‘Five-O’ pilot episode
lands Busey, Wong
in lead roles

The production, which includes Hawaii
actors, starts filming next week

By Tim Ryan

Gary Busey and Russell Wong have been cast for the lead roles in the new "Hawaii Five-0" pilot that will begin filming on Oahu Monday.

Wong, who played a scoundrel of a husband in the 1993 movie "The Joy Luck Club," recently landed the title role of the resurrected film "Charlie Chan," and is known for his character in the syndicated television series "Vanishing Son."

Busey will play Jimmy Xavier Berk, a 40-something, disheveled detective whose laid-back style conflicts with Wong's character. Wong will play a by-the-book, black-tie-and-suit-wearing former FBI chief, whose name in earlier scripts was Nick Irons.

Actors cast for the other three main characters of the "Five-0" team in the Stephen Cannell-CBS Television Production include:

Elsie Sniffen, who had a recurring role in the short-lived Hawaii-based television series, "One West Waikiki." Her "Five-0" character in earlier scripts was named Rellica Sunn, but that name may be dropped, sources said.

Steven Flynn, who has appeared in other Cannell shows, will play detective Ken Vassey.

Andy Bumatai, who reportedly will portray another detective, Danny Kahala. Bumatai co-starred in Cannell's last Hawaii effort, "Marker," which featured Richard Grieco.

Sniffen was elated in being cast for the Hawaii show, her second.

"I guess means it's destiny for me to work and live here," said Sniffen, who arrived here Wednesday after being told Monday she had the role. "I'm so thrilled to be back. I just hope and pray this show runs as long as the original 'Hawaii Five-0.'"

Sniffen was especially thrilled with her fellow cast members.

"It's fabulous. I can't believe it - Russell Wong, Gary Busey and Stephen Flynn!"

Wong, a 33-year-old native of Albany, N.Y., recently signed a three-picture deal with Miramax. He has just finished work on his first Miramax film, "Ashtown." The Chan films - the first is tentatively titled "The Locked Room" - will bring him his first starring roles in the United States. Thirteen years ago he moved to Hong Kong to pursue his career, discouraged by the dearth of roles for Asian men in the United States.

The blond and beefy Busey, 52, most recently appeared in the David Lynch film "Lost Highway," starring Patricia Arquette and Bill Pullman ("Independence Day").

He was nominated for an Academy Award in 1978 for his starring role in "The Buddy Holly Story." He made his TV acting debut in 1970 in the series "The High Chapparal" and also appeared in 1991's "Point Break" with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, part of which was filmed in Hawaii.

He also appeared in Robert Altman's star-studded 1992 black comedy "The Player," and was sufficiently evil as a thug plotting to steal nuclear arms in Steven Seagal's action-adventure "Under Siege" in 1992. In 1993's "The Firm," which starred Tom Cruise, he was a good but sleazy detective.

Flynn recently appeared in the Cannell television production, "Renegade."

Returning characters from the original "Five-0" show will include James MacArthur, played by Danny Williams from 1968-1979; Kam Fong, who played Chin Ho Kelly (1968-1978); Zulu, detective Kono (1968-1972); Harry Endo, Che Fong (1970-1977); and Moe Keale, Truck Kealoha (1979-1980).

The pidgin dialogue in earlier scripts has been eliminated.

A CBS Television official this week said the pilot will be viewed in May only by network officials who will determine whether to commit to a full "Five-0" series for next fall or as a mid-season replacement in January. Earlier plans were to air the pilot in May.

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