Hawaii Five-0 interview: Peter M. Lenkov on ‘Cocoon’ premiere, 200th episode, & Adam’s return

CocoonYou’ve waited for a long time to see the Hawaii Five-0 season 9 premiere and we come bearing great news: It’s airing tonight on CBS! This installment is a remake-of-sorts for the classic episode “Cocoon,” which was the original pilot for the show so many years ago.

There’s obviously quite a lot to discuss leading up to this episode and with that, we were excited to speak to none other than executive producer Peter M. Lenkov about the inspiration behind it, modernizing certain elements of it, and of course a number of subjects beyond the premiere such as Adam’s eventual return, the Thanksgiving episode, and some of what’s coming in the 200th airing a little later this year.

This is part one of our two-part interview with Lenkov; for part two we focus on Magnum PI with a little bit of crossover talk, check back on Monday for that!

Hawaii Five-0 Video – Be sure to take a look at our own premiere expectations in the video below! You can subscribe to CarterMatt on YouTube for more and take a look at our Hawaii Five-0 playlist.

CarterMatt – So how long have you been thinking about doing a version of “Cocoon” on this show?

Peter M. Lenkov – Really, for a couple of years. It started with me trying to figure out how to do an episode where I could share a credit with [original Hawaii Five-O creator] Leonard Freeman. It really made sense to retell the pilot story, especially since it is the 50th anniversary. I’ve been trying to think about how to make it work and how to get the studio behind it. It’s a novel thing. I don’t know if it’s ever been done like this before — they do remake episodes of shows, but this was taking a two-hour pilot and distilling it into 42 minutes. It was a big job; it was bigger than I thought it would be.

Was there a challenge in looking at themes and elements from fifty years ago, and then trying to find a way to adapt them to the present? There are certainly some things that are different from the standard Hawaii Five-0 show now — the costume that you have Alex in with the mask (see above) is slightly terrifying.

That was the hardest part — getting Alex into the latex suit (laughs).

That had to be a fun conversation.

It works for the story, and I think he understood that. But the idea of sensory deprivation and trying to make sense of that was science fiction back in 1968. We sort of understand that technology a lot more now, so we’re making sense of it and also debunking it as well, which they did not do in that original show. Nobody questioned what it was or what it is and we do that.

Those are the challenges — it’s fun to take that story and modernize it. It was perfect for its day, but there’s definitely some dated elements to it that needed to be re-thought.

Where did bringing Wo Fat back come back into play here? There are probably a number of times you could find a way to bring him back, so why do it here?

Wo Fat was the villain back in that 1968 pilot, so I wanted to figure out a way to honor that and put Mark [Decascos] in the show even though he’s been dead for a number of years. I think it works. I’m hoping that people don’t figure out how he’s in there, but he’s in there.

The other thing that is out there about the premiere is Tani and the decision that she has to make about some potentially-incriminating evidence related to Adam. What can you say about that?

It starts right away with what she’s gonna do, whether she is going to tell McGarrett and how she is going to proceed with the fact that she found that gun. First of all, she has to confirm if it is the murder weapon or not. All of that stuff is going to play into the first half of the season.

I mean other than you of course, Ian Anthony Dale has to be one of the busiest people out there in between this show and Salvation. When are you going to get him back?

He’s coming back [around] episode 6. We’re not waiting too long.

Do you have sort of the same challenge with him right now that you did last year, not knowing whether or not Salvation is renewed and he may have to leave before the end of the season for that?

I think they’re going to make a decision on Salvation soon, but we don’t know. We’re trying to just use him in as many different episodes as we can.

I know McGarrett romantic subplots tend to be a bit polarizing since everyone seems to have an opinion on who he should or shouldn’t be with, but there’s a sneak peek out there for the premiere where it’s revealed that he and Lynn have broken up. Was that a choice that you made because of the character [Greer, played by Rochelle Aytes] that you are bringing in for the premiere, or are you playing up his single status down the road?

With the Greer character, you’ll see that there were people in his life before Catherine. That character plays into an arc that runs this season. Lynn is no longer in his life. We’ll see about Catherine. I don’t want to give anything away, but she’s always going to be a part of our show.

It’s already out there that Chi McBride is writing the Thanksgiving episode. How did that idea come about, and what was it like collaborating with him?

It was great. He actually, about a year ago, wrote a spec pilot, which I read and gave him notes on and we worked on a couple of drafts. It was really a great script, not surprisingly because he’s so talented and a great storyteller. He had this great idea for a Thanksgiving episode and he wrote it on spec. He told the network that he was writing a script — he never pitched it. He just wrote it and it’s our Thanksgiving episode. It’s really fun. Lou Gossett Jr. and Gladys Knight play his parents.

How much can you say about the story for the 200th episode?

There’s a lot of stuff on the internet. I saw period pictures that people are showing, so I think people are getting a sense of what the story is. It has to do with McGarrett’s grandfather and it also introduces us to the world of Chang Apana, a legendary HPD detective back in the twenties who turns out was an inspiration to McGarrett’s grandfather. He also was the inspiration for the Charlie Chan character, by the way. I had always wanted to honor him and his story. It introduces him as an HPD legend in this story.

Is there a Christmas episode this year?

There is, but there’s not a real theme to it. We’re not playing into the theme of it.

Is there anything else you want to set up about what’s coming this season?

I honestly think our stories are so different and they’re really so good. I think the Tani – Junior stuff, with them as more fully fleshed-out characters this year, is so amazing. They’ve really fit in to the family. Every story feels fresh and it’s shocking how much fuel we have in the tank. That’s a great thing given that we’re in our ninth year.

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We want to give Peter a very special thanks for talking with us about Hawaii Five-0. It’s easily a favorite here at CarterMatt and it’s always a thrill to talk to Peter about the show.

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