By Shawn Ching
With its unforgettable opening, the original Hawaii Five-O series put the 50th state on the t.v. map. With its diverse cast, ethnic variety & an abundance of local performers, it was how one local boy actor got his start.
That local boy was my dad, Bernard Ching.
His first audition was with none other than the show's creator Leonard Freeman.
"I was the last one", my father recalled, "and they started off: first, second guy, third, so on. Every one of us were policemen. As I was leaving, Freeman says, 'Not you. Stay. I want to talk to you'."
At first, the career HPD officer played mostly cops, wearing his own uniform.
"I must have impressed somebody ...", my father says.
Dad appeared in nearly 20 episodes over the show's 12-year run. He wasn't in any cream puff roles, either. Dad played mostly heavies.
"I finally got the gist of the whole game", Dad explained, "And it was that you had to be a heavy to get better roles."
And, he did. From a construction worker, to a tough guy opposite Chin Ho and even as a conniving pimp named Ernie Kwan.
Dad went on to say, "Everybody's good looking… and if you're not good looking they're looking for the character actor."
Police officers didn't make much back then but the acting gig sure helped. To this day, royalty checks are still coming in.
Looking at a few of his royalty checks, I ask my father, "You still get these surprises in the mail?"
Dad details, "It ranges anywhere from a 6 dollar check to a 2 thousand dollar check".
I pointed out one particular royalty check to him, "Let's see, $12.25. I guess you could get two plate lunches for that, right?".
"Yup", Dad quipped in response with a smile.
The original series wrapped some 31 years ago. For actors like my Dad, it was something special.
"My experiences with Hawaii 5-O were quite exhilarating", my father admitted, "Never thought I could do it. (It was a) pretty good experience for a local boy from Makiki".