By Diane Ako
I'm in an episode of Hawaii Five-O. It's #322 and I play a newscaster. I feel very lucky and grateful for the chance.
It's a small part in which I am announcing some news on the TV and a character is watching it and reacts to it. So, I'm not actually with an actor in a scene.
They called me to audition, so I went in to their studio at the old Honolulu Advertiser building. It was very exciting as the cast and crew were having lunch at that time and I got to pass by Alex O'Loughlin.
The next day, they said I got the part and to return for wardrobing. They were shooting at the same building so I got to pass by Alex O'Loughlin again.
Wardrobing was interesting. They said to bring some favorite newscaster clothing for more options, but they also had a rack of clothing and high heels with a little divider and my name on it.
I tried on half a dozen outfits. Then a seamstress came out and pinned up the final choices so that it would be absolutely perfect for my frame. She had 24 hours to sew it. What attention to detail!
When that was done, I was told to go to Casting and fill out my paperwork (W-9, etc.) It was very organized.
A couple days later, I returned to shoot the scene. It was an early morning crew call so that I could get hair and makeup.
I got to pass by Alex O'Loughlin a third time. I think by this time he probably had his TRO in anticipation of me.
Seriously, though. I never make a big deal. I just do the side-eye thing while I keep walking.
Like last time I was on the show, I was given a trailer to myself to rest and change in. My name and the character's name was taped outside. It was very comfortable, even air conditioned. Woo hoo!
Craft Services had the breakfast buffet going and there were five choices of menus and a variety of beverages. They totally do this thing right.
I was given my sides (teensy tiny copies of the script with my lines that I could easily and discreetly keep at my side.) I had already been given the script for the audition so I had it memorized, but I do like to have something to refer to.
It turns out my friend and former colleague Leslie Wilcox of PBS (formerly of KHON and KGMB) was hired to play a newscaster for a different episode. For efficiency, we were shooting our scenes the same day.
We both went into hair and makeup and had a nice time catching up and chatting. Then, a shuttle took all of us to the CBS affiliate, KGMB (part of Hawaii News Now's duopoly) to shoot it. As Hawaii Five-O is a CBS show, it's logical they would work with the CBS affiliate.
Hawaii News Now is comprised of KGMB and KHNL, the NBC affiliate. I worked for KHNL for 13 years. It was like going home.
I sat in the anchor desk, but in what used to be the man's position. When I was on air, my seat was stage right. Here, I was stage left.
Also, the set has been changed around a lot. Still, it really felt like putting on an old shoe.
You wouldn't know it to look at it on the TV, but there were three dozen people to shoot my scene. The hair, makeup, and wardrobe people buzz around and watch to make sure you look exactly the way they prepped you and that the necklace hasn't slid to the right, or the bangs haven't fallen into your eyes.
There is a script supervisor, production assistants, camera people, director, producer, writer. I had to memorize it exactly as it was written, which is totally different from news.
In news you memorize the concept of the message and you say it however which way you want as long as it is smooth. It never comes out the same twice.
I had no TelePrompter. I didn't expect one. I had to memorize it word-for-word and look straight into the camera and say it.
I said it maybe 20 times; I made a few mistakes, but mostly, the director was calling for different camera angles. In news it's also OK to look down at the script now and then. For this show, it was not.
In news, you have a script on the anchor desk. It's not just a prop. You really refer to your hardcopy - in the event the TelePrompter breaks down, or more commonly, so that you can jot down notes if the producer tells you there is breaking news. If there's breaking news, you have sometimes just seconds to write down what they're telling you and then say it on air.
I had three lines, and it was going well. The director and executive producer then came up to me and added on two more lines.
Luckily, my news training kicked in and I was able to memorize it exactly. The whole taping went very smoothly. I'm honored to have been trusted to absorb some last minute additions.
However, here is the funny part. I was getting kind of stressed out inside. I have this thing where I HAVE TO have the script in my hand. I NEVER went live without holding or having the script.
It was my security blanket. I always felt that if I blanked out I would at least have the paper to read. Sixteen years of this habit, OK?
They wanted to see a clean desk without clutter. They took away my script from the beginning. A person would walk up and remove the script and hold it, and give it back between takes.
Inside, I felt totally like the floor had fallen out from under me. This must be how Olivia feels when I encourage her not to suck her thumb at night.
I was anxious. I became more anxious when the extra lines were added.
My news training has conditioned me to not show fear. Calm exterior. When I laughed to the crew later that I had been freaking out, people said they couldn't tell.
Except the woman who was removing my script said she noticed that after a while, I would take the script before she could get to it, and place it under the desk next to me.
This is true. Stupid as it is, I felt better knowing that it was right next to me.
I know this is totally irrational. I can do a live shot without a script. I can speak extemporaneously just fine. I am facile with words and I can internalize the message and spit it back out easily.
Old habits are hard to break. I can laugh about it now that the taping is done and nothing went wrong.
When it was time for Leslie to tape her part, I went into the newsroom to visit old friends. Her taping went similarly to mine, so we were all done in a short amount of time.
That is it. We shuttled back to the base camp and I left with great memories of a really fun morning!