December 13th, 2013 by officer808
Recently a friend of mine (we’ll call her “Mei”, as she wants to remain anonymous) was fortunate enough to be an extra in tonight’s Hawaii Five-0 episode, “Ho‘onani Makuakane” (“Honor Thy Father”). Read on to gain insight on her experience of being on the set of this emotional episode. In the first section of this post, I asked her a few questions about what she saw. What follows is her personal write up of her day of shooting.
Mei, how’d you first get involved with Hawaii Five-0?
I answered an open casting call. The scene was for a black-tie event and Casting was looking for women with their own formal gowns, jewelry and accessories, and men with their own tuxedos. We were to take a full length photo of ourselves and email it in. I quickly threw together an outfit and made it in under the wire for the deadline and was chosen! I got the “callback.” They said they liked my gown.
Any screen time?
I was the blur here and there. I could see my face beyond Chin Ho’s shoulder and the Governor’s shoulder, in two different shots. That’s a standard joke among extras. “Look for my blur.” What you don’t realize is how tight the shot is in the final edit. Scenes that take hours to shoot are whittled down to a few precious minutes. I’ve learned that and now don’t fret if I’ll get screen time or not. It’s really not in your control. I’ve also learned that you don’t want to be fully recognizable in a scene if you want future jobs. It can work against you. Depends on your objectives.
Hawaii Five-0 – “Ho’ onani Makuakane”, photo CBS
So how did you hear about the “special episode” that included the story of Honouliuli Internment Camp?
I had actually heard about the open casting call for the flashback Pearl Harbor episode and was just about to make plans to attend it, when I got a call from Casting. It’s always exciting to see their number on my phone. They offered me two dates, Monday and Thursday. I could only make Thursday. Monday was the scene at the actual internment camp.
Tell us about your day on the set, and how you were prepared for the scene?
We were asked to report a few days early for a wardrobe fitting and hair consultation. (I got paid for this appointment, too!) It was fascinating to walk into the wardrobe building (Diamond Head studio) and see the packed, two-story racks of clothes, camo, etc. For the scene, the vintage clothes were organized in the center of the room, clothes were on racks, and hats and shoes were grouped in baskets. It looked like the Salvation Army. The wardrobe person chose a dress, slip, hat, shoes and scarf for me, and then she took a photo record of me in full costume. Everything went into a clear hanging bag tagged with my name, the scene, and my role as “Japanese detainee-neighborhood.”
On shooting day, I was pleasantly surprised that my call time was a decent 9:30 a.m. Standard operating procedure is that we get an email the night before with all of the details, call times, strict rules for being on set (no pictures, no talking to the actors, etc. etc.) I got lucky as I’ve been called at 5:30 a.m. before. This was awesome.
Base camp in Manoa was a series of wardrobe and hair/makeup trailers. You pick up your costume from one trailer, get dressed in a tent, get your makeup done, then your hair. The men all got short haircuts. Eventually, we all made it through the process and gathered together to wait for more instructions. It’s always fun to reconnect with other extras that you’ve worked with before, and to make new friends. We all talk story during the long waits, so sometimes friendships are made.
It’s exciting to be placed in your “position” where you will be most of the day. Then you follow directions and watch as the magic happens. There were a few rehearsals, and many adjustments of cameras and our positions. Then began the actual filming, first from one angle, then again from another angle. The process was repeated many times. In between takes, hair and makeup crew circulated among us, dabbing away perspiration, or brushing a wayward lock back into place.
It always amazes me of the amount of preparation and work that goes into each scene. The crew is energetic and driven for one purpose…to shoot a good scene. There’s a lot of collaboration and noise and shouting. It’s chaotic yet choreographed at the same time, like a dance. I really admire the crew.
Being Asian-American, what did this mean for you?
In 1941 my father was in the Army Medical Corps, 24 years old. And my mother was attending the University of Hawaii, 21 years old.
The family legend goes that, on December 7 my dad was off duty and at home in Kaimuki. His unit was housed in large tents further away at Schofield Barracks. The Japanese flew right into Kolekole pass and attacked Schofield and Wheeler Field. When he finally got back to base, his tent had been all shot up. I wish I could verify the true story, but he’s gone. So the legend lives on!
Life on the Set of Hawaii Five-0: A Window to the Past
Written by Mei
Hawaii Five-0 Episode 4.10 Filming 10/24/13 1:38 p.m.
Director, Larry Teng in the megaphone: “For my Japanese-American detainees, it’s very important here, the idea is that you are being detained. The day before you guys were citizens…so there’s obviously confusion, anxiety, and attitude towards that, and that’s what we want to preserve here. You guys are first generation, second generation citizens here, and for 24 hours now you’ve been wrangled up and you’re being shoveled off into jails.”
“It’s very important that this is a piece of history that we’re trying to shed a light upon. We have an opportunity to do that in this episode. I’m very happy that you’re all here. So just hold on to that. That’s your acting note. Otherwise, act accordingly, you guys, and good luck.”
Crew shouting: “Let’s stand by for picture now, please.”
“Here we go. Let’s clear everyone who is not an extra or an actor.”
“Stand by for picture and lock it up down there at the intersection.”
“All right, here we go everyone, and…roll cameras…mark…set…background!”
So begins the job that we have been temporarily given… be the background actors in a scene in Hawaii Five-0. Not just any scene. I’ve done this before, and this one is special.
For starters, and the most obvious difference is that this was a period scene in a modern day series. The period is the 1940’s and I’m a Japanese Detainee, Female. My hair has been curled, styled and held in place with a can of hairspray and box of bobby pins. Wardrobe put me in a dress and chartreuse suede platform shoes. Very 40’s. But when they put the little black hat on my head, I turned into my mother, who was 21 at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. I’ve seen photos of her as a young woman in Hawaii and it’s not far off.
Hawaii Five-0 – “Ho’ onani Makuakane”, photo CBS
Everyone looked incredible. Imagine a crowd of us dressed in the finest vintage clothing that an antique shop has to offer. The women were beautifully made up and fully adorned with hats, scarves, the right shoes. The men were in high-waisted pants with suspenders, coats, and spiffy fedora hats sitting on their fresh 1940 haircuts, courtesy of the hair department. When the prop department gave us the final piece, we were truly transformed. We all had something to carry, an old suitcase or a vintage purse. The children carried books tied in a belt, and the military guards wore ammo belts, metal helmets, heavy boots, even rifles with bayonets (we were warned not to get too close to the pointed end!)
As we lined up and walked to the set, spectators were videotaping us, it was such a sight to behold. I spotted Guy Hagi, local weatherman, taking photos.
Arriving on the bustling set, we were surrounded by magnificent vintage cars and two worn military trucks. I could see why they chose that location in Manoa. It’s a narrow street, lined with older homes so that when the cameras shot us from either side, they would be appropriate in age. Caucasian residents extras were positioned on the front porches to watch their Japanese neighbors being herded into the trucks. It was a page out of time.
The other reason this was a special shoot is because of the weight of the subject matter. As Director Teng said, this was historical. You could feel the importance of getting it right, the gravity of the real-life situation that the Japanese detainees went through, their humiliation and confusion. Guards were instructed to be rough, treat the Japanese like second class citizens, shove and prod them into the trucks. Even the “pregnant” actress was not spared.
The scene contained a story of a man who was separated from his family and his panic as he searches for them. I watched as he quietly got into character between takes, shedding real tears, which the makeup girl quickly wiped away, then expertly touched up his makeup. He didn’t break a smile until they called “wrap.” It was a reflection of how we all felt, at least for me and the extras I was with; that this sad chapter really had happened in the not too distant past. One where our ancestors, friends and neighbors felt the shame, victimization and disruption in their lives when they didn’t deserve it.
Recently, Director Teng tweeted of 4.10, “In the midst of editing #H50 410… Could be the most rewarding episode I’ve directed to date. So proud of this one and what it represents.” And, “Three weeks from today, #H50 410 airs, a day before Pearl Harbor Day. This Ep is one of the proudest things I’ve accomplished in my life.”
Producer Peter Lenkov tweeted, “#H50 ohana… new ep again Dec 13th. VERY special episode directed by @larryteng – tribute to our Armed Forces. WARNING: TEARS WILL FALL”
I feel so lucky to have participated in a small way in this episode. Can’t wait to see it.