Five-0 Redux: Pearson is where she belongs
BY WENDIE BURBRIDGE / Special to the Star-Advertiser
One of the many reasons I love writing the Five-0 Redux is having the chance to meet — in person or through social media — all kinds of interesting and fascinating people.
I especially like being able to reach out to actors and have them share their stories after being cast on “Hawaii Five-0.” Poʻokela Award-winning actress Wendy Pearson, who played Vicki in “Hōkū Welowelo” (“Fire in the Sky”), intrigued me mainly because of a single line she delivered to Michelle Borth’s character.
“After Istanbul, I owe you one.”
I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wanting to know more about what happened in Istanbul. And I definitely wanted to know more about Vicki and the actress who played her on television. Luckily, Pearson was very open to speaking with me about her time on set, as well as her stage and prior television experience.
Little did I know her scene with Borth and Jorge Garcia, who returned in “Hōkū Welowelo” as Jerry Ortega, was also a reunion of sorts. Pearson was featured in seasons five and six of ABC’s “Lost,” which was filmed on Oahu and also starred Garcia. She played an emergency room doctor in season five, helping a wounded Desmond Hume (Henry Ian Cusick) after he was shot by Ben Linus (Michael Emerson).
Pearson appeared again as a nurse in a flash-sideways scene the following season, treating Ben after he was beaten by Desmond.
When I asked about her time on “Hawaii Five-0,” she said Borth and Garcia were “nice, professional (and) unassuming.”
“Jorge Garcia and I chatted briefly about acting, the merits of moving to L.A. and about my brief time on ‘Lost.’ I enjoyed working with both of them,” she said. “I felt some chemistry in the scene, which is great, as that only helped my performance. I would love to have the chance to work with them again.”
Pearson also shared that she worked on season three of “Hawaii Five-0” as Aisha Tyler’s dialogue double for her off-camera segments in “ʻImi Loko Ka ʻUhane” (“Seek Within One’s Soul”).
“I had several scenes with Alex O’Loughlin, Masi Oka, and Brian Yang, all (a) fantastic experience,” she said. “On my very first day on set, Alex O’Loughlin came directly over to me and introduced himself. I thought it was very cool of him to take a moment to do that. Mark Dacascos was the same way.”
The stars were also friendly with people who weren’t part of the cast and crew, she added.
“Alex is really great when fans show up to set. When he has a moment, he goes over to them and talks to them, takes pics, and just gives them a little something. He’s really personable. So is Daniel Dae Kim; he did the same. They are both really good to the fans,” Pearson said.
Pearson was also part of “The River,” a short-lived series shot in Hawaii in 2012, and the Animal Planet’s “I’m Alive.” She is also the host and narrator for “Holding Fast the Dream: Hawaiʻi’s African-American Experience,” a documentary written and directed by Steve Okino.
BORN AND raised in Detroit, Pearson attended Michigan State University as a journalism major and studied Japanese as well.
“I received a partial scholarship to study a second year of Japanese in Japan and jumped at the opportunity,” she said. “It was there that I began to let my guard down. The program was located in a small town, which pretty much meant that, as an African American woman, I was on display.
“For someone as shy as I was, that was really difficult. You run out of places to hide, for one thing. I couldn’t just go into a store and shop, or ride a bicycle quietly around town. I was a spectacle. On the train. At the bus stop. After a while you just get tired of trying to hide.
“That experience helped me a great deal to become more confident, to trust myself, and to live with the world watching – all qualities you need to act on stage and in front of a camera.”
After she graduated, Pearson worked for the Detroit Council for World Affairs’ Center for Peace & Conflict Studies on a curriculum development project funded by the US-Japan Foundation.
“They really encouraged me to pursue a graduate degree in Japanese studies,” she said. “By this time, I had a taste for travel and I was itching to leave Michigan.
“I selected the Asian Studies program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa because of its good reputation and proximity to Japan. The project included a study tour to Japan. My return ticket had a layover in Hawaii, where I deplaned and started a new life.
“After graduating, I began working at UH-Manoa, now in administration. I’ve been here ever since.”
PEARSON HAS trained extensively as an actress, taking classes at UH-Manoa as well as acting classes with Second City Hollywood and AIA Actors Studios. She also grew up playing the flute and taking dance classes from ballet to modern dance and jazz. Her first audition was in 2007 for August Wilson’s “Fences” at The Actors’ Group in Honolulu.
“It felt like something I was supposed to do,” said Pearson. “I just showed up and read for the part. I’ll never forget how that felt – suddenly I was the girl dancing on stage again, or getting ready for my flute solo. I knew that this was where I belonged. I felt at peace, and it was sweet.”
Pearson must have definitely felt at peace, because she won her first Poʻokela Award for Leading Female in a Play for her role in “Fences” and again for Featured Female in a Play in 2011’s “Gem of the Ocean” with The Actors’ Group.
“My mother was so proud of me that she created a scrapbook, and kept adding to it up until she died,” Pearson said. “And while she was proud of me for my academic achievements, she didn’t brag about that as much as she did about ‘Lost.’
“In a way, it felt like she also knew that I was supposed to do this. It became our journey together up until she passed away in 2010. I just threw myself into acting from then on, probably trying to make up for lost time.
“I do know that I can no longer imagine my life without performance of some kind. For me, it is about opening myself to different emotions and experiences – channeling characters, and being a part of a work of art, if that makes sense. I love it.”
REDUX SIDE NOTE:
Sorry folks, no “Hawaii Five-0” again next week, as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship semifinals will air on CBS. But make sure you return for the “fan-built” episode April 4.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.