Interview with Grace Park
Interview with Grace Park
Q: Kono is unlike many female characters we see on television. She is strong and independent. Do you think it is important for a woman to be portrayed in this way on television?
GP: I think it is important to have a variety of portrayals of women on television. I mean, being half of the population in this world that we live on, I think it's essential for storytellers to have many different characters representing people that are older or younger, like different stages of their life, not just strong and independent because I think that can be misconstrued because usually it's male writers writing for women, so it's their vision and a male's strength is very different than a female strength. There is a huge difference in the way it comes out, the way it's grounded, how it feels in the body and you know at times when there is a woman who is yelling really loud like, yeah, you might be afraid of her. But if it's like another woman, you just don't mess with--and you just listen to her. But this, it can be like a really grounding type... And you just--like I get shivers when I am thinking about it because there is a different sense and there is a very different energy depending on which type of--yeah, this is a different sense when you say that. So having independent strong women is very important, because we don't want all women just to be supporting roles for male characters absolutely, but that is also a reality in the world and so, you know, what is it that you want to do with the story and what is it that you want to say about humanity and about society and all those things are really important not just, 'Oh, let's have like the hooker with the big boobs. And okay, let's have a librarian and then let's have a quirky chick you know, who is really good with computers. She chews a lot of gum and has green glasses.' It's like, okay, we can do that, but at some point where is the reality? Where are real people because I think a lot of us, or I mean there are a lot of people watching television and we get a lot--we are social animals. We take our cues from the things around us and if you watch more television than you interact with people, then you are going to start to get more into those worlds and it can be entertaining, but if there is nothing that represents regular people and humanity, and a piece of yourself that if--many of us do look outside to see like, where am I reflected in our community and, you know, what is okay for me to be? If it's only okay for you to either be goth, or a freak, or like a jock, well, what is it saying about us as people? What of all those subtle nuances? And I think I love Kono for who she is, but at the same time I am happy if she is not kicking ass every episode. That's so fun, but I love that she also just lives and breathes regular air and sometimes she doesn't have anything to say in the scene and she is listening and other times she is open. Other times she is kind of funny and all those like pieces in between. She has a connection from all the dots from A to B to C. I think she is well rounded and like, the parts that we are attracted to sometimes, I feel are the parts that are highlighted like that she can hold her own and kick a little bit of ass and she does, you know she has some gun handling skills for sure and she can surf and she has this kind of a cool job with these three pretty attractive guys, who seem to give her respect and take care of her as well, but at the same time that's not all we see of her. I think what it shows is that it's not important for us just to be the creme de la creme or to be like five stars like shooting out of the box for you to have screen time. You know, for you to be seen essentially. And I think those are some of the subtleties of television and storytelling and shaping of the American psyche.
Q: You are no stranger to acting in a television series. What makes this role different than any you've played before?
GP: It seems like with Hawaii Five-0 I can feel the formula a little bit more. I mean working on The Cleaner that was still somewhat of a procedural and it turned more into it in the second season, but it feels like you can see the beats a little bit more like, 'Oh, here is the funny bit between McGarrett and Danno,' and, 'Oh, cool, we have the action part,' which kicks ass--I love it. And then here, okay, we're solving the case. You know, so I feel like I see those pieces a little bit more in the story. It's almost like The Matrix, not as green letters coming down, but you can start to see like pictures within that, so I don't know if this is because I have a little more experience or if it's because of the way the--or talking to the writers and then reading the episodes or getting a different eye for seeing those types of things and obviously this is a much bigger machine. I haven't been on a network like this ever and also to be one of like the most highly touted shows on a huge network, it's like you're riding a massive wave.
Q: How do you prepare yourself for the physical demands of the show?
GP: Well, it's not always super physical. There is a limited amount of how much physicality we do have. I'm not like a huge working out person, but of course, it always makes you feel better and, you know, there are other results, like you look better, sure all that stuff but, I think when you are actually--on the day when you are doing the work, it's super important to get limber, so move all your joints and just get yourself warmed up and moving so that you are not going to tweak your ankle or kink your neck or anything like that. And also a lot of times like if, you know, so and so runs into the scene I will be being doing some kind of physicality on the side before we get in. So it's not like you run in, you breathe hard for two breaths and then, you know, you forgot to do that. And there are a lot of things that are so false about this world because you have 60 people around you watching you. The whole world's, I mean, you start talking after they say, 'Action,' and you are saying the same things over and over and over again, and pretending like it's all new. There is so much stuff that's false and these are not really your own words and all that stuff. So, to take one thing out of the picture, which is like okay, just be breathing hard and sweaty like from the shuttle runs or what were those things called? Like remember in elementary school? That is great, that gets your heart rate up so fast. And they're like, 'Grace, are you ready?' And I am sprinting back and forth across the rooftop, you know.
Q: What has been the most rewarding thing about taking on this role?
GP: I would say, it took me a while to notice but I feel like I have been really like the
silliest I have been on any set that I have been on. And usually it's because I was working with someone who would bring that out, you know, great sense of humor and would get everybody laughing or some of the relationships I made. But on this show absolutely, I love the people on it, but it's like I realize that this is the first time I feel so free and just so loose and silly and strange and get to kind of just bop around and do whatever and I realize I hadn't been like that before. And then I thought this is what, one of the things I am going to get to come away with, you know, which is like it's more of a personal thing has nothing to do with work.
Q: Do you think that is because you are the only female role with these three other men?
GP: You know, I think it's partly because there are a few pranksters on the crew and that kind of loosens people up right away and the cast is pretty small and so usually I just mostly hang out with the cast but in this case it's so small that I started making friends more with the crew and I never, ever realized before that the guy who does the slate actually helps to build the camera and I was like, I just never paid the attention before--all I saw was the slate come in and then 'Whack!' and then, 'A mark,' and then gone. You know, and I didn't realize any of that, so all of a sudden, I'm like, oh I didn't know--just like the relationship between the cameras and having, you know, worked on other shows I just felt like I was one of the kids playing and then everyone else was taking care of the other things. Of course everyone has their own job and it's not like the actor's job is easier than anyone else's job. They are all totally different and require most of your energy. But I think that's been one of the things that I really like and I already recognize that I've come away with. I certainly don't like losing my anonymity, you know, that's not a favorite of mine. Some people are like, 'Oh, you must love it.' I'm like, 'I want to don a balaclava.' So, it's different for everyone because it's like people get confused because also I find there is such a warmth here and openness. There is such an excitement for Hawaii Five-0 and I think we are in the paper like almost everyday which I think, you know, coming from a bigger city I feel like why are we in the news? It's one thing to be entertainment but usually there is a lot of stuff going on. But Hawaii is a small island, you know, there is only so much to comment on and have breaking stories about, so a part of me is like, 'Stop putting my face in the paper!'
Q: Did you know any of the other cast members before being in the show?
GP: I knew Daniel. I did know him. We did an award show together, we hosted it together and I think we went to go out to eat that late night and then there was a table of guys that were kind of heckling him and they were a little drunk and I didn't recognize--but you know how you can hear your own name more than anything? And I guess they were saying 'Lost' or 'Daniel Dae Kim' or something like that and I looked over at him and he was like, 'Don't worry about it.' He was being really diplomatic and mature. I on the other hand strode straight over there and gave them a peace of my mind and they were so scared and I think these guys were like in their 20's and drunk and they blanched. And they totally shut up and they soon left after. I felt like I was a volcano. I didn't yell at them but the amount of intensity I had and that female anger, that's what I used.
Q: Can you discuss the significance of Hawaii as a fifth character in the series?
GP: I hear a lot of people saying that and it's true but at the same time sometimes I hear
people saying that and I wonder, 'Are you just saying that to have a sound bite?' It's important to develop Hawaii as a character, and like any other character there should be a depth to Hawaii and I don't know, can we give Hawaii an arc really? Not sure about that, but the presence of Hawaii of course is felt. But it's not just because it's beautiful and there are beaches and palm trees for people to frolic around in bikinis and be on their surfboards. I think that the presence of Hawaii can be--it's pervasive and it can quite subtle in a way because it's not only how people walk and how they interact with each other but it's like a sense of community that's here. Also because it's a smaller place and with all the cultures that have immigrated here, that influences how the people are here, and I feel like it's a big, connected island. We had a theft thing on set and it was in the paper and a whole bunch of people knew about it. It was on the radio and it's kind of almost like being a part of a small town where everyone knows your business. So the problem with that is of course if something is untrue it can spread just as quickly. But I think there are those subtle things and people keep an eye out for things and for each other, about what's appropriate, because they have a protective nature to protect what's good about this place--about their home, you know. It's not like they just abandon their home place--it's not just a place where they live. There's a lot of care about it, and I think that comes across because I'll have people or crew on the set who'll be like, 'Oh it's not pronounced like that it is pronounced like this.' You know, and then I'll ask them later, I'll be like, 'Would I say Caucasian or would I say haole? It sounds a bit formal.' They'll be like, 'You'd say haole.' So, I'll be like, 'So, how would Kono say it? Would she say how-lay or would she say how-lee?' And they'll be like, 'Well, how-lay might sound like you're trying to hard so go for how-lee,' because a lot of people say it that way even though it's not how you would pronounce it if you are speaking Hawaiian.
So there's all these kind of cool things to be able to draw people from and they care--it's not like they're rolling their eyes at you, it's not like they shrug their shoulders, it's like if you ask they will tell you, you know? When people that aren't a part of the show will come straight up to the actors and tell them on the street what they are thinking like, 'This is not right,' or, 'It should be like this,' and I think it's a good check and balance.
Still, because I always want the story to be authentic but if it's not, you'll find out, and it will be on the boards and in discussion groups, stuff like that, and yeah a lot of people in the world won't know, but I also get that it's important if you are going to have Hawaii be a character, say what's appropriate and if the people in the world are not going to understand either let them not understand and then have them raise their curiosity and sit up in their chairs a little bit more or maybe they'll Google it, and once they learn about it--or teach them in the script and once they learn about it they would learn something that wouldn't know an hour ago.
Like the littlest things, like here, you don't say 'flip flops' you say 'slippers' and Daniel one time said 'slippers' and the writer was there and I was like, 'Yo, you grew up partly in Hawaii why would you write flip flops?' And he said, 'I changed it three times, the network always brings it back to flip flops because most of the people in the world aren't going to know,' and so I was like, 'Why don't you say slippers, then the guy has no recognition and you go, flip flops, bra?' It's like you kind of teach him in the script but they didn't do it. Everyone has their own reasons but I always look at opportunities like that to go well, why don't we educate the audience or lure them into this thing of what Hawaii really is? And that's what I meant about there needs to be like a depth and a substance to this Hawaii character, this fifth character, because if you just flatten it right out and just make it about the view and just a backdrop more, then it's like it's a background character at this point, you know? It would become a background character. So you make those things more present, you get it, you know, you let the heart beat and you let it affect the whole story and alter how you would do things. Then now you have a living, breathing character.
Q: What attracted to you to the character of Kono?
GP: To be honest, I was not necessarily attracted to Kono, and Daniel had said, 'Oh this character is so great,' you know, he set it up like it was this awesome character and I read it as she is a black belt in Jujutsu, ex-pro surfer, speaks four languages, and she is in a bikini and, you know... And, oh yeah, in a bikini. I was like, oh my God like cliche like overachieving female--is that the only way I've got to be? Do I have to be good at like nine things to be able to roll with the boys when it's like--it's like how often have we seen this kind of overachieving pretty girl or whatever with this kind of loser dude? And that's part of the comedy yeah, I get that.
But there was a huge drama in Korea, I forget the name right now, but it was like humongously popular and what I loved about it was, there was a super pretty girl and a really handsome guy, and there was like kind of the cute normal girl and the normal dude--they were kind of adorable their own way, but if they were standing in line they wouldn't be the first ones your eyes would go to. But the super good looking ones ended up being kind of funny and they were sort of made fun of a little bit--not to put them down--they weren't perfect and they weren't like the cheerleader and the football player, they weren't like, you know, the A stars who we all have to kind of gaze up at and try to emulate. They were like--they would do things and kind of fall flat on their faces at times. But at the same they were friends, you know, so they ended up being normal real people that also get embarrassed and also just go out on a limb and do stuff and then more and more your heart went towards like the regular girl and guy. I feel like why don't we have more stories like this? They're not like super quirky and weird or bizarre or like outcasts--not so extreme. I find a lot of stories have to be so extreme like can't we just have simple, normal people and have them be interesting? So I feel like its a reflection of us, as people, like as fully fleshed out human beings and not like pushed into some strange freaky corner so that's how you are allowed to appear on television.
And I thought that Kono was a major overachiever and I have created back story for her so that all makes sense--which high school she went to... A couple of people were like, 'You should know what high school she went to.' I'm like, 'High school? How I'm going to know that? I barely know my way to set.' So I heard a couple of names and found out and then I'm like of course she went to Punahou that's where Michelle Yeoh went, that's were Obama went. No wonder she is an overachiever, that makes all the sense in the world. Finding out stuff like that--that was fun to make that--make sense for her. And sometimes the overachievers are the ones who are really ambitious and are going to be the go-getters and they are going to be in that situation. That's fine. Well like I just want to--that's why in a way I have liked that she's not always doing that stuff all the time. Of course I do want things to do. So it's not like I just want to have her at the computer all the time. But yeah it's been a good balance in a way of doing a lot and other times just kind of being part of the team.
Q: What were your initial thoughts when you were approached with opportunity to play the character of Kono?
GP: I was really excited about it. Especially when I heard that Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci were attached. I wasn't that familiar with Alex O'Loughlin yet and he is such a joy on set and reminds me of a really good friend of mine as well. So it's been fun to see all those colors come out lately, and Daniel I knew from before and Scott is obviously like, you know, he is an incredibly talented artist and he is really interesting person, you know, as well. So to be able to do a project together and where more than half, well, where a good portion of the cast and crew are on location where they don't have their friends and family and gets you to bond with each other kind of quicker in some ways. So that's been a remarkable opportunity, and I can only imagine in a few years when I look back and go, 'Wow.' Like before Hawaii Five-0 and then--and then now.