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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: KEAHU KAHUANUI on 'TEEN WOLF'

Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for RadioFree.com
August 2, 2011

In the MTV series Teen Wolf, high school provides the backdrop for coming-of-age horrors bent with a twist of lycanthropy...

After surviving an attack by a werewolf, student Scott McCall (Tyler Posey) finds his stock rising on campus as he gradually becomes one of the feral creatures of myth. Blessed with newfound strength, speed, and agility, he is crowned the rising star of the school's lacrosse team, and immediately catches the eye of the cute new girl whose family has just moved into town, Allison Argent (Crystal Reed). But problems soon follow: aside from uncontrollable transformations into an animalistic murderer, Scott is targeted by a group of cold and calculating hunters headed up by Allison's father (JR Bourne) and her wicked and sexy Aunt Kate (Jill Wagner). With the help of his best friend Stiles (Dylan O'Brien) and a fellow werewolf with a mysterious past (Tyler Hoechlin), Scott fights for his own survival while navigating the pitfalls of teen life and struggling against the wolf within.

Bearing a resemblance to the 1985 film starring Michael J. Fox in name only, MTV's Teen Wolf has been a solid performer for the network in its debut run, leading to a well-earned renewal for a second season. The series has also managed to garner positive reviews from critics, and features a young ensemble of up and coming talent. One such performer is Keahu Kahuanui, who plays Danny, an openly gay character that has steered clear of the tired tropes of flamboyancy and/or heavy-handed social commentary typically seen with such a role. As a member of the lacrosse team, Danny has been drawn into Scott's misadventures on several occasions, and has enjoyed a growing presence throughout the show's first year.

In this exclusive interview, Keahu talks about becoming a part of Teen Wolf, and fill us in on some details of his own background, from taking the plunge into acting to geeking out about Halloween and Comic-Con.




RadioFree.com: I understand your family is from Hawaii. Which islands? And where were you born?

KEAHU: My family's pretty spread out, but they're mostly on Oahu, Molokai...They're on Kauai as well, and I have a handful on the Big Island...I was born in Honolulu.

At what point did you make the transition to Los Angeles?

Well, actually, I moved around quite a bit. When I was about 5 or 6, we moved to the Mainland, and kind of went back and forth a bit. And then after that, I lived in California for a little while growing up. And then, basically my senior year in high school, I was moving around...Probably didn't spend more than two years in any one place.

Did you have an interest in acting even as a kid?

Yeah. Actually, when I was a kid, one of the things that I always said was I'd love to be an actor, because I don't want to necessarily choose a single career. [And] being an actor, you almost have every career: you can be a doctor, a lawyer, you can be a monster, an alien, an astronaut. And that's what I wanted. I always did acting off and on, but my life, as it was growing up, just wasn't necessarily conducive to me going into the industry full-time that way. [But] when this opportunity [of Teen Wolf] came, it was kind of like a sign that I either embrace it or lose, possibly, [the chance of] going into something I've been wanting to do since I was a kid.



How did you get involved with Teen Wolf?

I auditioned just as everybody else did. [I heard about it from], basically, a friend of a friend that was involved in the production, and they were still looking to fill some roles. I actually originally auditioned for the role of Jackson, and they decided that they liked me for the show, but not necessarily for the role. So they said, "Hey, we'd like to keep you on the show. What do you think about this role?" The role of Danny. And at that point, I got the chance to read the script (I think the first two episodes). And for me, it was more like, "I want to be involved in this show." [laughs]

How did you originally approach Danny as a character?

There wasn't actually a whole lot to go from when I first got the script, because [Danny doesn't have many scenes at the start of the series]. But I spoke to the creator Jeff Davis about it, and he was basically telling me, "We'd like to have a gay character on the show, and we'd really like this to be something that's not often presented to [the] audience--you know, it's not a big deal...We want to have a gay character that's just like everybody else." Like nobody thinks anything of it. It's his sexuality. He's athletic, he's friends with everyone, he's friends with the captain of the lacrosse team...

In what ways did your own high school experiences mirror Danny's?

Despite high school being a little tumultuous, I was very active, and I played sports, and I had a lot of friends that I hung out with, and I did stuff with them. And for the most part, [those aspects are present in Danny]--mostly just hanging out and being another kid and doing high school all over again.

Was lacrosse one of the sports you played?

[laughs] Unfortunately not. I actually ran track in high school.

Lacrosse seems to be getting a lot of love in film and television recently. What did you learn about it coming into the show, and do you like it now?

Yeah. This is actually interesting because for the most part, I think almost all of us in the cast that had jumped onto the lacrosse field had never really played lacrosse before. I mean, I had seen a game or two, and what I didn't realize is not only how small the nets are, but how hard that ball is. And you get hit by that ball, it hurts. [laughs]

Are you finding that it's very physical, with a lot of opportunities to get injured?

Oh yeah, it's a rough sport. You know, running track, you just run. Knowing me and lacrosse, I'd probably be running from everybody trying to hit me with their stick. [laughs]

Can we expect to see more of Danny going forward into the show's recently announced second season?

Yeah. There's been a lot of character development this season, and there's still a little bit more to find out about him. There's not a lot we know about what's going to happen in season two, but as the [final episodes of season one] unfold, there's going to be a lot of questions to be answered. So I wouldn't be surprised if Danny had something to do with it. Not to mention [that in a recent episode], there was a little bit revealed that Danny has a bit of a past.

This is a pretty open-ended question, but let's do it anyway: just how awesome are JR Bourne and Jill Wagner?

[laughs] They're probably even more awesome in person. They're some of the most amazing people I've worked with so far. And Jill Wagner in person is just as badass as she is on TV. And JR...You know, as mean of a guy as he seems on TV, he's actually really cool. He's really down to earth. But when you get the camera in front of him, he brings his game.



According to your Twitter account, you're a self-proclaimed geek. What kind of things do you geek out about?

I've worked in the tech industry previously, I grew up around computers when I was very young, I remember when the internet first came into our schools. I read gadget blogs, I love electronics--anything that's new and state of the art, I'm usually up to date about it. I geek out about a lot. I love Halloween. Comic-Con for me is like Disneyland. [laughs] Anything that starts with "star" (Star Wars, Star Trek)...I try to not to let on as much as I know about it.

Some of the Teen Wolf cast was promoting the show at Comic-Con last month. How was your experience of going to San Diego and witnessing all of the fans at the panel?

It was a bit mind-blowing. You know, you see people tweeting you or leaving messages about the recaps of the episodes, and you know that there are [viewers]--you see the reviews as well when people are watching. [But] you don't realize [the magnitude] until you see the masses of people that have really embraced the show at Comic-Con. And that's only a small fraction of them! And I was actually at Comic-Con last year as well, and I remember the room barely being filled. And this year, I guess they had to turn people away because the room wasn't big enough.

Do you think that werewolves are currently overtaking vampires in popularity?

Well, I think vampires have a few shows that have been covering them. So to dedicate one show solely to the werewolf mythology and sort of stick to that is different, it's new. It's a variation of what's been out there, but Jeff Davis, the creator and writer, has an amazing ability to tell great stories. So we've been really blessed with the storylines that have come out, and seeing the character development and seeing the problems and the tribulations of each one of the characters. In each episode, everyone's just sitting there hanging on their seat waiting for the next week, because as some questions get answered, about ten more unfold.

Should fans expect a killer cliffhanger for season one that will have them anxiously awaiting season two?

Oh, yeah! I can almost guarantee that. [laughs]

What are your immediate plans for Teen Wolf's hiatus?

Well, everyone goes back to the drawing board and tries to pick up other projects...I have one other project, a small role that I booked on The Secret Life of the American Teenager. And other than that...I just got back from vacation, I might go on another vacation. [laughs] We'll see.

Best of luck going forward, and thanks for your time...

Thank you...I appreciate it.


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