EXCLUSIVE: 'Hawaii Five-0' Star Daniel Dae Kim Previews His Most Intense Episode Yet, Addresses Show's Future

The 'Lost' alum talks to ET about opening doors for future Asian American actors on TV.

A birthday bash is about to turn into a nightmare for one member of the Hawaii Five-0 team.

On Friday’s fall finale of CBS’ action drama, what’s meant to be a low-key, celebratory party for Chin Ho Kelly becomes the complete opposite when he receives a distressing phone call informing him that his niece, Sara, has been kidnapped.

What comes next is the most panicked and alarmed we’ve ever seen Chin, as ET’s exclusive sneak peek from the dramatic episode foreshadows. Desperate to save Sara, Chin speeds down the street on his motorcycle before Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) eventually catches up in his truck, reassuring his friend that the team is all in on the mission.

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“I’m really happy to have had this storyline and this episode,” Daniel Dae Kim, who has played Chin since season one, tells ET. “It’s these kinds of episodes that remind me of why I’m an actor.”

The 48-year-old actor jumped on the phone with ET to chat about his most intense episode yet and why he hopes more Asian actors will have a place in Hollywood.

ET: What was it like getting back to the Sara storyline again in an incredibly dramatic episode for you?

Daniel Dae Kim:
It was nice. Chin hasn’t had a storyline before with a child, and this is part of his rebirth of family, because he found a romantic love late last season and now, he’s found a parental love. It’s great to be able to play as an actor because it’s not often that you get to work on a modern family in this way. Usually it’s boy meets girl, boy marries girl, they have children but this is a little bit different.

What does Chin’s connection to Sara mean to you as an actor?

For fans who have been following the show, they’ll know that Sara is the daughter of Chin’s enemy and she is also related to him through marriage. When he first hears that he’s going to take on the caretaker role for the child, it’s with very mixed emotions. But it’s really nice that, because of the way the relationship is written and because of the performance given by Londyn Silzer -- she’s quite a talented little actress -- it allowed me to tap into my own feelings as a parent and wanting to be protective, to be loving and open in the same way. It’s allowed me to bring another side to myself that I haven’t really had the chance to yet.

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You mentioned getting to show a different side to the character. Is this a different shade to Chin you hope to explore further?

[Executive producer] Peter [Lenkov] has said a number of times that the theme of the season is the toll that the job takes on the members of Five-0. Our show is very dramatic and the stakes are high and there’s a lot of violence, murder and action -- to have this counterpoint is really refreshing. It’s fun to play as an actor because it’s a change of pace from the usual cops and robbers. (Laughs.) It’s a human element to the story. I’ve enjoyed the storyline and I hope it keeps going.

It’s very clear that Chin will do anything to save Sara. Is she that person for him right now?

It’s a great question. One of the benchmarks of Chin Ho’s character from the start of this show is loyalty and the meaning of family. He’s been shown throughout the series to be willing to sacrifice himself for those he loves. It’s also why the deaths of those he’s loved affect him so much. The fact that Sara’s now come into his life has opened him up in a way he hasn’t before and you’re right when you say he’s willing to do anything to protect her. Part of the reason for that is Chin Ho chose this life of high stakes and possible death at any moment, but Sara did not. Once he realizes the weight of how his life has affected this little girl, it changes his perspective a little bit. The combination of Sara and Julie Benz’s character, Abby, is making him rethink his life and his priorities.

You’ve been with this character now for seven seasons. Have you stepped back and been able to look at the breadth of work you’ve been able to do as an actor?

Absolutely. There is a lot of dialogue these days about diversity and representation onscreen and the roles that Asian Americans are getting to play, and though I agree with the general point of the lack of representation and the stereotypes that are out there for us, I have to say that I’ve been lucky to have played a character like Chin Ho. He’s had a lot of different kinds of storylines. He’s been involved in a romantic storyline, he’s been involved with action, and he’s been involved with friendship and family. These are all things that we all long to do as actors.

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Do you hope there’s more opportunity or avenues for Asian American actors on TV?

I really hope that Chin Ho is one color in a spectrum that Asian Americans are getting to play, and I hope that there’s more and I hope that there’s better and that it’s a movement. I hope that all of us who are on TV representing right now are just the shoulders that others can stand on in the future.

Recently, Alex O’Loughlin told us that he’s done with Hawaii Five-0 after a hypothetical eighth season, should the show get picked up. Have you thought about an end date yourself?

It’s a tricky question because oftentimes answers get taken out of context and rumors start. But I will say that I’ve been lucky enough to be working now for 13 years on television straight when you combine Lost and Five-0. There will be a time where I’ll want to try something new and different. I’m not sure when that time will be, but I’m sure it will coincide with the life cycle of our show. We’ll have to see. I’m enjoying working on this show in a way that I haven’t in the past, and there’s a comfort level here that will be irreplaceable. At the same time, the nature of television is that shows get canceled, shows move forward, people move on and I’m aware of that as well.

You can’t beat living and working in Hawaii, right?

(Laughs.) That’s right. I think I’m one of the luckiest actors right there, frankly.

Hawaii Five-0
airs its fall finale on Friday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.