Yen Phan is a resident of Honolulu and has had the good fortune of working as a background actor for Hawaii Five-0. She recently spent a few minutes with me to share her experience on set!
Yen thanks for taking the time to talk to us. So what episodes were you in?
I was in the Christmas episode “Hana ‘a’a Makehewa” that aired in December. I was on for about three seconds! That episode was my first time as an extra, being a girlfriend/patron at an exclusive high end Japanese bar, filmed at the Elks Lodge in Waikiki. The scene was where McGarrett and Danno walk in with Sang Min to confront the bar owner for information on a murder. I’m the girl with a purple dress and curly hair in the background walking back and forth as the guys enter the room. I was so surprised I made it onto the screen, and it happened so fast that I had to watch it again online to see myself. My cousin clocked me at 16:50 and 17:05.
In the episode, you breeze past Sang Min in the background. What was your character’s motivation and thought process: “Where’s my date?”, “Where’s the restrooms?”, “Did I tell the waiter to hold the mayo?”.
Ha! I was pretty nervous walking back and forth in the scene. My mind was like, “I hope I don’t trip and fall flat on my face and have that filmed, cause it’ll ruin my chances of meeting Alex and Scott.” They probably would have noticed me and would remember me as the background klutz.
So you were one of the lucky extras who got some face time then,that’s pretty cool, cause I’m sure a lot of others don’t…
Yeah…there was another shot where I was placed at the table with three other people, one of them was my “date” at the restaurant. During that scene, my “date” kept turning away from me to try to face the camera the whole time. How rude, he’s not getting a second date. Just kidding!
This wasn’t the only time that you were a background actor…?
The second time was for “Loa Aloha” with Dane Cook as the guest star. That scene was where McGarrett and Danno meet up with Rachel, Grace, and Danno’s brother (Dane) for lunch and end up talking story and eating dinner. It was an all day and night scene being filmed at the Hilton and I did about five different background scenes. I was paired with two different guys, also extras, walking back and forth on the beach and around the pool. There was one scene where they were placing people at the bar and I got to be up there, Alex was about two feet away from me, and I was totally star-struck the whole time. Then the rest of the night, I got to stay at the bar and watch them film the dinner scene. I didn’t see myself in the actual episode this time, but it’s very cool that someone took pictures with me in the background.
What’s it like being on set?
Seeing the actors Alex and Scott up close was so exciting cause I’m such a huge fan of the show. I can’t believe it myself sometimes. Being on set with the cast is freakin’ cool! Watching the set production and crew do their magic and then watching the final version on TV is awesome…so much talent, creativity, and teamwork put into it. I love how Hawaii Five-0 showcases the beauty of the islands as well, incorporating landmarks and local people in the show.
What’s a day on the set like?
For the restaurant scene, we were told to show up at 6 AM and be ready, dressed up, make-up and hair done, and to meet at the holding area. We were checked by the wardrobe people and if we pass, they’d shuttle us to the filming location. We were on set for about six hours that day, a lot of us weren’t sure how long the filming was going to be and got hungry. There’s a catering company for the production, and some of us got to eat. Sometimes the main cast sits with the film crew and hangs out too. It’s kinda nice to see them bond and talk story.
But you’ve run into another Five-0 cast member off set?
Yeah, I actually helped Daniel Dae Kim with his luggage purchase at Macy’s. This was before Five-0 show aired, I knew he was a big star from Lost. I was nervous… but kept my professionalism when I approached him and his wife on the sales floor. They were pretty nice and normal customers. I made sure I didn’t jump up and down with excitement and kept my cool. I was nervous and didn’t want to ask for a photo with him even though that was the highlight of my time there.
What do your friends and family think of you being on the show?
My good friend Greg hosts a Hawaii Five-0 gathering Monday nights just for the show. He’d make up themes and we’d dress up and bring food and drinks accordingly. We have a blast every Monday night, definitely something to look forward to at the start of the week. My family and friends thinks it’s so awesome that I’m a background extra on the show. A lot of them watch the show religiously, even my former boss’ wife’s family from Philadelphia watches the show and know I’m on. I’ve never met them but it’s kinda cool to know people from afar appreciate it.
When you’re not on set with the Five-0 crew what do you do?
I’m pretty much a “Yen Of All Trades”, I do a little of everything. I do bookkeeping, sales, and organizing two volunteer groups (Hawaii Banana Slugs-my UC Santa Cruz Alumni Network, and Meet Plan Go! Honolulu, a group that encourages people to go on sabbaticals, career-breaks, and long-term travels). I also call myself “da Beach Bum” cause I love Hawaii, being around the beaches, clear blue and sea-green waters, warm weather, hiking, beautiful sunsets, and more. I also do bartending for Aloha On The Rocks. I love to travel, take photos, and blog about my adventures http://www.beachbumnetwork.com, http://yenphan.wordpress.com, http://yenyen.posterous.com/.
Best wishes to you Yen and thanks for your time!
Want to read more about background acting and extras? Read my buddy Wendie’s blog at the Five-0 Redux where she interviewed another familiar face in the background, Sarah Katherine Miller. Sarah also shared her Five-0 experiences in her own blog. Read her story about an adoring fan who bashfully approached her on set. 😉