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#AlexOLoughlin : Road Less Traveled

Go beyond the beach on a journey into the heart of Hawaii and the soul of Alex O’Loughlin.

By Ryan Devlin

for CBS Watch!

It was early 2010, and the Australian actor had just been offered the lead role on the reboot of the classic crime drama Hawaii Five-0, stepping into the shoes of the legendary Jack Lord to play the 50th state’s taciturn top cop, Steve McGarrett. Accepting  meant moving to Oahu, in the centre of the planet’s loveliest island archipelago.

It should have been a no-brainer. Cue that big wave and the theme song by the Ventures: Dum-duh-da-da-da-dum ….

“I was conflicted,” Alex O’Loughlin says, reflecting on the decision from his house in Waikiki’s idyllic Diamond Head. “I’d done two network shows before that, neither of which  had gone past a season.” He’d played vampire/private investigator Mick St. John on the short-lived 2007 supernatural romance Moonlight. A year later, he was Dr Andy Yablonski on the medical drama Three Rivers, cancelled after just 8 episodes. Though anything seemed better than being penniless in Los Angeles, to suffer through another failed show in the middle of the Pacific, 2500 miles  from the mainland, was a risk he wasn’t sure he wanted to take.

“I didn’t know anything about Hawaii. I asked everyone, “What do I do? Is this the right move?” O’Loughlin says. “Everybody was like, ‘Are you crazy? What’s wrong with you?’.”

He took the gig, staying in the Hilton Hawaiian Village during the first month. For fans of the show, that’s where McGarrett and partner Danny “Danno” Williams were recently snookered into a joint spa weekend with their significant others.

“It was beautiful, but I didn’t get to see the real Hawaii,”  O’Loughlin says “I got a glimpse of something that wasn’t what Hawaii is. The weird touristy, crazy hotel part. I still didn’t know how I felt about it, but the pilot felt really good.”

It was, and remains a really good pilot. In the nail biting prelude, naval commander  McGarrett’s convoy comes under  rocket fire in the mountains of South Korea by baddies  out to free arms dealer prisoner, Anton Hess. Amid the attack, McGarrett  listens on his satellite phone, as his father, John, is killed on Oahu by Anton’s brother, Victor – though not before the Honolulu Police Department veteran leaves his son a few cryptic words. By the time the waves breaks and the opening credits roll, you are hooked: McGarrett has a vendetta and mystery to solve, and you’re coming along with him. Reboots are tough, but this show’s depth, coupled with O’Loughlin’s chiseled portrayal of McGarrett , made the 20th century Hawaii Five-0 and instant hit. Suddenly Oahu started feeling more certain.

“People say the island either embrace you or push you away. I found myself as a gift from the islands, being blessed in and given a Hawaiian name. I found all sorts of things drawing me in deeper and deeper.”

With a full season to shoot, he started to learn the local rhythms from friends, like fellow cast member Daniel Dae Kim, whose knowledge of Oahu stretches back to his days filming Lost. He took up surfing. A few years in, he flew in some friends from back home in Australia to help him rebuild a mid-century modern home he’d found in Diamond Head that had “spectacular bones.” Then he met the Hawaiian surfer model  Malia Jones. The couple had a son, Lion, in 2012, and later married. The house filled with boys. O’Loughlin brought to the family his teenage son, Saxon, and Jones brought a son from a previous marriage, Spike.

“I’m about to use the G word to embrace the scope”, O’Loughlin says “I don’t know what is out there. I don’t know whether there’s a God or whether there’s lots of gods or whether there’s just universal energy, but I know from what’s happened that there’s something bigger than me.”

As O’Loughlin’s life was progressing on Oahu, so was McGarrett’s albeit down a much rockier family path. He avenged the death of his father. His mother, Doris, believed to be dead for 20 years , turned up alive, having faked her death to escape threats from her CIA past. He vanquished his true nemesis –  the nefarious crime boss Wo Fat – who over the course of seasons framed him for murder of Hawaii’s governor, kidnapped and tortured and revealed himself to be McGarrett’s virtual half-brother . He had two romantic relationships and has spent a lot of time shirtless  and even more time kicking sundry bad-guy ass.

Hawaii Five-0 seasons are epic – each a whopping 25 episodes. Multiply that by seven , and O’Loughlin is approaching No 175. Playing a character for that long does things to you. O’Loughlin is in a territory where few actors ever get to tread. “It’s such a volume,” he says   “This has been a master class for me. I can definitely drop into McGarrett’s head space anytime. I have a bible of who he is in my soul, in my mind”

With Wo Fat and his family issues somewhat in the rearview, McGarrett seems to be finding a modicum of peace on the show. “This season has been more of an easy-peasy McGarrett,” O’Loughlin says. “He still misses his dad, and the thing with Doris still hasn’t totally left him. But it’s not all like, “Argh! I’ve got to save the world!”

Still, O’Loughlin is happy to leave the character behind when shooting wraps. “He’s a proper tough guy and a Navy SEAL. He’s always ready to go, walking into rooms like, “What are we doing? What do we got? I’ve had the great fortune of being exposed  to a lot of Navy SEAL’s, who’ve helped me with the character. They’re terrific guys. But being like them requires a specific sort of energy, and I have to manufacture that energy,” he says. “At the end of the day it’s like “Keep calm and have another cold one”

Paradise hasn’t been all surf and breathtaking sunsets. McGarrett may be a SEAL and a Teflon supercop, but O’Loughlin isn’t, and injuries have taken their toll. In the first few seasons, he elected to most of his own stunts, which he says was a mistake. He rattles of a litany of fractures and lacerations that could rival a snapshot collection of charts in any emergency room. “I blew one of my knees, I’ve torn ligaments and tendons, ankles and both shoulders both wrists,” he says “I’ve knocked my front teeth out. I’ve got fake front teeth. I tore my right shoulder to pieces – three external tears, a labrum tear and a detachment of the bicep tendon. My current favourite injury is two herniated disks in my lower lumbar, which I am receiving stem cell treatment for to avoid surgery.”

The last injury spooked O’Loughlin. Always athletic, he has given up everything except swimming. The pain was so great, he could barely rouse himself from bed, and he worried about being able to throw a football with his grandkids. Signed on to Hawaii Five-0 through eight seasons, he began talking about walking away while he still could. But recently, he’s felt his workload lighten, and those stem cell injections? They’ve been “magic”, he says. Does that mean he might challenge Jack Lord’s record 12 seasons as McGarrett?

“That would be a miracle,” says O’Loughlin with a laugh. “But I can see coming back and doing another season or two. I think this show is everything. It’s the core of it all.”

One thing is certain: O’Loughlin has found home.

“The majority of my memories are now Hawaiian memories, ” he saysYou’ve just got to look around. You’ve got to watch the waves in the winter here. There’s something bigger than me in the world, and I feel that source or whatever that is had something to do with the whole journey for me, because now it all makes sense.”


taciturn: reserved or uncommunicative in speech; saying little.

archipelago: group of islands

nefarious: wicked or criminal.

modicum: a small quantity of a particular thing, especially something considered desirable or valuable

litany: a tedious recital or repetitive series


My thoughts

  • Of course we will on a later occasion make a separate post of all the beautiful picture from the article.
  • Interesting to see that the magazine or photographer chose to edit out Alex’s nipple tattoos?
  • Of course he did not finish up rebuilding the house and then met Malia. They were already married when the renovations were done in 2015.
  • The writer really like to use “big” words. My dictionary was working overtime.
  • It seems that there are 3 or 4 different covers for the magazine. Reports of fans getting the Alex cover and others getting another cover, but at least the full story inside.



Filed under Alex O´Loughlin, articles, Hawaii Five-0, Steve McGarrett, Transcript

The Verge (of stardom): Alex O’Loughlin (April 2010)

How famous is Alex O’Loughlin? Ask him and he’ll assure you that he isn’t, but ask the marketers who put his name above the title on ads for the Jennifer Lopez romcom The Back-Up Plan and they may whistle a different tune. The truth is that O’Loughlin is the sort of actor who’s been on the verge of stardom for a while now, a charismatic, handsome Australian with the sort of dedicated female fanbase that comes when you play a sexy vampire in your first American project, the television series Moonlight. That series was canceled, as was O’Loughlin’s last show Three Rivers, but CBS has high hopes that an O’Loughlin-led Hawaii Five-O revival will be a fixture of its fall schedule.

On the eve of The Back-Up Plan’s release this Friday, O’Loughlin called up Movieline to discuss the way Jennifer Lopez informs his notion of celebrity, the amount of faith CBS executives have had in him, and how he still smarts (just a little!) from losing the role of James Bond.

– by Kyle Buchanan,

for Movieline

19 April 2010


Question: You’re part of this sudden infatuation Hollywood has with Australian actors, and yet you’re the only one without an embarrassing Aussie soap on his resume. How’d you dodge that bullet?

Alex: [Laughs] Yeah! I dunno, I’m sure I’ve got a few other embarrassing things on my resume. From the beginning of my career, I wanted to follow a specific path, and that’s been part of it: I went to drama school instead and did three years and got my degree. I think a soap opera thing like that can be a good thing for a lot of people, but my path took me somewhere else.


Question: When you got out of drama school, did you have a plan of, “OK, I’m going to go to Hollywood?”

Alex: I drive what we call in Australia a “ute,” or a utility pickup truck, and once I got out of drama school, all I wanted to do was get in my ute and go fishing. The last thing I wanted to do was get into the industry. That was three solid years of studying constantly every day, working two jobs on the weekends just to keep myself on the stage and pay the school fee. I did plays the whole time, and it was an incredible education, but I wanted to get as far away from it as possible.

Question: Had you just overdosed on acting?

Alex: It was like I’d been working for three years. I just needed to get in my ute and go to the beach and hang out with my mates and get back to what’s important. I did that, and work started coming to my way. I always knew that I’d go to the States — I’d been to the States before I went to school and it’s the mecca for film and TV — and I’d sort of been crafting relationships and I continued to do so after I got out.

I ended up moving here once and for all four and a half years ago, and I did know I would come here, because the collaborative pool of actors and filmmakers and talent in America is just so much bigger. It’s vast, and there’s so much more work and possibility here. I guess it was just always in the cards.

Question: Let’s talk about how The Back-Up Plan fits into that. You have a very ardent female fanbase. Is making this movie your gift to them?

Alex: Yeah, I do have a great fanbase, and they’re wonderful. They’ve been very supportive of my career and very understanding of my life and the fact that I’m not very good at blogging or Twittering or anything like that. I’m deeply appreciative of my fans and I try to express that whenever possible, and I certainly like to express that in my work.

This movie needs to make some money — it’s important to Jennifer and it’s important to me, and it’s important that people enjoy it. I think it’s a good film. I’ve seen it, and I enjoyed it.

Alex during the live Tweet

(The crazy life on Twitter – in my opinion he is wise not to have an account!)

Question: It’s being looked at as a comeback vehicle for Jennifer, who hasn’t made a film in a few years. Did you feel any of that pressure while you were making it?

Alex: No, I don’t think she will allow herself to feel that pressure. I’m sure she’s aware of what people are saying, but she went off and had some babies [during her hiatus], you know? She went and lived her life. I don’t know … talk to me, and you might get a different response than someone who’s interested in the idea of celebrity. I like my job, and I’m not naive or ignorant to the nature of what happens in this industry, but I didn’t become an actor to get famous. I became an actor because I love the work. I love being on stage, I love being part of a collaborative art form and seeing what we can create in a film, but fundamentally, the most important thing to me is what comes before that, and that’s life.

Your life, your family, your people … I mean, without life experience, you can’t tell stories anyway. You’re a boring actor. Jennifer was away having a lot of life experience and now she’s come back to work, and I kind of laugh when people say, “Ooh, she’s making a comeback!” No, she was making a couple of babies. Why don’t you pay twelve bucks and see the movie if you like a comeback?

Question: How do you handle the fact that you are getting famous? What are the downsides to it?

Alex: Lack of anonymity. I don’t know, I don’t really act like I’m famous. I just do my thing. I’m not that famous, dude. [Laughs] Sometimes I get pointed out or some people shuffle up and ask for an autograph or a photograph, but I’m not at a point where I can’t leave the house, thank God.

I think the downsides would be losing your anonymity and not being able to trust people, to tell whether people want to be with you and get to know you because of your celebrity or because of who you are. I just try to carry the sense of integrity and authenticity I had in the beginning of my career, because I think that’s what makes people interested in you in the first place. It’s important not to lose that.

BTS TBUP(This is such a sweet picture for me…… he is just adorable! 😀 )

Question: How much is that notion of celebrity defined by someone like Jennifer Lopez, who’s very much her own brand? She has perfume, music, movies…

Alex: I just know her as her, you know what I mean? I know her as my costar, her husband as my friend Marc, I know Max and Emme as her kids and they’re my own little mates … I just don’t see it in that way. When I step away and look at it from that perspective, yes, she’s a brand, and the machine behind the J.Lo brand informs and creates that.

She obviously wanted that, and in that case, she’s a very smart businesswoman because she’s made a lot of money, I presume, and she’s had a lot of success and is very well-known. She must be pretty resilient, because I don’t want that. I’m not suggesting I could ever have that, but the other thing you’ve got to realize about Jennifer is that she’s as famous as she is based on her talent.

She’s a very talented woman, an incredible singer, dancer and writer who’s very good at what she does, as opposed to these people you see these days who are famous for being famous. There are celebrities in this day and age who really have offered nothing artistically but they’re on the cover of magazines and stuff. That world, I don’t really get it.

Question: Have you shot the Hawaii Five-O pilot yet?

Alex: We wrapped it a couple of weeks ago, and now we’ve been editing and waiting to see what happens.

Hawaii Five-0 Pilot

Question: If it goes to series, you’ll be living in Hawaii for a while. As a native Australian, I would think you might have an affinity for a warm, beachy place like that.

Alex: I think anybody’s gonna have an affinity for paradise. [Laughs] It’s a pretty beautiful part of the world. Every breath of air is great, every glass of water is sweet. It’s a beautiful part of the planet and it’s a great show.

I don’t really know anybody there — I’m sure I’ll meet people — but if it’s a part of my journey, then that’s what’s going to happen next for me. It’s important for me at this stage, though, to relax and not put too much out there, because you never know what’s going to happen.

Question: You’ve survived two canceled CBS shows, but CBS head Nina Tassler keeps finding new vehicles for you. What is that relationship like?

Alex: I love Nina, she’s a personal friend. Having advocates at that level, and the amount of belief they have in me, as an actor … it’s really quite moving, to be honest. I’ve been doing this for a quite a while, and this is a business that is full of rejections and heartache.

There are situations where you have to get up, shake the sand out of your chaps, put your fists up, and get back into the ring. Every actor will tell you that there are certain points in your life where you just go, “Aw, man. Why didn’t I become a banker?” It’s moments like this and it’s people like that who renew my faith in myself and my place in the industry, you know?

Question: Is that an attitude that you had when you lost out on the role of James Bond to Daniel Craig?

Alex: I don’t know, man. It can be just as damaging and painful to have that massively international, global slap in the face as it can be to sit in a room with a director who you really respect for an independent film that you really want and be rejected for that, too. It’s all the same thing. At its biggest scale [like Bond], when it’s making headline news, and the fact that you’re talking to me about it all these years later … it was one of the biggest rejections of my whole life.

It’s something that people bring up constantly. What it is was that I wasn’t right for the role, I was too young, and Daniel was fantastic, you know? Maybe I will be right for it later on. It’s a weird thing, you know? You step away from it and maybe adopt some Buddhist philosophy [laughs] … it’s not normal. It’s not normal to go in for a job interview every day and get rejected this much.



Our careers change, though. The last three jobs I’ve had have been offers. I didn’t need to audition. These are the moments in my life when I go, “Wow.” Those trying elements of what it means to be an actor are starting to die down with the faith that these filmmakers around me now have. They say, “I know he can do this.” It means a lot to me.

My Thoughts

What a fantastic place to be in, when you don’t have to try to sell yourself at auditions anymore, because people already know who you are and what you have to offer. Some things that can also count in your favour is dedication to your work and your family. If heaps of talent, good looks and a solid work ethic means anything in Hollywood, then there should be a very long line of great offers waiting for Alex, the minute the cameras stop rolling for Hawaii Five-0…….


Filed under Alex O´Loughlin, articles, Interviews, Stan "the Man", The Back-Up Plan