Five-0 Redux: Defending Danno
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Redux Side Note:
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.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.