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'Hawaii Five-0' Goes Back to World War II to Solve a Very Cold Case of Murder

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Rarely do police dramas delve into subjects like the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, but Friday night's episode of "Hawaii Five-0" is visiting that not very proud part of American history.

The episode, which was shot using actual World War II veterans, opens at a remembrance ceremony at the Battleship Missouri Memorial on Pearl Harbor Day. McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) spys a man -- David Toriyama ( guest star James Saito) -- who is about to shoot a Pearl Harbor veteran, and stops him. But instead of throwing David in jail, McGarrett listens to the reasons why David attempted the murder. His story sets Five-0 on a journey to solve a very cold case involving the murder the David's father and the theft of his father's Katana sword.

Because of the special nature of the series, executive producer/showrunner Peter Lenkov and co-executive producer Ken Solarz spoke to Examiner.com to encourage viewers to tune in for this special episode.

I am familiar with the internment camps here on the mainland, but I wasn't aware there were camps in Hawaii. What was the inspiration for the story?

Solarz: Truth be told, Peter had this idea when he created the series. One of the things we like to do is dig into things that are Hawaiian. When you start getting into the history of Hawaii, you can't help but come across the internment camp experience. There were six internment camps in Hawaii and we just felt that it was an organic part of Hawaii that we couldn't ignore. We were fascinated by the history and it was something we wanted to incorporate, so we created a mystery that actually begins in the camp and gets played out in unusual fashion for Five-0 in present day.

It was a combination of 1) to really shine a light on this part of American history that is not that well known, and 2) the challenge was to create a mystery that happens back then that we solve today.

Can you talk about the decision to open on Pearl Harbor Day and use actual WWII veterans at the remembrance ceremony?

Lenkov: One of the gentlemen on the deck of the Missouri is actually one of our CBS executives' father. We wanted to honor the greatest generation, these World War II veterans, and she happened to be the daughter of a veteran. We put him in among the others because we wanted these people to know how much we respect and admire what they went through.

Like we say at the beginning of the episode: "We will never forget." We want to make sure those faces are seen and we honor those men, and it be as authentic and real as possible.

I thought having David Toriyama return to the site of the Honouliuli camp was really a nice touch. It gave the story a really nice emotional touch, but also served a storyline purpose, so it wasn't too maudlin. Are the camps still there? Or was that something you staged?

First of all, the real camp wasn't too far from where we were. To know exactly where it is, is a little hard. We actually had some visitors, who as children were in that camp, and they had brought pictures. They thought that we had done an identical re-creation of the camp they had been in, so they mentioned that they had tried to go visit it a few years earlier but couldn't exactly find the spot, but they knew it was over the ridge from where we were shooting.

In terms of the storytelling, what we wanted to do was do something that was very unconventional for us, because it is really like a one-man play. A man telling a story with flashbacks. We felt it was important to make him a real component in the crime-solving, so bringing him back seemed like a natural way to get him involved in helping us go back in time to figure out what happened.

Like you said, it is not maudlin. We are hoping people are going to learn something from this episode. Maybe a little bit of history that most people want to forget, but also on this really emotional journey. As writers on this show, we really try to mix it up. We try to put emotional stuff into character stuff in every episode because we want to say we wear our hearts on our sleeves.

Is it important that we revisit the prejudice of the time, so we can learn from it?

It is like you said, it is important that we learn from it, to know it existed, and to honor the people who went through it. For us, and we have done this in the past, we really try to dig into a little bit of the history of the island, and not just tell stories of current day, but tell stories that go back to early days. We like to go back and tell stories about the development and the people on the island. This is one of those stories. Hopefully, we will get to tell a lot more.

You made nice use of the historical footage. Since the show is in HD -- and the shots of the island you use are so gorgeous -- how do you incorporate that without making it too jarring?

Solarz: What we did with the World War II stuff was be as accurate as we could be.

Lenkov: We shot our period stuff in basically the same colors. We treated it the same way, so it felt like anything that was flashback -- there was a little bit of stock that we used -- but we shot as well and we tried to match it color-wise.

In one surprise, Daniel Dae Kim's character, Chin Ho Kelly, reveals that he's Korean and part-Japanese. In the original series, the character was Chinese American. Why the change?

Remember, he said, "It is in the mix." Chin Ho has always been a mutt to me. I think there is Chinese there, I think there is Japanese there, there's a little Korean. I think there is a mix over the years. He is really blended.

The "Ho’ onani Makuakane" episode [Hawaiian for "Honor Thy Father"] airs Friday, Dec. 13 at 9/8c on CBS.

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