Five-0 Redux: Herlinger reveals Toothpick’s secrets
BY WENDIE BURBRIDGE / Special to the Star-Advertiser
I never thought that the person who would give me the most information about season three of “Hawaii Five-0” would be one of the bad guys. I begged my sources for some intel to find out more information about the new season. The only source who came through for me was the actor who portrays Toothpick/Devon Akina — Hawaiʻi’s own, Karl Herlinger.
Herlinger was kind enough to answer my questions, and while he didn’t give up a lot about the first episode of the new season, “Lā o nā mākuahine,” he did say, “good thing there are commercials, or you wouldn’t be able to breathe. At all.”
We are less than one week away from the season three premiere of “Hawaii Five-0” and I know that the tension that comes from four months of watching repeat after repeat and from the stress of not knowing is beginning to manifest itself in some strange occurrences.
I know everyone is wondering what will happen in the opening episode. We’ve gotten a little information about Christine Lahti joining the cast as Doris McGarrett, the conflict that this creates because of the long awaited McGarrett family reunion, and the double threat as the team hunts down Wo Fat and Delano.
We know that someone dies. But not who — Malia or Kono? We can only guess what the implications of the evil Delano and his minion Toothpick inflicted in “Ua Hala” will be for the Five-0 team.
You may remember Herlinger from Mike Gordon’s interview before “Toothpick” debuted in “Ua Hala” back in May, as well as my mention of his mayhem making in my open letter to the ‘Five-0’ villains after the end of season two. And you may remember him trying to woo the fans over to the dark side when he attended a July Fan Tweetup thrown in his honor.
Not only is Herlinger an awesome baddie, but he also is a seasoned stage and film actor, as well as an accomplished ventriloquist. His film, “Show Me,” a ventriloquism psychological thriller, which he wrote and stars in, showed in June at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. He became enthralled with performing and ventriloquism when he was a kid, after watching Freddie Morris’s show at Orson’s in Kailua with his puppet “Moku Kahana.”
He most recently filmed an episode of “Dexter,” and he has played a variety of roles on “Lie to Me,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “FlashForward,” “Monk,” and “Without A Trace” among others. He has extensive stage experience in New York and leads in many short films, one of which, “Short on Time,” was nominated for an Emmy. He’s come a long way from playing an extra in season twelve of the classic “Hawaii Five-O” when he was a child.
Herlinger said he likes playing the baddie; he said it seems like he has been getting more characters on “the badass side,” which he said, “is very flattering.” He said he is “just trying to play a real person — tweaking the character so that they seem more human. As an actor you want to play the opposite — you want to find something positive about the character if he is supposed to be bad — with Toothpick the ‘good’ about him seems to have been his focus on his oral hygiene.”
He did tell me that he “loves Toothpick. I love that there’s not much said about him.” He said it allowed him to have “tons of freedom with creating his backstory. It was a lot of fun to dissect the script and look at everything that is said about Toothpick, everything he says, and everything he does. He’s a pro. He’s done it all before. I feel like this isn’t the first time Toothpick and Delano have worked together.”
It seemed to Herlinger that “the way Peter (Lenkov, Executive Producer of “Hawaii Five-0”) wrote the script, there was history there. Unspoken. But history.”
I have to agree with him, that Herlinger’s created backstory with Delano and Toothpick being “old pals” seem to work a lot better than the original answer to my question about his preparation for Toothpick, when he said, “Toothpick is baritone. He sings in a barbershop quartet. He likes puppies and mojitos. He’s a synchronized swimming enthusiast, and makes a mean tomatillo sauce.” Yes, unspoken history works way better on screen, Karl.
When I asked him about working on “Hawaii Five-0” he said it “was a dream to do. It felt like a homecoming of sorts.” He was happy to be able to “do what I left Hawaiʻi to study and train for, and then to be able to come home to do it with a very seasoned cast and crew,” which made it even more special. He said it kind of elevated his time on the show “to a different level of awesome.” He said the entire production took “great care of him,” and he had an amazing experience.
“I don’t think there was a single person on that set that I didn’t want to hang out with after shooting was over,” he said. “These are all people you want to chill with.”
He said about series star Alex O’Loughlin, “he’s a fantastic person. He is very warm, personable, and tells a great joke. While he is clearly one of the biggest draws of the show for the fans, he remains open and humble. He’s no diva. He’s funny, welcoming, and smart.” Herlinger did add with his trademark Toothpick smirk, “it makes sense that nobody likes him or wants to have anything to do with him.”
You’re a funny guy, Karl.
Herlinger is a clever wit, and a great talent, and after two seasons of Hawaiʻi actors putting in good performances in relatively small parts, I’m glad one got a shot at a role that was a bit more significant. And definitely memorable. Fans and regular viewers alike won’t forget Toothpick. And I’m glad that someone who has as much experience as Herlinger was able to come home to Hawaiʻi and take on “Five-0.” For the first time, I’m hoping the bad guy doesn’t get killed off in the end. But I’m not going to hold my breath.
Redux Side Note:
This week’s “Hawaii Five-0” was the repeat of the season two ender “Ua Hala,” when Herlinger first showed Toothpick off to the world. You can follow Herlinger on Twitter and like his Facebook page, for his short film “Show Me,” or bookmark his website.
Sept. 24 is the season three television premiere, “Lā o nā mākuahine,” or “Mother’s Day,” when all of our questions will be answered. We hope.
If you are in Hawaiʻi on Sunday, Sept. 23, be sure to come down to Waikiki Beach for the “Season 3 World-Premiere at Sunset on the Beach” at 7:00 p.m. I would come down early to get parking and to find a seat in the sand. You can follow along at www.honolulupulse.com.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher who lives and works in Honolulu. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.