HAWAII FIVE-0’s Kono, Grace Park, gets real with My Take on TV
“I never wanted to be an actor,” Hawaii Five-0’s Grace Park (Kono) told me when we recently sat down to talk about her role on the show. “When I was a kid, I think I wanted to be a research scientist.”
She went on, “People think it’s fast, fun, and glamorous. That’s the fantasy that’s created. The reality is you work 14-hour days for most of the year, take a quick break, then it’s back to work.
“Part of that fantasy,” she continued, “is the whole allure of Hawaii. But, the average person in Hawaii has the opposite experience from working on our show. We’re not here for vacation; we’re here to work.”
Park, without an acting background, got into the biz through modeling. She said, “I’m pretty tall, so my mom convinced me to try this modeling school. I don’t even think I knew what modeling was, so I was like ‘ok.’ I learned how to put on make-up, learned how to walk, very elementary stuff. I was not going to New York to model anytime for sure.”
From modeling school, she signed with a local Vancouver agency, which also had a small branch that produced commercials. She told me, “So, I went out and did some commercials. Since I was not an actor, commercials were not really acting to me. They were really an extension of modeling. I ended up booking a lot of commercials. So, the next step for them was, ‘do you want to act?’”
“When I decided to go for it,” Park said, “I went fully into acting classes, scene study, improv, voice, Alexander technique…I didn’t expect to be handed a job, and I knew I didn’t’ know how to act.”
The Acting Bug
“But I never wanted to be an actor. I didn’t like delivering lines. I never did drama in high school. I’m just the opposite of that.
“What I did find,” she continued, “was that I really liked being on set, because being on set was pretty different from being on a photo shoot. Photo shoots are a cool kind of visual. But I found that a set has a lot more people. They’re not just shooting stills. An actor’s shooting with living creatures, special effects, that kind of thing. There’s a lot going on. All that type of stuff was fun. And I realized one day that, if I wanted to keep doing that, I’d have to learn how to deliver dialogue. So, basically, I came in through the back stage door that leads to the alley. Whereas, I think most people want to come in the front door through the big lavish lobby.”
She went on, “I’m not like the typical actor. I’m more like, ‘Can I be in the background? Can I be in the shadows? I just want to be here.’ People think you act for the fame. I can’t stand words like ‘fame’ or ‘star’ or ‘celebrity.’ Those are all like really bad words in my vocabulary.”
A Challenging Role
Since most of Park’s career has consisted of roles in character-driven drama, taking the part of Kono presented some challenges of its own.
“It feels very different,” she told me. “Kono really is her own character. When I did a show called The Border (Canadian drama), I played a homeland security agent liaison to the Canadian government. I feel like some of that attitude could come across, but Kono’s a very different person.” Park also played the complicated Boomer character on Battlestar Galactica. Both roles were very active, whereas, at times, the role of Kono has been pretty sedate.
Park continued, “The character really has its own shape and its own presence.” She said, “It’s the challenge of doing a procedural, especially coming from my career of doing character-driven drama. It did look like a lot of character-driven drama in the pilot, with the background in terms of Steve McGarrett’s family and the story of how the Five-0 task force came to be. But, in reality, in terms of this series, my character is number four” and, sometimes, as a result, has not seen a lot of action.
On occasion, though, Kono has stepped from the shadows to join McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) or Chin (Daniel Dae Kim) for more featured performances. Of those scenes, she said, “I had to change the way Kono acted in order to make the scenes work.” She quickly added, “which I love to do.”
A Rewarding Future
Whether playing character-driven drama or not, Grace Park always has her act together.
I wondered what could be ahead for her, what kind of project she’d like to work on in the future. She said, “I think it would be so rewarding to do a very good story about the Korean people, or any group of people, beyond violent circumstances and beyond the current political climate, to focus a bit more on humanity. I think something like that one of these days would be a good project, whether I’m acting in it or not. I kind of hope to be producing it instead. Now that would be something I would like to be a part of one day.”
For now, we will have to be content with seeing Park in Hawaii Five-0, which airs on Monday nights on CBS.
Cheryl has been a freelance TV/film writer for more than 10 years. Simultaneously, she has worked in PR for Bon Jovi Productions in NYC, PolyGram Records (also in NYC), and Rogers & Cowan Public Relations. Cheryl has published articles at suite101.com, “Sci-Fi Entertainment” magazine, and “Soap Opera Weekly.” She was also a credited researcher for English author Denis Meikle’s JOHNNY DEPP: A KIND OF ILLUSION. Cheryl enjoys writing for the entertainment industry and meeting new people. She is also an animal lover.
Article originally posted at Suite101.