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Daniel Dae Kim Makes Directorial Debut on ‘Hawaii Five-0’

After six seasons on mega-hit “Lost” and currently starring on CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0,” now in its fifth season, fan favorite Daniel Dae Kim is stepping behind the camera.

“When I was working on ‘Lost,’ I shadowed a few directors because it was something that I was interested in, but it wasn’t the kind of series where a newcomer could just hop on. It was very complicated,” Kim tells Variety of his decision to direct.

“I just watched and learned, and when ‘Hawaii Five-0’ came along, once we had a few seasons under our belt, I thought it was the right time to ask. Thankfully, CBS and (exec producer) Peter Lenkov were kind enough to give me a shot,” Kim says. “It’s a combination of having the desire and getting the opportunity.”

The actor-turned-director, who also has multiple pilots in development with his production company 3AD, tells Variety about his first experience in the director’s chair:

How did you find the directing process?

It was probably more preparation than I anticipated because it’s a much longer period of time that you stay with a particular production. You have pre-production and then you have principal photography and then you have post-production. So I was familiar with principal photography obviously and some editing because actors are involved in post, as well, but the pre-production was what surprised me — the amount of preparation that needs to be done before the cameras ever roll.

What did you find the most challenging?

I think the hardest part of working on any television show is trying to work within the schedule that you’re given. We shoot 50-something pages in eight days and, in my case, we shot them in seven days, so you’re shooting a large number of pages per day so there is only a certain (amount) of sunlight per day, so you’ve got to race the clock and get the material in time because unfortunately, you can’t push your release date for television.

Was it difficult making the transition from acting to directing, especially in a show that you star in?

The first day that I had to do both, it was difficult. I find that directing and acting occupy two different parts of my brain, so when I was in directing mode, it was hard to shift over into acting mode, and I had so much trouble with my lines in the first scene actually when I was directing and acting. It took a little while, but I made the transition and (it went) much more smoothly the second day.

Was it strange being the boss for a day with your co-stars?

I never think about it in those terms, but I will say, the first day that I was directing, Alex (O’Loughlin) and Scott (Caan) heard me say, “Action!” and they started laughing because it’s weird hearing my voice come from a director’s chair. We had to pause for a second before we shot the scene. And I have to admit, the first time that I called action, it felt like a word in a foreign language coming off of my tongue. I was not confident, but after a couple of scenes and once I got my feet wet, it was much more natural and easy.

Cloris Leachman guest stars on the episode you direct. How was it working with her?

I was such a big fan of hers when I was a kid, so being able to work with her was really special. I’m happy to report that she still has that fire in her eyes. She has a very childish playfulness. You don’t really have to give her that much direction. She keeps working, she keeps finding things, and she’s very vibrant and alive.

You have a few pilots in development. Have you been bitten by the behind-the-camera bug, or would you want to star in any projects that may get picked up?

It’s not my plan to star in them. I have a good job on “Hawaii Five-O,” as an actor. I’d love to guest star and help those series in any way possible, if they make it to air, but I’m content being a producer on them.

What do your fans recognize you most for — “Hawaii Five-0” or “Lost”?

It depends on where I go in the world. There are certain countries, for instance, Singapore, where “Hawaii Five-0” is huge, and I’m surprised at how many people come up to me to say that they’re fans, but then if I go to Europe, if I go to London, it’s amazing how many people still remember “Lost” like it was yesterday. Now with Netflix, a lot of people are just tuning into the show right now, so it’s a phenomenon that keeps living on.

Kim’s directorial debut airs Friday night on the “Hawaii Five-0” episode titled “Stakeout.”

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