Actor Al Harrington recalls the original 'Hawaii Five-O'

Published: Sunday, Oct. 3 2010 4:09 p.m. MDT

Kam Fong as Chin Ho, left, Al Harrington as Ben, Jack Lord as Det. Steve McGarrett, and James MacArthur as Danny in the original "Hawaii Five-0," which aired from 1968-1979.

Parmamount Home Entertainment

Enlarge photo»

When the new "Hawaii Five-0" series premiered on Sept. 20, at least one man was watching with keen interest.

More than 35 years have passed since Al Harrington was a cast member of the popular series that starred Jack Lord, and he's excited to see the show come back.

"It has great potential," the 74-year-old actor said from his home in Hawaii. "They have more cameras, the pacing is much faster, it's more visual. I was watching and saying, 'Man, I live there.' "

Harrington was introduced to "Hawaii Five-0" when he crossed paths with one of the show's producers in the early 1970s.

One day he was invited to speak to a gathering of high school students. The producer was in the audience and was impressed by Harrington. The producer invited Harrington to read for a part on the show, then in its fifth season.

"I got the part," Harrington said. "I played bad guys."

Producers liked Harrington so much that in the sixth season he was offered a permanent role after Zulu, who played the character of Kono Kalakaua, left the show.

The CBS show featured a fictional police force fighting crime and international espionage.

"It was a great show," Harrington said. "It was always fun catching the bad guys. The good guys always won."

Harrington played several characters on the show before being permanently cast as detective Ben Kokua.

His family took pleasure in watching him on the show. When his sons attended Brigham Young University in the 1980s, they loved watching the reruns.

Al's son, Alema, now a radio and TV personality in Salt Lake City, recalls watching one episode with his twin brother when they were very young and seeing their father get shot while chasing a criminal.

Jack Lord's character, Steve McGarrett, was also shot in the scene, and everyone rushed to McGarrett's side before assisting Harrington's, character. The brothers Harrington were concerned about their father.

"Did he actually get shot? In the mind of a 5-year-old, it's weird to see your father getting shot," Alema Harrington said. "We were so excited when he came home."

Al recalls that day as well.

"They went crying to their mother," he said. "When I came home that night, my wife met me at the door and told me to go talk to my kids."

The show came to an end in 1979.

Harrington, who played football at Stanford and graduated in 1958, continued to act in various roles over the years. He entertained large crowds as "The South Pacific Man" during the 1970s and 1980s. He also played one of the lead roles in the LDS film "The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd."

Alema submitted his acting qualifications to producers of the new "Hawaii Five-0" in hopes that he and his father could make an appearance in an episode.

"I would love to work with my father on something like that," Alema said. "I am not an accomplished actor by any means, but it would be a fun project to do as father and son."

Al agrees.

"I would love for that to happen," he said. "That would be a dream come true. Who knows? I would welcome such an occasion."

Harrington hopes the new version of "Hawaii Five-0," which airs Mondays at 9 p.m., on Ch. 2 will honor the people and Polynesian culture of Hawaii, as well as help improve its tourism and economic status.

"I wish them well. I hope it's not just a cops and robbers story. Hawaii is a place of great diversity and character. It is a unique part of America. I hope in the process they understand that," he said. "The original show was really good for Hawaii. The success of the new show will affect us as well."

E-mail: ttoone@desnews.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS