Ed Asner Previews His Hawaii Five-0 Encore, 36 Years in the Making: 'He's Still Spicy!'

Apparently Ed Asner nailed his guest-starring turn on the original Hawaii Five-0 back in the 1970s, because the crime drama’s current CBS incarnation asked him back — some 36 years later — to reprise the very same role in tonight’s episode, airing at 10/9c.

But you’ll have to forgive the actor if the details of that 1975 gig, as a smuggler named August March, didn’t instantly come flooding back when he got the call.

“No, I didn’t retain what I had done then. It was one of hundreds of TV roles I’ve played,” the seven-time Emmy winner tells TVLine. “But because of what Joe Halpin, the writer, and [executive producer] Peter Lenkov created for me in this script, it was easy to recapture the essence of the character from the past — as well as establish the refinement at present.”

In Asner’s original Hawaii visit, August March was an up-and-coming world-class smuggler. As is established tonight, March went on to serve 30 years in the clink and is now living free, as a presumably rehabilitated man, when today’s Five-0 team seeks his advice on setting up a sting after McGarrett’s sister (played by Taryn Manning) is pinched for trying to smuggle conflict diamonds.

As March’s criminal yesteryears are recounted, footage from Asner’s ’75 turn is weaved into the new episode — “You’ll see how much weight I’ve gained!” the 82-year-old quips.

But if you think Asner is here to portray a cuddly, contrite retiree, think again. “Oh, he’s still a spicy individual,” he says of his “reformed” alter ego. “He hasn’t changed.” In fact, Asner almost proudly boasts that in addition to working with Five-0 team members such as Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, he clashes memorably with Tom Sizemore’s Chief Fryer. “Yeah, I did a lot of head-butting with him.”

Of his rather unusual encore, more than three decades in the making, Asner says, “It was a delight that I was alive to inspire the idea, firstly. And secondly, the opportunity to work on a top show like Hawaii Five-0 with Peter Lenkov, whom I admire enormously… it was all roses. There was no lemon in the bunch.”

Hawaii Five-0 actually marks Asner’s third guest-starring primetime role in less than a week, with the actor having last Wednesday popped up on both ABC’s The Middle and TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland. On the latter sitcom, he was of course reunited with fellow Mary Tyler Moore alum Betty White.

“Betty can do no wrong — and evidently the whole production world knows it,” he says of White’s rebirth into the pop culture zeitgeist. “She pops up everywhere, doesn’t she?”

As for reuniting with the sharp-as-a-tack and sassy 90-year-old on camera, Asner shared, “I have a 95-year-old sister, and a 92-year-old sister, so…. They fully prepared for that young pup, Betty!”

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9 Comments
  1. Terry says:

    Hi Matt,

    Just an FYI, Sizemore’s character is named Fryer, not Fahey.

  2. kirads09 says:

    It is so good to see Asner working. Incredible talent.

    I am also glad Hawaii 5-0 got renewed. However, I kinda hope
    they get back to basics. Season 2 had some less than quality moments IMO. I hope Alex fully rebounds from whatever. Does the fact that Terry O’Quinn is in 666 (ABC right?) mean the demise/permanent disappearance of Joe White?

  3. Jonah says:

    LOVE Ed Asner. A pro’s pro. It’s amazing the longevity that the outrageously-talented cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show has enjoyed. Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Mary herself, Gavin, Ed, Georgia, Valerie, and certainly Ted Knight, if cancer had not claimed him far too early. Ditto with Nancy Walker. These people are national treasures, and we are so fortunate they have continued sharing their immense talents with us for over half a century, in some cases.

  4. Hannah says:

    I’ll watch the show tonight just to see Asner.

  5. Richard N. says:

    Now don’t get me wrong I love Hawaii 50. One of the best shows on TV. But tonight’s Episode is the reason I wished they would of introduced a new Crew to take over Hawaii-50 team. Instead of recasting the Original. Would of made a better bridge across time. The line by March “Your dad was the one who arrested me” would of been more heart felt and touching. RIP Jack Lord,

  6. Melanie says:

    I enjoyed the episode and suspect Asner will show up again, after all, he killed a woman and walked off with cash and diamonds at the end.

    He has to have set a record of some kind — he was Lou Grant in MTM show and then in “Lou Grant” and now he’s played August in H50 30 years apart.

    I wish everything on H50 did not revolve around the team’s family. Are there no crimes in Hawaii committed against anyone else? I don’t care about Danny’s family upheavels, please, no more of this storyline.

  7. Love Ed Asner, I am.same age, hope to see more of him in 5 0′

  8. Maria says:

    Kirads 09 I guess u may be right. Terry O Quinn will be in antoehr new show at anotehr network, so my guess is that we have seen the last of Joe White in H50 or at least we will see the last of him if he will guest star in the remaining 3 episodes of the season but that has not been officially informed or said anywhere

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