News Column

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Outtakes column

May 26, 2013

YellowBrix

May 26--Henry Ian Cusick is going where he's never gone before, but it won't make sense unless you consider where the actor has been.

Context, "bruthah," context.

Cusick was introduced to fans of ABC's "Lost" as a man with a feverish need to punch a code into a computer every 108 minutes in order to prevent a doomsday eruption. That character -- the lovesick Scotsman Desmond Hume -- became one of the show's favorite characters and earned Cusick an Emmy nomination.

When "Lost" ended -- three years ago this past Thursday -- Cusick went on to amass a diverse collection of roles, including a psychologist on ABC's "Body of Proof," a ladies' man on the network's popular "Scandal," a multimillionaire adventurer on the CBS series "The Mentalist" and a creepy child rapist on NBC's "Law & Order: SVU."

But the most amazing role for Cusick may be the one he has now: director.

The 46-year-old actor is at the helm of (and stars in) a short film called "Dress." It's a festival project, or as Cusick puts it, "baby steps" on the path to something bigger. He has wanted to direct for a long time.

"Being an actor, after a while you get a little frustrated because you realize that you're just a tiny part in something," Cusick said. "And I felt I had more to say than my lines."

Cusick had a story he wanted to tell but didn't trust his writing skills, so he turned to veteran local playwright Susan Soon He Stanton. They worked on it for the last two years.

The drama follows Ben Granger -- played by Cusick -- as he struggles to cope with the death of his wife and how that has affected his relationship with his children. The film was shot almost entirely in Lanikai, where Cusick lives with his wife, Annie Wood Cusick, and their three sons. The Cusicks even used their house for several scenes.

Annie Wood Cusick shares producer credits with Matt Locey, a veteran assistant first director, and Angela Laprete, an associate producer on "Hawaii Five-0." Wainani Young Tomich, a second assistant director on several ABC shows including "Lost," is the co-producer. Veteran surf cinematographer Don King was the director of photography, and waterman Brian Keaulana was the stunt coordinator.

Everyone donated their time, and as the talent pool expanded -- with Laprete tapping "Five-0" production crew for much of the work -- the film took off. Cusick was stunned at the support because all he could offer them was lunch.

"I thought it would be a low-budget, tiny little movie and my kids would be in it," he said. "When Angie got involved, it steamrolled. We had 75 people on set one day."

The directing experience proved to be surreal.

"There were these moments I looked up and I was having an out-of-body experience looking at myself directing," Cusick said. "What have I gotten myself into? Is this good? Are we doing OK? Is the script good? All those questions popped into my head. But I was lucky to have so much talent around me."

The film, which will probably end up about 25 minutes long, needs to be edited by July because Cusick was cast in a key role in the new CW series "The Hundred." Cusick was the first person cast in the science-fiction drama, a midseason show with no air date set. He will star as Councillor Kane.

In this dark vision of the future, set nearly 100 years after nuclear war has destroyed Earth, the last human beings live in a giant spaceship, and Kane is tasked with ensuring the human race survives. His love interest is Hawaii actress Kelly Hu.

"This is going to be a fun show, something I can not only have fun doing, but my kids will enjoy watching as well," Cusick said. "I always ask them what they think about what I am doing, and if they like it, that makes me happy."

The series will require him to work in Vancouver, British Columbia, and at the moment, Cusick plans to fly home as often as twice a month. The emphasis is on home. Hawaii is where Cusick has lived since 2006. It's where his family is. And it's where he wants to work, even if he has to travel a lot to make projects like "Dress."

"I thought I would like to take baby steps here and see how it goes and see if it is something I can do," he said. "I actually loved doing it. I definitely want to do more. I want to stay in Hawaii, and I want to try and make work here -- not just for myself, but the bunch of talented people who are here."

AND that's a wrap ...

Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser's film and television writer. Read his Outtakes Online blog at honolulupulse.com. Reach him at 529-4803 or email mgordon@staradvertiser.com.

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