EXCLUSIVE: Aloha from Hawaii - Where Darren Criss plays the ukulele and we could swoon over Ed Skrein daily!
A CHANNEL24 SPECIAL FEATURE
On 16 October, Channel24 flew to Hawaii to speak to the director and cast of the much-anticipated war film, Midway. Bashiera Parker sat down with Roland Emmerich, Darren Criss, Keean Johnson, Patrick Wilson, Dennis Quaid, Ed Skrein and Luke Kleintank.
Here's how everything went down...
Two hours to Johannesburg, fifteen to New York, and another eleven to O'ahu – the journey from Cape Town was long and tiring but worth it when I stretched my legs at Honolulu International Airport greeted by a row of palm trees dancing in the gentle breeze: "Aloha."
The state of Hawaii is an archipelago, pronounced ar-ki-pel-ligo, which means it's compromised entirely of islands – 137 to be exact – and is located southwest of the United States within the Pacific Ocean.
Hawaii experiences a tropical climate, so in the summer when I arrived, it was pretty hot and humid, not that the winter temperatures drop much. The sun shone until about 18:00 over the leafy green hills with bursts of colour on O'ahu. But the island didn't sleep with the sunset. When the sky turns a bright orange, life's a beach, and the people of Hawaii do more than just dip their toes in.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Though I was in one of the most beautiful places in all the world, I had a job to do.
Embracing the island-lifestyle wasn't an option for the first few days because I flew all the way to watch Midway, explore beautiful Pearl Harbour, before sitting down with the cast of the film.
So between poke bowls and shaved ice, I was on a mission, and it all came to a head when I saw Darren Criss casually stroll past the bathroom where I was nervously fixing my makeup before my interviews at the Four Seasons at Ko Olina. He was playing the ukulele – and I nearly painted a Joker-stretched smile across my face.
When I finally sat down across from him, my heart was beating to its acapella version of Loser Like Me, and the 'gleek' that I am muttered an awkward, "Cooooool."
He raised his eyebrows, then smiled.
"Have you ever been to South Africa?"
"I am dying to go. I've done a lot of travelling to a lot of places. I'm very lucky. And that's sort of one of the last. I have to go. I have to go see it myself. I can't wait. One day."
Keean Johnson, his costar, hasn't been either, so I invited them home with me.
"Okay, see ya, let's go. We'll start walking now. We got time," Darren joked.
And he wasn't the only one ready to pack up his bags and hop on a plane. Ed Skrein said he fell in love with the winelands and reminded me of something more beautiful back home than the palm trees and ocean breeze in Hawaii. "It's a beautiful place, you know. They pride themselves on being the rainbow generation – that's beautiful to me. I come from multi-cultural London and, you know, I'm kind of optimistic about the future. That made me very optimistic about the future of South Africa too."
Six Hollywood stars and an acclaimed director later, I closed my little black book and hung up my blazer.
"Thank you so much," I said.
"No, thank YOU! How do I say thank you in Afrikaans?" Darren asked.
Twelve years and a distinction in the subject nearly escaped me. Pull yourself towards yourself, Bashiera. Oh yes...
"Dankie!" he said.
I spent the next few days in shorts and a T-shirt on Waikiki beach. As soon as I left the resort that forms part of a line of hotels on the shore, the sweltering heat made me wonder if perhaps I'd worn too many layers as I felt water droplets accumulate on the back of my neck. There wasn't a single breeze on the beach, only the kindest people. In Hawaii, they call that the 'Aloha Spirit'.
More than just the word for hello and goodbye, aloha is love, good vibes and positive energy – and passing that feeling onto others. It's so important it's actually become state law, so embodying the aloha spirit and being kind, warm, accepting and inviting is second nature in Hawaii. So it's no wonder the water was always warm when the waves kissed my feet before running back – it's as though even the ocean was inviting me in.
So while I spent some time passing through the stores on Kalakaua Avenue, where every second stop was either a surf or souvenir store or sitting by the infinity pool listening to live music while overlooking the beach, most of the time I was actually at the beach soaking up the sun – and the spirit.
My last sunset felt like a break-up that I would immortalise in the only way a millennial in Hawaii knows how – Instagram – but I didn't delete all the pictures from my feed afterwards. Like any good, or great, experience that makes you feel so warm and welcome – and with a single word too – you keep going back, and I keep looking at the photos. There's that wave of nostalgia. Can I say goodbye all over again?
Mahalo and Dankie.
Midway will be in SA cinemas on 27 December.
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