Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 |
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This story has been updated to correct the following:
• The Apple TV limited series “Chief of War” starring Jason Momoa began filming in the Hawaiian Islands, not New Zealand. Filming in New Zealand will come later, according to Michael Singer, the production’s unit publicist.
• The timeline presented in the limited Apple TV series “Chief of War” starring Jason Momoa is the “late 17th Century,” according to the production’s unit manager, Michael Singer.
It is the policy of West Hawaii Today to correct promptly any misleading or incorrect information when it is brought to the attention of the newspaper.
Filming on Hawaii Island for Jason Momoa’s Apple TV limited series “Chief of War” will wrap by the end of the week, according to the production’s unit publicist.
Michael Singer said the production, which has been filming on state-owned land in the Kaimu-Kalapana area in lower Puna, has employed hundreds of Hawaii people — “crew, as well as actors, background and stunt players.”
“What I see on set is a very large percentage of local people working on the show,” Singer said.
Filming for the nine-episode historical drama began on the Big Island Nov. 1. Filming in New Zealand will come later this year.
Security has been tight around the closed set, and the newspaper wasn’t able to gain access for interviews or photographs.
“This is a very extensive project, and they’re filming on every major Hawaiian island, and by that, I mean Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii Island — which is significant, and is actually the first time a major television show has done that,” state Film Commissioner Donne Dawson said last week.
According to official publicity, the series “follows the epic and unprecedented telling of the unification and colonization of Hawaii from an indigenous point of view.” The timeline is the late 17th century.
Momoa and Thomas Pa‘a Sibbett are co-creators and executive producers, and it’s the second Apple series led by the 43-year-old, Honolulu-born Momoa. He starred in three seasons of “See,” a series set in a post-apocalyptic world in which most remaining humans are blind.
In “Chief of War,” Momoa will play Hawaiian warrior chief Ka‘iana who, believing himself to be on the outs with Kamehameha I, opposed the king in the Battle of Nu‘uanu in 1795.
While Momoa has been closemouthed as of late, in April he told the Associated Press that the project is “my ‘Dances With Wolves,’ you know, it’s my ‘Braveheart,’ it’s my ‘Last of the Mohicans.’”
Asked at that time why it’s important to tell this story, Momoa replied, “No one’s told our story. I mean, have you seen a Hawaiian story come out? Not really.”
In the role of Kupuohi, Ka‘iana’s wife — who sides with Kamehameha — is New Zealand actress Te Ao o Hinepehinga. She recently was the lead in the Snapchat sci-fi series “Breakwater.”
Other than Momoa, the most famous cast member is the venerable New Zealand actor Temuera Morrison, best known as Jango Fett and Boba Fett in the “Star Wars” franchise. Morrison plays Kahekili, the king of Maui.
In 1994, Morrison became an icon among local moviegoers as the tragic, alcoholic and violent Maori father Jake Heke in the gritty urban drama “Once Were Warriors.” More recently, Morrison played Momoa’s father in “Aquaman.”
Newcomer Kaina Makua has snagged a plum role as King Kamehameha. Portraying his wife, Queen Ka‘ahumanu, is Luciane Buchanan, a New Zealand-born actress of Tongan descent.
Other announced members include: Brandon Finn as Prince Kupule, Kahekili’s son; Siua Ikale‘o as Nahi, Kai‘ana’s youngest brother; Moses Goods as Moku, Ka‘ahumanu’s father and Kamehameha’s chief advisor; Te Kohe Tuhaka as Namake, one of Ka‘iana’s younger brothers and a warrior; Mainei Kinimaka as Heke, Kupuohi’s younger sister; and James Udom as Tony, a runaway slave who befriends Ka‘iana.
While Apple and the producers have been largely silent, the production has received some unflattering national publicity.
TMZ published a story on Nov. 28 about the filming causing the closure of the weekly Kaimu Farmer’s Market on two consecutive Saturday mornings, Dec. 3 and Dec. 10. TMZ’s story was based on an Oct. 31 post on the Kaimu Farmer’s Market Facebook page.
Several replies to the market’s post were sympathetic to the market and its vendors, and some, including the Hilo Coffee Mill, offered space to the vendors. Others opined the market was given notice and could’ve made alternative arrangements.
A Nov. 30 update to TMZ’s story reported that Sam Keli‘iho‘omalu, the land’s manager, said they gave Kaimu Farmer’s Market three months notice about the filming and offered them two alternative sites for the market, but the market declined.
Keli‘iho‘omalu told TMZ the film site is state land, and Momoa and company went through the rightful permitting process to obtain the use of the land, a point that was echoed by Dawson.
Also on Nov. 30, Kaimu Farmer’s Market posted on Facebook it had received “a gracious offer to host the market” on a property on Pahoa-Kalapana Road.
Singer said the production has no comment on the farmers market flap.
Neither Dawson nor Hawaii County Film Commissioner Aulani Freitas was able to provide any projected numbers for the film production’s impact on the Big Island’s economy. Dawson also was unable to estimate, at this point, the state tax credit the production will receive for filming here.
“They’re obviously going to maximize the tax credit program for film, but there are a lot of unknowns about that, because they have to file for it and there’s a very lengthy process in vetting,” said Dawson.
Dawson added the tax credit program is “extremely important to the viability of Hawaii’s film industry.”
Both Singer and Dawson said the historical drama could itself end up being historically significant.
“Apple fully understands the importance of the show to the people of Hawaii,” Singer said.
Added Dawson, “I feel that it is unprecedented that such an important story is being told on a world stage from a major studio.”
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