COURTESY PAT BIGOLD
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa autographs a surfboard for a Damien Memorial School student during a visit in September. Tagawa has changed his look for current roles, but the Damien students knew him well from his appearances as the grandfather in Disney's "Johnny Tsunami." CLICK FOR LARGE
Tagawa returns after filming Disney sequel
Actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa was back in town last month after wrapping filming on the sequel to Disney's "Johnny Tsunami," along with three episodes of "Beyond the Break" in Waianae.
A conversation with Tagawa will air on PBS Hawaii's "Island Insights" April 16, about Asians in the entertainment industry -- related to a decade-old interview Tagawa did for a documentary film called "The Slanted Screen," about the demeaning portrayal of Asian men in films. "The Slanted Screen" airs on PBS nationally in May.
On this visit Tagawa was sporting plenty of hair -- drastically different from his previous look of shaved head and long pony tail. He explained that he needed to alter his appearance for his current roles. "It's hard to go from crazy to normal real quick," he said. "It's got to be the weirdest job on the planet, to be so conscious of your looks all the time."
In "Beyond the Break," one storyline crosses three episodes, which he shot in two days. Tagawa said there's an "outside possibility" that his character may return in the future.
It's all part of a conscious effort to spend more time in Hawaii after months of international travel for a variety of projects. He's also looking forward to participating in several small, independent films coming to the Islands.
Right now, he's looking forward to the fact that 80 million Disney Channel subscribers will see the "Johnny Tsunami" sequel, "Johnny Kapahala, Back on Board," in June. "It's great," Tagawa said of the recently completed shoot in New Zealand. "But it's not Hawaii. I really had to fight to get the Hawaiian flag in one scene."
This time, Johnny comes back at age 17 or 18, and roles reverse as he offers to help the wise grandpa, played by the 56-year-old Tagawa. Instead of surfing and snowboarding, the plot revolves around mountain boarding, which involves skateboarding down grassy or rocky hills.
While in Honolulu, he made an effort to promote "The Slanted Screen" locally. He hopes PBS Hawaii will air the documentary and include a panel discussion. "Ultimately, the effect it has is questionable," he said. "But it's important to express these views. It gives people a chance to hear me as a person -- sort of unedited."