Behind the Scenes
Undercover Agent Zoe
18th September 2014
When my husband bid on and won the CharityBuzz auction in April, I had no idea what to expect when it came to visiting the set of Hawaii Five-0. I had been arranging the visit with Jess from the Production Office, and the day we arrived in Hawaii, she confirmed that we would be visiting the Diamond Head Studios on Thursday afternoon.
We had been told beforehand that there were no guarantees that we would be able to meet the cast, it would depend on the filming schedule for the day. As part of the auction I had already received some H50 signed goodies and I was just excited to be able to visit the studio itself!
On Thursday afternoon, myself, my husband and our 3 year old daughter rode a taxi from the Hilton Hawaiian Village over to the Diamond Head Studios. Jess met us at the gates of the studios and gave us a tour of the production offices and allowed for us to help ourselves to drinks and snacks from the kitchen. She also gave us a copy of the call sheet for the day so that we could follow along with filming. She informed us that usually they wouldn’t allow children on set during filming and that one of us may have to take our daughter off set once filming began. My husband immediately volunteered as this visit had been arranged as part of my birthday present; I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit disappointed that we wouldn’t all be able to enjoy the full experience. Jess was amazing though, she arranged for all of us to be able to stay on set as long as our daughter was quiet. Those of you who have kids will know how hard it is to get a three year old to do anything you want them to!
Jess explained that the cast and crew were running late as they were filming exterior scenes downtown at I’olani Palace, and had been delayed due to the rain showers we had earlier in the day. This meant that we were able to take a tour of the sound stages before the crew arrived to set up for the scene. First, Jess took us past the rendition room ‘blue box’. Next, she took us onto the main sound stage which was the interior for the Five-0 Headquarters.
The set itself is amazing- each individual office is one self-contained set. Kono’s office has both her bike and surfboard in it! Whilst we were exploring the set we got to meet the lovely Marc and Una (McGarrett and Kono’s stand ins) who had arrived to begin set up for the scene. Both were really lovely and engaging to chat with! Marc let us in on a little fact- the Magic Table is actually just a flat screen TV set into a table (hubby was gutted at this fact!) .
We left the HQ sound stage just as the production trucks were beginning to roll in from the last shoot. We walked past the cast trailers to walk up to the original Five-0 sound stage. Jess explained that they used this stage for the interior shots of the McGarrett house, the crime lab, Max’s office and the mortuary. The mortuary wall only has one working gurney/freezer drawer so whenever they have to pull a body out it will always be in the same one!
Jess explained that a typical episode will take 7 days to prep and 8 days to shoot. Because they have 25 episodes this season but no extra working time, they have to prep the following episode whilst they are shooting the previous one. We also chatted about how the premiere went at Sunset on the Beach. She explained that when they had seen the premiere they realized they still had some more editing to do before it aired on the network.
We went back down to the main sound stage, where we could sit and watch the crew setting up. The scene they were filming would involve Alex O’Loughlin, Grace Park and Chi McBride discussing evidence around the Magic Table. The crew started to bring in all of the cameras and rigs for the scene set up – they were actually taking down walls inside the set to get everything in – everything is movable. Jess came back in and explained that she had been told by Alex’s assistant that he was ill today so it was unlikely that we would be able to meet him. We got talking to Max who is responsible for character props – he let us play with THE Five-0 badge! The actual Five-0 badges are really heavy shields. Max explained that they were exact replicas of real badges which is why they weighed so much. Our daughter was quite taken with the badge and Max and she happily chatted away with him about ‘making a show’. Something somewhere had clicked for her, so much so that Max asked her to be his assistant! He had Captain Grover’s watch, and explained that when Chi came on set, she would need to give him the watch and his Five-0 badge. When Chi came on set he was brilliant with her, pretending to play swapsies with her over the watches. Chi was gracious with his time before rehearsals began, allowing photos with all three of us, before taking some time to chat with us about our trip. I cannot speak highly enough of Max and Chi, they were absolutely amazing with our daughter; she thought it was the most amazing thing in the world!
We were allowed to remain on set whilst watching the read through with the cast before being introduced to the episode director, Jerry Levine and taking our seats with him in the Video Gallery. We were given directors chairs behind the monitors and headsets to listen to what was happening on set, even our daughter got her own chair and headset. They ran through a couple of rehearsal takes before catering arrived with pizza and snacks, this made our daughter’s day as she happily sat in her chair, silent as a mouse, munching on her cheese pizza! Whilst she was enjoying her pizza we were thrilled to get the opportunity to chat with Alex himself. Despite being unwell (he did sound full up of cold!) he came over to speak to us and apologized for not shaking hands or giving hugs as he had the ‘lergy’ (his own words!).
Alex chatted with my husband first, picking up first on his accent and asking whereabouts in the UK we had traveled from. My husband told him that the three of us had traveled from London to be able to take part in the set visit for my birthday. Alex turned to me and said, ‘your face is familiar…’ I will tell you quite unashamedly that controlling my grin at this point was completely beyond my control and I didn’t care that I must have looked like a Cheshire cat! I had obviously forgotten how to speak as my husband told him that we had met before. Once I had managed to form words into sentences I explained that we had traveled over last year so I could attend the self-defense seminar, the penny seemed to drop at that point for Alex, as we explained that I had darker hair at the time. He asked me whether he knew at the time that I had traveled from London, he even apologized for not realizing sooner as his schedule has been so busy since then. Seriously, does this man even realize how many people he must meet in one week let alone nine months ago?! Whether he remembered or not, the fact that he said it just goes to show what a genuinely nice guy he really is. He even took the time to chat with our little girl, who pretty much just stared at him wide eyed with a piece of pizza hanging out of her mouth, pretty much how mummy would’ve looked if I could have gotten away with it! Before they called time on the break, Alex made sure we were being looked after before heading back onto set. Whilst I can’t reveal anything about the episode they were filming out of respect for the production team, ladies, I can tell you that the McG blue shirt is back.
They did several takes of the scene before breaking again to reset to shoot the scene from a different angle which would be their last take of the day. Unfortunately, this signaled the end of our visit. Initially we had only been scheduled to be there for an hour but by the time we left it had been closer to three. Everyone had been incredibly gracious with their time and allowing us to stay on set. Before we left the set for the day, we were introduced to Grace Park. She is an incredibly lovely lady to speak to; she was shocked when she learned how far we had traveled. She asked if we had enjoyed our visit and wished us a good rest of vacation. Time with Grace was short as she was heading back onto set, so no photos but I am thrilled to have been able to meet her.
So, many of you would like to know what happened with the Fanbook. Because of the nature of the visit being during filming, it wasn’t appropriate to give it to the cast directly. Also, I couldn’t give it to Peter either as he had already returned to the mainland the previous day. So the book is in Jess’ capable hands – she is the assistant to Jeff Downer, Bryan Spicer & Peter Lenkov – with the promise that it will be passed on.
We had an amazing time on set, everyone in the cast and crew made us feel so incredibly welcome. Not that anyone would ever doubt it, but they really have put together an amazing team. CBS should be very proud of everyone involved in this series.