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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, September 1, 2004

'Hawaii' books 'em

 •  What the critics say about 'Hawaii'

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i, meet "Hawaii."

  • 7 tonight
  • NBC
After a long summer of TV teaser ads and conspicuous filming around O'ahu, NBC's new cop show is finally ready for its broadcast premiere tonight.

The show, created by Jeff Eastin ("True Lies 2," "Rush Hour 3"), promises to expose "the other side of paradise," through the experiences of the officers of Honolulu's Metro Police Department. Tonight's pilot episode, already previewed by some 3,000 Islanders and tourists at Sunday's Sunset on the Beach, features human bones found in a volcano, a killer who uses an ancient Hawaiian weapon to dispatch his victims, and a fish stuffed with interesting ingredients.

From left:

Peter Tuiasosopo as Officer Kaleo

Aya Sumika as Officer Linh Tamiya

Ivan Sergei as Detective Danny Edwards

Michael Biehn as Detective Sean Harrison

Eric Balfour as Detective Chris Gains

Sharif Atkins as Detective John Declan

Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Capt. Terry Harada

Michael Biehn, who plays Detective Sean Harris on NBC's "Hawaii," demonstrates his technique for jumping out of convertibles while Serif Atkins, who plays Detective John Declan, takes it all in.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, who has lived in Hawai'i for 10 years, plays Capt. Terry Harada, one of the cast's "locals."

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Eric Balfour, who plays Christopher Gains, and Ivan Sergei, who plays Danny Edwards on NBC's new police show "Hawaii," make their way around a tugboat with the cruise ship Pride of Aloha in the background.


"You learn from being here working, not just vacationing, that Hawai'i is a very unique place," said Michael Biehn, one of the stars of the show. "People have a different sense of things here, and that's what we want to portray in this show." Biehn ("The Terminator," "Aliens") plays Sean Harrison, a veteran detective and devoted family man.

Sharif Atkins plays Harrison's partner John Declan, a recent transplant from Chicago whose all-out approach to his work and life lands him in awkward situations. The actor, who played the decidedly more reserved Michael Gallant on "ER," said his new role suits his personality.

"I definitely like to have fun," Atkins said. "(Declan) just goes for it. He goes all out and just takes it to the limit. There's definitely a part of me in him."

Sharif said he's particularly happy that he and other cast members have been able to take ownership of their roles by giving feedback to writers and producers.

"We're all very passionate about our characters, and Jeff has established an atmosphere where everybody can really collaborate for the good of the show," Atkins said. "I'm still relatively new to the business, and I don't know if this is common, but I think it's very special."

Playing young detectives with more energy than discretion, Eric Balfour and Ivan Sergei work the secondary plot lines, providing high energy and, often, comic relief.

As actors and writers continue to find their creative footing on the show, Balfour ("Six Feet Under") and Sergei ("Crossing Jordan"), who play partners Chris Gains and Danny Edwards, have been outspoken in calling for the careful development of their characters.

"One thing they're trying to do is create energy with me and Ivan, but it's not always cut and dried what our function on the show is," Balfour said.

"I think the best scripts are those that are intense and realistic. Those are the ones that allow us to have more of a personal investment in the outcome."

Balfour, who has an uncle on Maui and was a frequent visitor to the Islands before moving here for the show, said the writers have done a good job showing a side of Honolulu not often seen by the rest of the country.

"Honolulu is a a major metropolitan city, and it has all the trappings of a metropolitan city," Balfour said. "It has drugs and crime and violence, but unlike other metropolitan cities — and I know this sounds cheesy — it has aloha. It has that vibe and that sense of community that other places don't have.

"The reality is that we're a cop show and we want to show the gritty stuff," Balfour said. "But what makes that interesting is the beauty that comes with it. Other places don't carry the energy that this place does."

While Balfour said tonight's pilot episode is a good introduction to the characters and an exciting show, he said upcoming episodes do a better job at capturing Hawai'i's personality.

"Jeff (Eastin) has spent quite a bit of time here and he has a wonderful understanding of what it's like, but a lot of the writers didn't at first," Balfour said. "Now that they've all been down to shoot their episodes, they're really starting to get it. They needed to be here to feel this place and to soak it all in.

Key to conveying that sense of place is the prominence of three locals in the core cast — Aya Sumika, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa ("Rising Sun," "Mortal Kombat"), and Peter Navy Tuiasosopo ("The Fast and the Furious").

While none of the three actually was born in Hawai'i, all have close ties to the Islands, and each acknowledges that their presence serves to represent Honolulu's Asian and Pacific-Islander populations.

"Without us in these roles, this show really could be about any place," Tagawa said.

Tagawa, who has lived in Hawai'i for the past 10 years and whose father grew up here, plays Capt. Terry Harada, the pidgin-speaking, aloha-shirted officer in charge.

Sumika, the only woman in the regular cast, plays Linh Tamiya, a tough young officer with ambitions of becoming a detective. A former ballet dancer who trained at Juilliard, Sumika is making her TV debut on "Hawaii."

Tuiasosopo, who has had a number of small roles in action movies, plays Kaleo, a police officer with a quick wit and an easy demeanor.

"I think Cary, Aya and I bring a kind of balance to the show that you didn't see in 'Hawaii Five-0' or 'Magnum P.I.,' " Tuiasosopo said. "If the producers just brought in five white guys — no disrespect at all to the other guys on the show, who are great actors and great people — I don't think the audience, here or on the Mainland, would really accept it as real.

"I do feel a lot of pressure in representing our Polynesian people, but it's a pressure that I welcome and accept," he said. "This is an exciting time in Hawai'i."

• • •

What the critics say about 'Hawaii'

• Not just white guys: McGarrett and Magnum may have retired long ago, but apparently there are still plenty of bad guys to chase down in the Aloha State. The drama "Hawaii" introduces us to a group of Honolulu police officers who spend much of their time dealing with "the other side of paradise." Michael Biehn and Ivan Sergei head a solid ensemble that, thankfully, isn't limited to haoles.

— Chuck Barney, Knight Ridder News Service

• Not so innovative: "Hawaii" makes you long for the days when NBC pushed drama to thrilling heights with "Hill Street Blues." The commitment to smart drama turned into a tradition with "L.A. Law," "Law & Order," "ER," "Homicide: Life on the Street" and "The West Wing."

But NBC has ceded dramatic innovation to others, notably HBO and FX. This season, NBC is going more predictable routes with new hour programs. "Medical Investigation" — could there be a flatter title? — reworks "CSI." "LAX" is bewildering escapism that casts Heather Locklear as an airport official.

"Hawaii," the worst of the lot, serves up shootouts, chases, tainted fish and grisly crimes in fun-loving style. Such lighthearted action has produced windfalls at multiplexes, but that approach seems out of place on television, where crime is a serious matter on newscasts.

The show gives you a new appreciation for stoic Jack Lord, who put the 50th state on the television map with "Hawaii Five-0."

— Hal Boedeker, Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel

• Clumsy but pretty: Think "Starsky & Hutch" on steroids. Half the dialogue could spring directly from that 1970s romp, with its quippy banter and exasperated commander (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) chastising, "I'm getting too many complaints about you two!"

That would be too-cool kid cops Ivan Sergei and Eric Balfour, both better suited to play the type of stoner teen Balfour essayed on "Six Feet Under" than effective officers solving ugly urban crimes. They're into car chases, too, and "comic relief" involving jocular humiliation.

Next, think "Miami Vice," whose evocation of 1980s locale chic this hour aspires to update. Of course, "Vice" was an original adult concept, whereas this is an immature knockoff. "Hawaii" is, however, equally filmed on location, which means lush shots of scenery from surf waves to green mountains to volcanic lava fields, not to mention bikinied bods, beachside mansions and Waikiki glitter.

The same way "Vice" acknowledged Miami's Hispanic culture, this hour takes note of Hawaii's Polynesian history and multi-ethnic populace, however clumsily it crams in sugar mills and indigenous spiritual traditions.

— Diane Werts, Newsday