Five-0 Redux: Defending Danno

Aug. 17, 2013 | 27 Comments

BY WENDIE BURBRIDGE / Special to the Star-Advertiser

From the start of “Hawaii Five-0,” the character of Detective Danny “Danno” Williams has probably been the most controversial. You might even include the actor who portrays Danny Williams, Scott Caan, in that sentence.

Scott Caan as Detective Danny "Danno" Williams. (Courtesy CBS)

Scott Caan as Detective Danny “Danno” Williams. (Courtesy CBS)

It’s not that many fans don’t love him, or think his characterization as McG’s right hand man and brother in arms, is anything less than terrific. Caan’s portrayal of the seemingly cranky New Jersey detective Danno, the “fish out of water,” come to swim in the tropics with a headstrong Navy SEAL for a partner, has entranced fans and viewers the last three seasons.

Most viewers love Caan’s snarky comments and snappy retorts, as well as the “bromantic” back and forth repartee he has with co-star Alex O’Loughlin. Carguments aside, Danno’s backstory of losing his former partner, Grace Tillwell (Sydney Tamiia Poitier), divorcing his wife Rachel (Claire van der Boom) and following his beloved daughter Gracie (Teilor Grubbs) to Hawaiʻi, has also helped Caan cement himself as a fan favorite. (Not to mention Caan’s expert handling of “Daddy duty” with Gracie — for many of us, that is the fundamental core of Caan’s character and why we can overlook his seeming dislike for living in paradise.)

Caan definitely has had his share of great storylines, and his character arc has changed the most over the course of the series. To go from basically swearing that “everything is better in Jersey!” and almost getting on a plane at the end of season one with his ex-wife and daughter to restart their lives as a family again, to a man who embraces his new home, learns to surf, tries raw fish and pledges to stay in his new home state in order to raise his daughter as a single father, is a solid turn for his character. We know that part of his reasoning for his turn toward making paradise his home is also tied to his connection to his partner and the close camaraderie he has built with the rest of the Five-0 team.

I think some of Caan’s best moments on the show have been when Danno is at his most vulnerable, like in “Lana I Ka Moana” when he tells McG about how the loss of a friend in rough waters caused him to “hate” the ocean, and in “I ka wā mamua,” when he shares the heartbreaking story of why he named his daughter Grace.

The chemistry between Danno (Scott Caan) and McG (Alex O'Loughlin) has given new meaning to the term "bromance." (Courtesy CBS)

The chemistry between Danno (Scott Caan) and McG (Alex O’Loughlin) has given new meaning to the term “bromance.” (Courtesy CBS)

In episodes where the victims were children, Caan really shines. It’s as if all of Danno’s fears color everything he does. It’s in those episodes Caan can show Danno’s deepest and darkest emotions. We also get a glimpse of the lengths Danno would go through to save his daughter, like when she was kidnapped by his former partner in season two’s “Mai ka wā kahiko,” and what measures he would use to save a child from death or peril, like in “Hoʻopio” and in “Huakaʻi Kula.”

While co-star Alex O’Loughlin has been a heavy fan favorite, Caan also has a large fan base who are just as passionate about their love for their California surfer as O’Loughlin’s fans are for their Aussie. Caan started acting in independent films during the mid 1990’s, but he is mostly known for his breakout role as the good-hearted party boy Tweeder in “Varsity Blues” and for his work in the “Ocean’s” trilogy of films where he played Turk Malloy, half of the bickering “Mormon Twins” alongside Casey Affleck. Caan is also known for his role on HBO’s “Entourage” as manager Scott Lavin.

Fans have also enjoyed Caan’s side projects, like his photography and theatre work. In 2009, shortly before “Hawaii Five-0” began shooting, Caan released “Scott Caan Photographs Vol. I,” and during the summer hiatus of 2012 he starred in his own play, “No Way Around But Through,” at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank, Calif.

Silke Springer with Scott Caan at a performance of his play, “No Way Around But Through." (Courtesy photo)

Silke Springer with Scott Caan at a performance of his play, “No Way Around But Through.” (Courtesy photo)

Many fans traveled to Los Angeles to see the play, like German fan Silke Springer, who runs the Scott Caan Fanpage on Facebook, and Hawaiʻi fan Emily MacGillivray. Both ladies had a very positive response not only to Caan’s writing and acting, but also when they met up with him afterward.

“He was very, very sweet and humble when I told him how much I liked his play,” said Silke. “He was smiling at everyone in the lobby and seemed extremely happy and proud of his work. It was definitely different seeing him on stage compared to seeing him on screen. … He looked like he was totally taken up in it.”

MacGillivray had a similar experience when she and a group of friends traveled to Burbank to see the show twice in one weekend.

“(Caan) was friendly and kind and easy to talk to, even though we were nervous,” she said. “He signed our programs while we chatted with him about the play (i.e. we gushed about how much we enjoyed it), and seemed genuinely pleased that it had been our second viewing.

“It was a short but enjoyable interaction, and we were thrilled that we had the chance to tell him personally how much we liked the play. We all had huge smiles on our faces after leaving the theater that afternoon.”

Contrary to statements made by Caan during interviews with the media, all of the fans I’ve talked to about meeting him in Hawaiʻi — at restaurants, on the beach, in the surf — have been positive.

“Working with Scott is a real pleasure,” said local actor Dennis Chun. “He is always there for you in every scene. He is an unselfish hard working professional committed to his craft.”

Danno and Gracie share a precious father-daughter moment in “I ka wā mamua." (Courtesy CBS)

Danno and Gracie share a precious father-daughter moment in “I ka wā mamua.” (Courtesy CBS)

When I interviewed directors Jeff Hunt and Jeff Cadiente, they made roughly the same comments. Local fitness trainer Egan Inoue also spoke highly of Caan.

Of all the fans I have encountered and all the actor’s I have interviewed, I have never heard them say anything about Caan having anything but a positive attitude on the “Five-0” set. I’ve seen Caan getting ready to film as well as on the red carpet, and he always seemed pretty happy to be in Hawaiʻi.

Okay, so maybe he doesn’t like the food, but that could be because he needs someone to help guide him through all the local grinds, and maybe he’d rather surf on the weekends in Malibu. It seems the only paradise for Caan is his home — which is not Hawaiʻi. I can understand that.

Yet his actions and words off set should not diminish his work on “Five-0.” He was nominated for a Golden Globe award for best supporting actor in a series, miniseries or television film in 2011 and for a Teen Choice award for action TV actor earlier this month.

He lost to fellow CBS actor LL Cool J, who Caan traded a bit of bromantic banter with in the “NCIS: LA”/”Hawaii Five-0” crossover episodes during season two. But TV Guide did name Danny and Steve their favorite bromance for 2013, so Caan and O’Loughlin’s terrific chemistry has impacted more than just fans.

Awards or not, fans of the show seem to enjoy Danno and love the juxtaposition of his snarky mouth and the depth of love he has for his daughter, his former wife, his partner, and his team. Caan definitely has a lot to be proud of, because we love seeing all sides of Danno.

So whether or not we get a “Book ‘em, Danno” from McG in every episode, we can still show Danno some love, because he definitely brings it every week.

Egan Inoue, right, with Alex O'Loughlin, middle, and another student. (Courtesy Egan Inoue)

Egan Inoue, right, with Alex O’Loughlin, middle, and another student. (Courtesy Egan Inoue)

Redux Side Note:

This week’s repeats on TNT Thursdays were from season one — “Malama Ka ‘Āina” and “Lanakila.”

On CBS this week, popular episode “Lana I Ka Moana” aired on Friday, Aug. 16.

Egan Inoue shared some great pictures with the “Five-0 Redux” of himself with Alex O’Loughlin, as well as pictures of Inoue and his crew shooting Inoue’s MMA Bodyweight Workout video in Michigan.
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Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

  • AmyN

    Great article! I can’t imagine anyone but SC in the role of Danno. I can easily see why Peter Lenkov and Bob Orci wanted him for the role and were so glad when he was available at the last minute. The chemistry not only between he and AOL but all the cast is fascinating to me. You can see how they have truly become an Ohana, even if SC prefers being back on the California shores as much as possible (even Grace Park has mentioned missing home). I think we all forget that these are actual people outside the characters they portray…and SC to me is someone who wants to be known as an artist, not just an actor (his photography, playrwrighting, etc) and take what he says the wrong way. I’ve always heard he’s a consumate professional. Glad to get that verified once again. :)

    • Wendie Joy

      Hi Amy- I’m with you- Scott Caan is perfect as Danno, in my opinion. With the chemistry he shares with Alex O’Loughlin and even with Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park and Masi Oka and Taylor Wily and oh, he is just perfect with Teilor Grubbs! Hard to believe he doesn’t have children. it’s just fun to watch and great to see him act. I’ve only had confirmation of his good attitude and professionalism. I’m sure everyone has bad days or whatever- but I’ve not had or heard of that kind of experience regarding Caan. I guess folks will say what they want- but I like Caan as Danno. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Aloha, Wendie

  • Dina

    All I can say is / this rocks WENDIE!!!

    • Wendie Joy

      Thanks Dina! Glad you liked it and thanks for commenting! Aloha, Wendie

  • LindaStein

    Great article Wendie! There is one simple truth. There is no Hawaii Five-0 without the dynamic that is Steve and Danny….period. I know they considered a lot of different actors for the role of Danny and didn’t hire Scott until the very last minute when he became available but I can’t think of anyone else who could play this part better.

    You hit on everything I would have said as to why Scott is just perfect as Danny and I agree with you 100% that the episodes where Scott is able to dig down and portray Danny’s soft, vulnerable, protective sides are the very best. I adore any screen time between Danny and Gracie. His on and off screen chemistry with AOL is palpable. When you watch the S1 DVD extras and see them together on the very first day they ever met you can see they connection they made immediately. It just worked….BAM…just like that. The chances of that happening are incalculable.

    And as you and Amy stated, it’s not just with Steve and Gracie but the relationship with the rest of the team as well. Scott brought tears to my eyes when Danny stood on the beach outside the Hilton and listened to Chin tell the story of his first meeting with Malia. There’s just something about a strong man on the verge of tears that just rips me up inside.

    As to Scott’s off screen comments many of them were taken out of context and/or completely blown out of proportion. It’s not a crime for someone to have picky eating habits nor is it a crime to love being in your hometown more than 1000 miles away even if it’s in a place others think of as paradise.

    Thanks for this great piece on Scott. I truly hope it’s only the first in the series! Mahalo!

  • Wendy Hansen

    Brilliant,
    brilliant, brilliant! Don’t get me wrong, I love Alex and Steve… but
    Scotty owns my heart – has for a few years, and Danno was always my
    favourite out of McGarrett and Danno in the original H50. Scott’s
    portrayal of Danno completely honours
    James MacArthur’s role, yet makes it his own, and I don’t think he gets
    enough credit for that. I think his mentioning his being homesick for
    LA and being honest about finding it difficult to adjust to a different
    lifestyle have overshadowed his work, which is a shame, because he…
    is… AWESOME.

  • edmattes763

    Thanks for this story about Scott, Wendie. He works hard at his craft and I hate to see him get all the grief he gets sometimes. He’s an essential part of what makes this a great TV show.

  • Angela Gerstner

    Hi, Wendie – I’ve decided to paste both my comments on here :-)
    Fantastic blog! Thanks for defending a truly nice and super-talented guy – this comes from a diehard fan of Alex BUT I do love Scotty as Danno, too
    The following longer comment can be found on my FB page and fansite where I’m, of course, sharing your great blog!:
    I love Wendie’s latest Five-0 Redux blog: Five-0 Redux – Defending Danno
    It’s so good to see a Hawaiian write nothing but positive things about Danno resp. Scott Caan. It made me sad when Scotty was attacked several months ago for some unfortunate comments he made about Hawaii and the local food on a talk show. Quite a few Hawaiians misinterpreted his comments and thought he was hating Hawaii – which he definitely isn’t. He might prefer his home L.A. to Hawaii but I think loving one’s home is nothing you should blame or criticize someone for.
    I honestly think Scott’s just too good an actor – He plays Danno so convincingly that many viewers get him confused with his character on H50 and wrongly think that Scott doesn’t like Hawaii just because his character Danno doesn’t… or, at least, didn’t in the first two seasons or so. Well, I’ll leave it to Wendie and her great blog to convince people that Scotty – and even his character Danno – is actually a very nice guy! Even though Alex is my personal favorite, as you all know, I think H50 wouldn’t be half as much fun without Scotty as Danno because his interaction with Alex as Steve is one of those fantastic elements of H50 that made me fall in love with this show.

  • Amy Rackley

    While Steve is my favorite I do love me some Danno. It’s nice to see some of the other cast members spotlighted. It is nice to see that he is such a nice guy. I really do think he was treated unfairly over comments he made a while back.Love the interaction between Steve and Dan no. That is part of makes the show so great.

  • jlopie1

    Thanks so much for this blog, Wendie! You certainly put “Danno” in proper perspective for us! Although I came to Hawaii 5-0 as a lover of the original series, I was immediately fascinated with the interactions between Danny and Steve – so completely unlike the James MacArthur/Jack Lord dynamic of the original! It was obvious right from the start that this was going to be a bromance for the ages!

    Scott Caan is an artist – that is immediately clear with his screenplays, directing, acting and photography. From everything I have heard about him, he commits totally and throws himself completely into every project he does – and he does a lot because he can’t ever sit still! Scott himself has said in interviews there is a lot of himself in his Danny character. I think that for the duration of H5-0, Scott will give his all to Danny Williams, and when that’s done, he will move on – and he will have enough pans in the fire to keep his loyal fans happy following him!

  • Nate Volk

    Danny’s too snarky now and they have him behaving that way too often. Diminishes his character which is a big reason for the ratings bleed IMO. The audience generally has lost it’s ability to identify with the characters they loved early in the show’s run. 2 of the 4 have gone off track without reasonable explanation. Like characters in a Looney Tunes cartoon rather than a TV show.

  • Guest

    Thank you Wendie! As I said on twitter this article brought a tear to my eye purely because it is exactly how I feel and with all that is gone on with Scott vs Hawaii I had the belief that ALL Hawaiians hated him and it broke my poor fangirl heart. It actually made me rethink coming to visit Hawaii because of all the nasty comments I read on the HNN FB page. Thank you for restoring my faith. I love Scott as an actor. I think he is brilliant and very undervalued by many. He is a wonderful human and if we were only to achieve a fraction of what he has accomplished then we could consider ourselves very fortunate indeed. xoxo

  • Caroline White

    Thank you Wendie! As I said on twitter this article brought a tear to my eye purely because it is exactly how I feel and with all that is gone on with Scott vs Hawaii I had the belief that ALL Hawaiians hated him and it broke my poor fangirl heart. It actually made me rethink coming to visit Hawaii because of all the nasty comments I read on the HNN FB page. Thank you for restoring my faith. I love Scott as an actor. I think he is brilliant and very undervalued by many. He is a wonderful human and if we were only to achieve a fraction of what he has accomplished then we could consider ourselves very fortunate indeed. xoxo

  • badgerly

    Thanks for your article, Wendie. I watch HF-0 because of Alex, but I can appreciate what each member of the Core Four bring to the show, Scott included. All together, they are magic, and the best team on television, IMO.
    The negative publicity Scott received was unfair, and hopefully will be forgotten.
    My problems with the Danno character are the fault of the writers, making him unbearably annoying as in Fridays’ ‘stranded at sea’ rerun. If I were Steve, I’d have
    fed him to the sharks.
    Steve has grown and changed a lot over the past three seasons, probably the result of being away from the day-to-day, military influence. The only way Danny has changed is in his grudging acceptance of Hawaii, finally. I hope the writers will do better by him.

  • Effi

    First of all thanks Wendie for your article and your whole blog. Since I discovered it I’m always looking forward to read it. Because you provide us with a better insight of the Hawai’ian culture, the production of the show and some people who help to bring this show to our screen, I learn every time something little. And above all you treat everybody with a lot of respect and esteem. Scott Caan got a lot of unfair bashing (and he was obviously not the only one) just because of his opinion and honesty. Paradise or living in paradise is individually defined and not the same for everybody. Hope that common sense will gain over the emotions.
    I watch H50 because I get to see a little bit of the beauty of Hawai’i once a week and it doesn’t hurt to be entertained by the bromance, the ohana or all the eyecandy this show provides us. And even there are some bumps all along….. don’t forget it’s not real life. They all work hard, to make this happen. And I mean all of them, not only the big stars and the cast. Without an amazing crew, it would not be possible to do so (ok, sometimes I really do ask if the wardrobe departement should change. Are you really wandering around always in skinny jeans and boots in Hawai’i? Hard to imagine, but that’s just my opinion).
    But I got deteriorated, sorry. Thanks again, Wendie for this little summary of Dannos character and his development and the reminder of Scott Caans achievments as an artist.
    Hope to be able to see and experience some of the beauty of these islands next year.
    Wish you and all the cast and crew all the best and I’m already looking forward to next weeks article to fill the hiatus of H50.

  • Diane

    Hi Wendie, great article as usual. I feel the exact same way about Scott Caan. I can’t imagine anyone else playing Danny than Scott. People have a right to their opinions, but I think Danny is played exactly the way he should be. I like the snarky attitude, its what you would expect. Have the writers pushed it a little far at times? Yes, I would agree with that. But for the most part it’s been a great character. Danny is suppose to be the opposite of Steve, yet there is a some of Danny in Steve, and Steve in Danny. I love him playing Daddy, thats when he shines, and with all that has happened in this character’s life, you can understand why he is the way he is. This character is always there for each of his co-workers, regardless of his own situation. The interaction with Chin on the beach after Malia’s death was another great moment and scene for both the character and actor. Most people would love to have Danny as their friend.
    As for Scott stating he prefers LA over Hawaii, I can’t believe how over blown that was. He loves the place he grew up in, where his family and friends are, how can anyone knock him for that. He said what he felt, and he has that right.
    I just read that Melanie Griffith is going to be portraying Danny’s mom. Can’t wait for that, and to see Grace with her grandmother.
    Thanks again Wendie, for pointing out the good this character has done.

  • Robin Jane Bridges

    Thanks, Wendie! Scott Caan plays Danno as hard nosed on the outside, but inside he is a softie when it comes to Gracie and other kids. If a bad guy does something bad to someone Danno cares about, all bets are off. When Danno is really furious, Scott will use a quieter menacing voice. He’s loud voice is his every day and Danno is happy as Danno can be. But the quieter menacing voice is not one bad guys want to hear, if they do, they are about to punched or shot and thrown in blue room. Sorry started to babble. Thanks for defending Danno.

  • Nell

    It’s nice to see something positive about Scott. With all the good he does with charities it hurt to see him crucified over some statements taken out of context or exaggerated so out of proportion it became stupid. It was such an awful experience and didn’t reflect well on anyone involved. I’ll admit I began to have my doubts about how welcoming Hawaii really was to outsiders. A simple opinion shouldn’t have caused such crazy outrage. So thank you for this it was wonderful to read. :)

  • Jeff Ah Sam

    I have had the pleasure of working with Scott Caan. I am an off and on background extra on the show Hawaii 5-0 and most of the scenes I have filmed had him in it as well. Personally, I have not had the pleasure of meeting him or any of the main characters, but everytime I am on set, he always acknowledges me. He even came up to me and said Thank you for working with us. He’s a really cool laid-back person. So what he doesn’t like the food or whatever he had issues with. We all have issues with this place we call home. There are those who love it, there are those who hate it. But everyone has a right to their own opinions and he was simply just being honest. So what if he was caught off guard. I don’t like kahlua pig and that just so happens to be an island favorite. When I moved here to Hawaii almost 22 years ago, I couldn’t stand Hawaii either. However, I’ve grown to love this place. Alex, Grace, and Daniel Dae Kim are all very laid back and nice. The point of the matter is, Scott and many of the other actors have had to adjust themselves to being here in Hawaii. Maybe at first, they didn’t like certain things about this island. There are things I don’t like either. But that’s his own thoughts and what not. He shouldn’t have to be crucified for it. Those actors work just as hard as anyone else to make a living and he gave up a lot I am sure to be here in Hawaii. It wasn’t easy for him. With that said, BOOK ‘EM DANNO!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Wendie Joy

      Hi Jeff-
      Your story about Scott being thankful to you for working with them and being laid back and cool- is the same story I’ve heard a lot from folks on the H50 set. Which is part of the reason why I wanted to write about him- because I think that one interview has overshadowed what I really think he is like on set or one on one– not the actor persona he has to have when being interviewed on a national forum. I’m sure there may be other stories to contradict me– but really, I have heard about 3 instances when he’s said he dislikes living in Hawai’i and WAY more stories about him being decent and cool and thankful. The good outweighed the bad- but of course, the cool stories are not on Chelsea Lately or David Letterman- right? Thanks so much for sharing your personal experience:) Appreciate you reading and commenting! Aloha, Wendie

      • Jeff Ah Sam

        It’s interesting how when you’re in the spotlight, one interview can cause a big nightmare for someone. It may not be the interview. It could be just one word. But thank you for writing about this and defending him though. I’ve read a lot of disturbing posts where a lot of people wanted him off island already. I’m sure that Scott Caan will have to be careful what he says now, but he shouldn’t have to. Everyone has their opinion to something and they should be able to voice it. However, like many choices we have to make, one will either benefit from that choice or suffer the consequences from it.

  • FIVE0JOE

    thanks for this story wendie, i reacted when the press bombarded him at first thinking he was another hollywood type with an attitude but quickly realized his comments were way blown out of proportion. he seems like a stand up and very funny guy. being a frequent visitor to hawaii i can totally understand their attitude. seems like there is a bit of a culture snobbery you dont find on the mainland. dont misunderstand they are a wonderful people and culture but i felt it too- there is a huge melting pot of cultures and some residents act like natives -considering the main source of income is tourism dollars . only saying because the press that blew it out of proportion was from there. pride is sometimes mistaken for other things and i think it was mishandled completely. he didnt deserve to be hurt like that. if he came to philly and said i hate cheesesteaks i doubt locals would have made an issue over it . lol

    • Wendie Joy

      Hey Joe-
      I think you’re right about it getting blown out of proportion- when I watched the interchange with Chelsea- she seemed to be saying worse things about Hawai’i than what Scott said. But like I said in my post- Scott has said similar things before about his feelings about living in Hawai’i and no one blinked. I don’t think he hates Hawai’i- I think he would just rather be home. I get that so much! As for what you’re calling “culture snobbery”- I think that has to do with the fact that our native culture has been exploited so much- that we tend to be very protective of it. I think we are just trying to protect what we have left- and sometimes it gets very heated and angry- especially when it is on such a public forum. Thanks for your comment- and thanks always for reading and supporting! Aloha, Wendie

      • FIVE0JOE

        agreed and understood – no disrespect intended my friend

        • Wendie Joy

          Never thought you were disrespectful at all:) I know you don’t say things to hurt people or to be mean. I get what you meant- sincerely I do- I have seen it as well. I just wanted to give you my view of it, that’s all. Thanks Joey:)

  • pauldunn1

    WEndie,
    A great post and a ton of great comments from the other commenting readers. I agree that there is no problem with someone liking the place they live more than the place they work.
    Paul

    • Wendie Joy

      Hey Paul:) Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I think part of the problem was that folks thought that he wasn’t grateful for being on the show or being in Hawai’i. I didn’t think that at all. I thought he was just saying- Hey, I love my home, and I’d rather be there. Thanks always for your support:) Aloha, Wendie