God for your life journey and all else will work out. Take it easy and care of you and your family.


  18. Alex is a guy who really cares he puts his whole heart and soul into everything he does. How can he think he doesn’t sound good. I first fell in love with his voice. Then to say he felt his first few jobs were not good was he talking about stuff he did in Australia because I know he won awards for his acting there .. I thought he was phenomenal ,in moonlight . The only show I watched over and over each episode at east 10 times. He was an awesome doctor in Three Rivers. I don’t care what he say’s or does next all i know is there were never be an actor or a man I could love more, okay besides my husband , Glad he is still here now in Hawaii giving us everything he has , hopefully for a few more years,

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Glenda Guyton

    I pray Alex finds Gid in a real way & he & his family are blessed beyond measure. God bless


  20. So grateful “Intense Study” is being re-posted! I love reading the articles and seeing the photos. It really helps to keep in touch with him since he’s not acting right now.


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