Destination theater for 'Flight 29' actress
|||'Flight 29 down' takes off|
By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Michael Tsai
The Advertiser visited the North Shore set of the Discovery Kids hit "Flight 29 Down" to chat with the show's ensemble cast. This is the second in a series of features on TV's newest "lost" sensations.
When Hallee Hirsh says she's looking for roles that expand her horizons, you have to wonder just how broad her field of vision is.
In the past year alone, the 18-year-old actress has played a rich girl seeking a nose job on FX's racy hit "Nip/Tuck," the teenage version of Lisa Kudrow's character in the dark comedy "Happy Endings," and the recurring character Mattie Grace on CBS' "JAG."
Then, of course, there's Hirsh's work on Discovery Kids' "Flight 29 Down," shot on the North Shore of O'ahu and co-produced by Rann and Gina Watumull's Hawai'i Film Partners with creators Stan Rogow and DJ MacHale.
Hirsh plays the well-intentioned, occasionally bossy Daley, one of a group of high school kids stranded on a deserted island in the Pacific.
"I like strong characters," she says. "But I think it would be interesting to play someone who is a little pathetic some time. It's important as an actor to put yourself out of your comfort zone."
That said, Hirsh is more than happy in her current comfort zone.
"Flight 29 Down" is Discovery Kids' top-ranked show, a burgeoning must-see for teens and tweens around the country.
Rann Watumull said he's sold broadcast rights to the show to markets in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, to the tune of $500,000 so far.
Hirsh said she was first sold by how different the show is from other programs directed at young-adult audiences.
"I read the scripts and there were a lot of layers," she said. "I liked the dynamic story lines and the characters."
Producers and directors point to how quickly and how well the cast bonded as a major factor in the show's success.
The actors work together on set five days a week, and their chemistry carries over when they return home to the same North Shore apartment complex every day. In their down time, they visit nearby Mililani, hang out at the beach, or drive in to Honolulu.
"We're together 24/7," Hirsh says. "I mean, they build reality shows out of this kind of stuff."
Hirsh turned 18 in December, an important milestone for young actors.
"It's hard to get roles when you're between 15 and 18," she said. "(Producers) ask you if you have your GED or if you're emancipated, because there are issues like tutors and employment rules that they have to consider."
Hirsh's age and her impressive track record suggests that audiences will be seeing a lot more of her in the next few years. They'll also see a little less.
Hirsh said she indulged too much in the famously tempting "Flight 29 Down" lunch buffet last season. This year, she's been spending part of her lunch break running on the beach. She swims and lifts weights, and has hired a personal trainer.
With nearly 40 TV and film credits to her increasingly recognizable name, Hirsh is still seeking out new challenges.
She's planning a move to New York, where she hopes to hone her theatrical skills.
"Not to discount film or television — I've been very lucky to have worked in both — but with theater it's just you and the audience. On camera, you can bring everything in smaller, but you don't have to project."
Hirsh recently completed the Hallmark TV movie "Wild Hearts" with Richard Thomas and Nancy McKeon, in which Hirsh plays Thomas' daughter.
Hirsh said working with the two veteran actors was "extremely inspirational."
"Nancy talked to me a lot about the transition from being a child actor and how she was able to keep her balance. She has a life that is still hers; she didn't have to sell it."
Hirsh credits much of her development as an actor to the generosity of actors like Anthony Edwards ("ER") and Tom Hanks ("You've Got Mail"). It's a generosity she hopes to pass on.
"I've been blessed to work with amazing people who showed me the ropes and helped me to climb," she says. "I think about that, especially with Allen (Alvarado, who plays Daley's younger brother Lex on the show). When I see him, I remember being in the same place."
Reach Michael Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.