Five-0 Redux: Lenkov’s ‘Five-0’ secrets
BY WENDIE BURBRIDGE / Special to the Star-Advertiser
As the annual “Hawaii Five-0” summer hiatus comes to an end, fans around the world are chomping at the bit for season four spoilers. Everyone is working overtime to get the inside scoop about the premiere and the fate of the Five-0 team.
Back in July, I had a chance to ask executive producer and showrunner Peter Lenkov about his film, “R.I.P.D,” before it premiered on the big screen, I made sure to ask him what he had in store for McGarrett and the team.
He was kind enough not only to share his manaʻo (thoughts and beliefs) about season four, but also let me in on some insider information about our favorite show.
In the last three seasons we have been very interested in how the characters have changed. So I asked Lenkov about the four main characters — McGarrett, Danno, Chin, and Kono — and who he thought had grown the most, and if that growth was what he had originally envisioned for the character.
Lenkov said he had a hard time picking just one character from the team who changed the most.
“To me, the heart of this show is our core four and (the writers) are always focused on delving into the lives of our characters, challenging them in new ways, and then seeing how that affects the group as a whole,” he said. “I love the changes and growth of all four characters we’ve had over our three seasons; McGarrett, learning that he can trust and depend on people, he’s not just a lone wolf anymore. Danny winning back his rights to be a full-time father to his daughter, Grace, and his coming to accept Hawaiʻi as his new home. Chin Ho’s redemption and being reinstated on the force, then having to come to terms with the loss of his wife, Malia. Kono, coming into her own as a cop, but choosing love over the job.
“It’s a balance of pushing characters forward, but having them stay true to who they are. Everyone’s growth brings something to the table and gives us as writers more to play with. It’s been great.”
I asked if he could reveal the changes we could expect in season four, and he of course didn’t want to “give too much away.”
“Kono’s going on the run with Adam leaves a big hole on the team and everyone feels that,” Lenkov revealed. “It definitely affects the future of Five-0.
“We find Catherine coming to crossroads in her life this season. Wondering about her future in the Navy, wondering about her future in with Steve. I think she’s getting to a place she wants something concrete, something in her life she can call her own. This season we delve into that.”
I would be remiss if I didn’t ask Lenkov about one of the most popular members of the Five-0 team, as many fans want more McGarrett all the time. So I asked him to describe Steve McGarrett for someone who doesn’t watch “Hawaii Five-0.”
“That’s a tough one,” he said. “I guess I’d have to say he’s the consummate leader. Someone you admire, someone you want to go into battle with, a true friend and a blood brother.
“He’d give his life for his family and friends — and of course his country — in a heartbeat and wouldn’t think twice. He’s a man any man would aspire to be.”
Lenkov had a lot to say about the team and described them as “a family that likes each other.
“They come from different walks of life and have different reasons for why they do what they do. They’re passionate about their work and about being cops. Being a part of Five-0 means something to them, it’s not just a paycheck. It defines who they are and how much they need each other.” he said.
“The team doesn’t work if someone is not there — the machine is broken. That’s how much they mean to each other. They are their best when they work together.”
The storylines threaded through each season have been intriguing and interesting to the audience, if not a little frustrating, which makes for good drama. Lenkov said it was a tough call to pick the storyline he feels the most invested in.
“The one I especially enjoy is the McGarrett storyline, because at the end of the day, that storyline is the origin of our whole world,” he said. “Doris killing Wo Fat’s father is what sets everything in motion — Wo Fat’s desire for revenge, Doris having to leave her family to save them, McGarrett being sent away as a teenager, later having his father murdered and forming Five-0. It all stems from what a mother did.
“If it had never happened, who knows what our world would be? Characters would have never met and there would be no Five-0.”
When I asked about viewer reaction to the storylines, he was honest about his thoughts.
“Clearly we like the positive, and as for the negative, sometimes in telling a true and honest story, you’re going to go down a path that some people won’t like,” Lenkov said. “But if it’s in service to the story and honest to what the characters would do, we have to do it. Even if it doesn’t please everyone.”
According to Lenkov, each episode “usually takes eight days to shoot” with many variables that can keep actors on set up to 12 hours a day.
“We have a tremendous (assistant director) staff that works on scheduling the shoot and they work really hard to schedule the actors in a way that it’s not so grueling,” he said. “Actors report to the set at various times … but on Monday mornings, if they’re first up they will usually report to makeup by 6 a.m.”
I also asked about the writing process for each episode.
“It takes about ten minutes,” Lenkov joked. “I kid. There are a couple steps in writing an episode for our show. Once we get an idea for an episode we usually spend about a week or so working out the beats in the writer’s room – then when it’s where it should be, the writer(s) of that episode go off and work on an outline, which helps them really delve into the heart and meat of a story before they go to script.
“Usually, if we’re not up against (a deadline) production wise, and once we’re happy with the outline, we move onto the script. Being generous, it would take four weeks to write (an episode), but it’s usually closer to two or three. When you have 24 episodes a year, it’s a pretty fast pace.”
Lenkov said he is always working on upcoming “Five-0” episodes.
“Seriously, I feel like I’m always writing episodes, coming up with ideas for stories,” he said. “I’m incredibly lucky that every year we try to put together the best writing staff we can, and this year is no exception.
“When it’s not an episode I’m writing, I always do the last pass before we send it out into the world. And I’m fortunate to have a team that when it gets to me, all the heavy lifting has been done. Honestly, writing for this show has been a great thrill of my professional life and I just want to make sure that every episode we put out is just the best it can be. We have an amazingly loyal audience that deserves that.”
Lenkov has specifically made a conscious effort and taken great pains to honor the original “Hawaii Five-O” by using character names and bringing back as much of the feel and “flavor” of the original series.
“The bond of our ‘Five-0’ unit is what I’m most proud of, yet anytime we can pay tribute to the original series, I’m thrilled,” he said. “We never forget we wouldn’t be here without their years of amazing work. And while I could never betray any of our characters by claiming one a favorite, I am incredibly proud of the work we’ve done to make our ‘Five-0’ unit more than just a group of people who work together.
“The bonds that they’ve formed go beyond a job or friendship, they’re family, they’re blood. And all of that is due to the writers of the show, our crew, and the work of our incredible cast. Without them, there is no ‘Five-0.’”
Filming on location in Hawaii and incorporating Hawaiian culture and language is also important to Lenkov.
“Having the show set and shot in Hawaiʻi I think is key to our authenticity,” he said. “When you’re there, being authentic can’t be helped. On Oʻahu, many members of our crew are locals, acting as second sets of eyes for what we’re doing; and in LA, the writers are always doing research about Hawaiʻi to come on with new ideas.
“As for me, with the show, I usually spend a week each month in Hawaiʻi. Just spending so much time there, you can’t help but be influenced by the culture.”
I’ve said it before, but I am so pleased that Lenkov, along with his writing and production team and the amazing cast and crew of “Hawaii Five-0,” does such a fantastic job working to bring us the show we love. I have a renewed excitement for season four and I’m sure the next two weeks will be worth the wait.
Redux Side Note:
Only one more “Hawaii Five-0” repeat before the Sept. 27 season premiere. On Sept. 20, CBS will re-air the season three finale.
On Sept. 26, “Five-0” fans will once again congregate in Waikīkī for the fourth “Sunset on the Beach” premiere. Check back that night for plenty of coverage from the red carpet.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.