Hawaii Five-0 interview: Peter M. Lenkov, Eric Guggenheim on powerful Grover story, season 9 hopes, Magnum PI progress
There is a new episode of Hawaii Five-0 airing on CBS Friday night, and it’s safe to say that this is an episode different that any other to come before it. Over the course of the hour you will see Lou Grover share his personal history with suicide in order to try to stop another man from taking his own life. It’s a powerful, intimate story that will offer a very different take on Chi McBride’s character than you’ve seen before. We’ve had a chance to see the episode in advance and he is absolutely wonderful in it.
As a means of better setting up this episode, we spoke to the two talented people responsible for making it happen. In our interview below, executive producers Peter M. Lenkov and Eric Guggenheim take you through the planning process of this episode, the message behind it, and the reaction McBride had to the material. We also talk briefly about the show’s new arrivals (Beulah Koale and Meaghan Rath) and a potential season 9.
CarterMatt – I want to go back to the very beginning with bringing Tani and Junior into the show. Everyone’s obviously going to have opinions anytime there are new characters entering the mix, but I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback. What were the biggest writing challenges you faced introducing these new characters into a show so far into the run, only to then make them feel like they are a part of the family the whole time?
Peter M. Lenkov – It’s an interesting question. Over the years between Jorge Garcia, Chi McBride, and Ian Anthony Dale, we’ve always introduced characters, so we’re used to growing the family. The harder thing for us was that we were doing this in a year where we also had two of the principal cast members leave. It wasn’t about a void being filled because we’ve always added to the family; for me, it was about whether or not people will allow the time to grow two new ones in a year where we’ve lost two big characters.
Really, that’s it. When we’ve added in the past we’ve never had any obstacles from fans. Some haven’t lasted as long as others, but it just so happened that we were adding two in a season where we lost some really important ones. Will people who watch the show accept that two people are leaving and that the show’s going to continue without them and hopefully honor their legacy? That was the challenge. It’s not like we’ve forgotten they existed. We’ve really made an effort to make it feel like they are a part of our world.
I think this is an episode that is going to mean a lot to the viewers. Was this Grover story an idea that has been bouncing around for years, or was this something that was just born out of the writers room this year?
Lenkov – We’ve introduced the trauma that Grover went through in Chicago years ago. The idea was to always follow up with that.
With Chi, we’ve done a few episodes with him where they are almost like stage plays. We did an episode last year with him and his ex-partner where they spent the entire episode in the house, with Grover tearing apart the house looking for the money. For us, that was such a great episode because they didn’t go anywhere. They were two people in one house hashing it out. We want to recreate the idea that we could put a really great actor in one space and tell a great story. That was the challenge, and we framed the story around that: How we get Chi into a confined space where he gets to act and hold you just with his words and his eyes.
Were there specific conversations that you guys had with Chi during the process of making this episode?
Lenkov – Oh yeah. Anytime there’s an episode like this where he’s front and center he gets very involved. He’ll call up with notes or ideas. Even the scenes of him going up to the car [with the suicidal man] and cracking the window, those are conversations that we had we implemented into the script after talking to him.
On episodes like that, he’s very much involved.
You made a good analogy between this episode and a stage play. What are the difficulties that go into extending out these scenes and doing them differently from how you usually do?
Lenkov -It’s so much fun, and convincing the network that it will work because is breaks format is also fun. When the concept works it’s so satisfying. These shows over time fall into a pattern and you can look at them almost as a formula that works. Our challenge after so many years is to find ways to change that. Every single year one of the things we gravitate to is telling stories that take place in one location. We found ways to make it work. For us, it’s really satisfying because it makes you stretch yourself as a writer. How do you hold people’s attention when you’re not going anywhere? There are no bombs or car chases. It’s just two people talking to each other.
What’s the message that you want viewers to get out of this?
Eric Guggenheim – That there are a lot of people out there who struggle, and you’re never alone with it. There are others who have been through it. You have to reach out for help. That’s basically it.
Lenkov – What’s also important here is that you see this guy week to week. Chi McBride is playing a very strong, powerful hero, and to see this man be so vulnerable and to have gone through this trauma is powerful. Seeing him be vulnerable is interesting. We weren’t looking to make light of someone going through an experience that would make them want to take their own life. We wanted to make Grover reflect on everything good that was in his life, but still decide that he wants to try and take his own life.
The PSA was really important for us to put on the show, as well; like Eric said, no matter how alone you feel or how much you’re struggling, there are people who will be there for you. The takeaway here is that sometimes, heroes have conflict. They’re vulnerable. They’re not always as strong as they appear on the outside.
Beyond this episode, are you guys thinking about the finale and how you’re going to try and wrap things up this year?
Lenkov – Yeah. We’re starting to talk about how we want to wrap things up. Because Ian Anthony Dale goes off to do another show [in Salvation], we’ve already wrapped up his arc. We still have about two episodes left to break.
And you guys are feeling pretty good about season 9, right? You just had your best numbers of the season.
Lenkov – I made season 9 stationary. I’m going to be screwed if it doesn’t come through.
Since I’ve got you both on the line, how are things going along with the Magnum PI project in development.
Guggenheim – They’re very good right now.
Are you at the point yet where you are starting to think about casting?
Lenkov – We’ve been talking amongst all of us about various ideas. But until CBS makes their announcement, you don’t want to jinx yourself.
As always, we are very thankful to Peter and Eric for all of their time! We also have another interview coming up featuring a few quotes on MacGyver, so be sure to check that out over at the link here.
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