PICS: Morimoto meets McGarrett on ‘Five-0′ set

Feb. 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

Photos by Craig T. Kojima /


“Hawaii Five-0” dropped in on Masaharu Morimoto Thursday morning in search of hidden evidence behind the sushi bar at the celebrity chef’s Waikiki restaurant.

Cast and crew hustled around the outskirts of the light-filled space as cameras trained on Morimoto, playing himself. And then the music started: an instrumental karaoke track to “What a Wonderful World.”

Standing in the dining area of the restaurant, Morimoto looked relaxed as he softly launched into the song, though his voice was slightly roughened, whether by the vog that has settled over Honolulu or the multiple takes of each scene he’d repeated since early that morning.

Meanwhile, “Five-0” principals Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, emanating macho, with matching prop guns holstered at their sides, stood waiting for their cue to stride in on the chef and enlist him in their investigation.

Each piece of the scene had been rehearsed and re-rehearsed. For O’Loughlin and Caan this was familiar territory, while for Morimoto, it was a dramatic first.

Yet the chef was relaxed, often seeming on the verge of a smile.

As the chef, owner and host of several high-profile restaurants, Morimoto is used to working under pressure. And as a longtime star of Japan’s “Iron Chef” and the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America,” Morimoto has been followed closely by cameras for years.

However, this was his first time appearing on a dramatic series, and he clearly enjoyed it. Ad-libbing with Caan in rehearsal for a second scene, as they looked for clues behind the sushi bar, Morimoto subtly played the good guy to Caan’s attitude-laden Danno, bringing out a cheerfully rude response in return.

In other parts of this scene, as Danno and O’Loughlin’s Steve McGarrett traded barbs, Morimoto subtly smirked, enjoying the actors’ chemistry.

After filming was done, he said: “Would I do it again? If they asked me, yes.”

IN A BREAK from filming, Morimoto guessed that producers chose to shoot him singing karaoke because he’s well-known for loving the practice.

During the Sony Open, he had a high-profile karaoke moment that may have attracted the attention of “Hawaii Five-O” producers: Providing dinner for a private event featuring a concert by Earth, Wind and Fire, Morimoto took the microphone and sang an a capella song in front of the crowd of 1,000.

“I prefer singing in Japanese,” he admitted. That makes sense, as the Hiroshima-born chef speaks Japanese as his first language.

He conducted the interview with a translator sitting nearby, but had no problem answering questions on his own — although he did ask the interpreter to explain “intimidating.”

He’d been asked if he was an intimidating character, because in the sushi bar scene, he explodes with a shouted command to his staff.

In response, Morimoto said that, yes, he has been known to shout, if a matter needs to be handled. But he doesn’t do it for effect.

“It is always real,” he said.

THE LIGHT was good — at least the vog helped with that, though outside the restaurant, the air was thick and hot.

That didn’t prevent O’Loughlin from strolling out of Morimoto’s restaurant to stand around outside the sunbaked pool at the Waikiki Edition during breaks in the action, where he joked with crew members and posed for photos with curious hotel guests.

When the camera wasn’t rolling, O’Loughlin appeared cheerful, flashing star-quality smiles at onlookers.
Caan seemingly stayed in character, jokingly giving crew members heat, holding himself as if ready for a challenge and aiming piercing looks at those who cruised into his line of sight.

The crew was always in motion: measuring camera distances; shifting lights, screens, heavy cameras and the track used to roll a camera from one angle to the next; helping actors with lines.

When necessary, the actors also got feedback.

During the sushi bar scene, Caan’s Danno lifts up a fish that could contain evidence to the crime he and O’Loughlin’s McGarrett are investigating. And perhaps Morimoto looked slightly too amused during the take.

The word came down: “Morimoto (the character) gets pissed off when he sees that. … This is serious business.”
“Hawaii Five-0” airs at 9 p.m. Mondays on KGMB. The episode featuring Chef Morimoto is scheduled to air March 21.

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