'Hawaii Five-0' EP Peter Lenkov talks Season 3, Christine Lahti and resolving cliffhangers
"It's got to" pick up where it left off, executive producer and showrunner Peter Lenkov tells Zap2it. "I always saw that episode as a two-parter, because of all those threads and everything that needs to be answered."
Lenkov also talked with us about the casting of Christine Lahti as McGarrett's ( Alex O'Loughlin) mother, Doris, the resolution to last season's other cliffhanger involving Chin Ho ( Daniel Dae Kim) and some of what we can expect in Season 3 of "Five-0."
Zap2it: Why did you want Christine Lahti for the role of McGarrett's mom?
Peter Lenkov: An actress at some point is going to have to convey all this emotion, this regret, feel like she made this sacrifice to abandon her family to protect them. It needs an amazing actress to pull that off. It's just words on paper unless it's somebody who can really convey all those emotional levels. She's just such a great actress. For me, to land somebody like that, even get her interested, is a big coup. That was the goal, just to get somebody who's going to play a lot of layers. There is comedy in the show, so she can do that. But it's really about playing the drama scenes -- playing the emotion, the regret. Just playing a mother who's got a lot to answer for. And also, play somebody strong enough that it's believable when she pulls a gun and that she had this past, that she could have been somebody who was in the spy game years ago. I think Christine Lahti has all that.
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How early last season did you hit on the idea of Steve's mom as Shelburne?
That was always the case. We knew that always, writing it. But the hardest thing was trying to hide the ball for so long, because you do it over 22 episodes, 23 episodes, and after a while the audience is going to start to figure out. There was a time when the audience started making those guesses, thinking it was either dad or mom. I was like, "Oh my God, really? We're only on episode 17." We knew it, but it was about how could we cleverly try to hide it. That's where Terry O'Quinn sort of took the bullet, saying he was Shelburne.
Can you talk about where Doris has been and ...
What she's been doing for 20 years? A lot of that is something we're going to explain over the course of the season. But what she tells McGarrett is she's been hiding, she's been on the run. She's been moving from safe house to safe house, that Wo Fat's been looking for her. But we're going to discover there's a lot more to what she was doing the last 20 years.
What is Chin Ho's emotional state after his Sophie's choice at the end of last season?
I think he's going to be out for blood. We were joking around, calling him "Man on Fire." You try to drown his cousin, you shoot his wife, he's going to be upset.
How are you expanding Michelle Borth 's role now that she's a regular?
It's funny -- I think most people thought she was going to be a member of Five-0. She's a regular on the show, but she's not a team member. ... She answers the phone in episode 5 [and says] "Lt. Rollins, assistant to Steve McGarrett, how can I help you?," because he seems to be tapping her for favors a lot. In the first few episodes, she really goes above and beyond [in] helping them. In the first episode, she's brought to a safe house to protect Doris while McGarrett and the rest of the team sort of deal with the A-story. Then in the second episode she's involved in a big way. She gets to exercise her action chops. You'll see a lot of sides to Catherine you haven't seen before.
But she's somebody who is very self-aware -- I don't know if you ever watched "Magnum" when you were a kid, but Magnum would always ask favors of people. He always owed people. The best way to liken this is to that -- she's much more than a girlfriend. She's somebody [McGarrett] can lean on, somebody she can go to if he needs help. She's a confidant -- she's become sort of like a girl Friday who can kick some ass.
How do you balance the ongoing plot threads with your weekly crime stories?
As writers it's fun to do a procedural where you get to go home with the characters. Most of these types of shows are very light on character and very heavy on plot. I think for our audience, they really want to get to know our characters. They really want to spend more time with the characters and probably less on the plot. We just figure out a way to balance it out. The best thing is, we know at the beginning of the year where we're going to go. So we know how to parcel out these little character stories. They somehow all get neatly put into this script that fits into 42 minutes. Usually we're long and we put those extra scenes on the DVD, but we're very character-heavy, especially this year. There's so much to do because of McGarrett's mother now, because of Michelle coming in. So there's not only more characters to service, but also more relationships to service.
Do you earn the right to go home with the characters more after a couple of successful seasons?
Our engine is still a crime procedural show. We try really hard to tell a compelling case every week. But the network has a lot of faith in us that we'll be able to do those stories as well as service our characters. And I think for actors, to keep them interested especially going into the later years -- even though we're still in our infancy -- they want their characters to evolve. So we're trying to keep them motivated, keep them engaged, by giving them really interesting stuff to do.
What are some of the stories you've got lined up for Season 3?
Ed Asner's coming back -- we're going to wrap up his story. He got away with murder last year, amongst other things, so we're going to wrap up that story. There's a really fun episode where McGarrett and Danny [ Scott Caan] are just out fishing -- they end up getting boat-jacked and in a dinghy for two acts. It's like taking a car-gument to another level, putting that on the ocean.
I'd be curious just to see how Steve gets Danny to go fishing.
That's part of the story. They get involved in a crime out there on the water. That's a fun story. We're exploring -- Kono [ Grace Park] had relationship with Adam [ Ian Anthony Dale] last year. So now that Adam's in our world, how is Adam going to play and affect Five-0. Some of the stuff we're excited about is plot, but some of it is character. ... Kamekona [ Taylor Wily] is expanding his brand. He's going into the tourism business, learning to fly a helicopter so he can do charter tours of the island. So you can imagine that's funny. We're going to see Max [ Masi Oka] in a relationship with a woman he's had a crush on for a long time.
"Hawaii Five-0" airs at 10 p.m. ET Monday on CBS.