"The Break" co-star Vanessa Minnillo gets ready to hit the Pipeline surf for a scene in the latest TV crime-fighting series pilot to be shot on Oahu.

Taking a Break

The Oahu-based TV show's
cast takes its lumps on the
North Shore location as cameras
roll on the police drama

By Tim Ryan

Dylan Bruno stands at the water's edge at Banzai Pipeline concentrating on the scenes he's about to film, but more concerned about paddling out "at one of the scariest waves on the planet."

Bruno, star of the John Stockwell-Brian Grazer TV pilot "The Break" for Fox Television, isn't complaining about "this dream job" of getting paid to surf and act for the latest Oahu-based police drama. But after surfing for four years, mostly the tame waves of California and Mexico, he's aware of the North Shore's inherent dangers.

"I'm already wounded and bleeding after just a week here," Bruno jokes, clutching his 7-foot, three-fin board. "And it wasn't even from the waves."

The actor's finely cut chest is riddled with tiny rash scabs caused by rubbing against the board's deck without a wet-suit top.

"These aren't going away for a while," he says, picking at one itchy bump while eyeing the mellow 3- to 5-foot, glassy waves.

Bruno arrived in Hawaii about 10 days ago to prepare for his role. His first morning on the North Shore, Stockwell and company had him out at 15-foot Sunset Beach watched carefully by a couple guardians.

"It scared the pants off me," Bruno said.

Cast members from "The Break," from left, Lana Papke, Ian Anthony Dale, Kala Alexander, series star Dylan Bruno and Vanessa Minnillo. Bruno plays a member of the Honolulu Police Department's Crime Reduction Unit, battling crime by day and facing family issues at home.

This first day of filming involved the kind of gentle pipe Bruno probably could ride safely. But he and his co-stars -- portraying members of HPD's Crime Reduction Unit, including locals Kala Alexander and Lana Papke, and mainland actors Vanessa Minnillo and Ian Anthony Dale -- will instead be sitting in the placid channel between Pipeline and Pupukea beach to shoot some seven hours of dialogue in the first of three weeks of filming.

Bruno's double Chris Malloy gets to surf if you count deliberately wiping out surfing. "Thank God for Chris," Bruno says.

Malloy, a 30-year-old professional surfer from Ventura, Calif., had long blond hair a week ago but now sports short brown hair, courtesy of Redken.

Monday's scenes were especially tough on the Bruno character Dane Patterson, who gets shoved off his first wave; CRU detective Braden (played by Alexander) takes off in front of him, forcing him to wipe out before getting sucked over the falls on a large wave. The first day's scenes also introduce the audience to the locale where the CRU meets after work to talk story.

BRUNO, WHOSE acting credits include "The Anarchist Cookbook," "Saving Private Ryan" and the television movie "The Pennsylvania Miners' Story," plays a young man who left Hawaii at 17 for Detroit. He returns with his troubled 13-year-old son (played by North Shore resident Chas Chidester, 14) to live with his sister at a North Shore beach house. There, Patterson joins HPD's CRU.

Actors and extras arrived on the set at 7:15 a.m. for hair and makeup treatments, then hit the surf 90 minutes later, shuttled by Jet Skis to a waveless spot 200 yards offshore.

Stockwell, who is writing and directing the pilot, looks fatigued, having gotten little sleep Sunday night, thinking, he says, "about all the things we didn't get done, need to get done, and worrying about the surf being flat or too big."

Ian Anthony Dale, in the foreground on the beach at Pipeline, plays HPD officer Kawika Jones, co-starring in "The Break." At left is extra Cris Sisneros, 18, of Sunset Beach.

For what may be a first in movie history, director Stockwell paddles to the "set" on his surfboard.

"Hey, it's still work," he says before hitting the water.

Bruno was set to star in a Miami-based series about baseball, but when the deal fell through, Stockwell, who auditioned him for the starring role in "Blue Crush," came knocking. Bruno's excited about the depth of his character and the family issues with which Patterson wrestles.

"I'm trying to be a good single father, but I come to the realization that I'm not doing a good job ... and I know I need some help," he says, slipping into the Patterson role.

"Dane is trying to make right, but he is very far from perfect; he's flawed," Bruno says. "Like all of us."

And like Detective Braden, played by "Blue Crush" alumnus Kala Alexander, who will do his own surfing in the show.

"Big-time flaws with me," says the North Shore-bred Alexander, a surfer-turned-actor featured in a fashion layout in this month's Esquire magazine. "My character is kind of a hothead, tough, but a very good cop."

As the story is currently written, some of Braden's family members have been involved with drugs, so he despises dealers.

The role seems similar to Alexander's "Blue Crush" character, in which he and his friends hassle and eventually beat up the "haole" star.

"Not true, brah," Alexander corrects. "I held the girl while my friend beat him up."

Alexander, as well as the 35-plus local "Break" crew, praised Stockwell and Grazer for keeping their word about coming back to do a TV pilot -- estimated to cost about $5 million -- following "Blue Crush's" success.

"They're men of their word," Alexander said. "Brian and John are keeping the island green."

PAPKE (CRU member Leilani Kim) is an avid surfer who learned to ride the waves on Kauai's rugged North Shore, so she also needs no double. Stockwell auditioned Papke for "Blue Crush."

"My character is a harder person, a bit of a tita, a kick-ass chick," said the part-time waitress who learned she got the part less than 24 hours before filming began.

"It's so weird because I'm not even nervous; everything has happened so fast," she said. "It just seems like I'm home at the beach going surfing except, well, this is Pipeline."

Minnillo, 22 (Malia), and Dale, 24 (Kawika) -- both from L.A. -- are awed by North Shore's beauty and ruggedness, and took their first surfing lessons 10 days ago.

In his first scene, Dale slaps the face of "a skinny kid" character and methamphetamine user -- played by Cris Sisneros, 18, of Sunset Beach -- then orders him out of the water. (Sisneros' fingertips were made up by head makeup artist Bryan Furer to look burned from holding meth pipes.)

The Hawaiian-Filipino-Italian-Irish Minnillo, a print model, sports bruises on her hips, knees and elbows from surfing at Haleiwa, Turtle Bay and Makaha.

"I'm supposed to be able to surf, and I promise, by the time this is a series, I'll get good," she says. "The script is so real, the characters so rich, that I want to be as authentic as I can be in and out of the water."

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