James MacArthur Official Website: Welcome To My Digital Scrapbook!
James MacArthur Official Website Other Goodies Articles, Photos & Video Email Credits, Biography & Info News and Updates James MacArthur Official Website Logo

Brief Lives: A Tribute to Kam Fong Chun

(10 November 2002)

Broadcast 10 November 2002 on BBC Radio 5.

Transcript of segment:

<Hawaii Five-O theme plays>

BBC Announcer: Kam Fong Chun was better known as Detective Chin Ho Kelly, the portly, middle-aged officer in the ‘70’s television detective series Hawaii Five-O. He was a Honolulu police officer for many years before leaving the force to pursue a new career as an actor. His big break came by accident. James MacArthur, who played Danno in the series, told me about Kam Fong Chun’s first meeting with the show’s creator, Leonard Freeman.

JM: Kam told me a lovely story. He walked in the door, and the creator and producer of the show was casting with the director, and Lenny Freeman looked up and said, “There’s Chin Ho!” And the director said, “What?” And Lenny said, “I want this gentleman for Chin Ho! Congratulations, sir! You’ve got the part!” <laughs> How’s that?

BBC: It seems extraordinary that the character was played by a real-life policeman. How far was he playing himself, and did he bring particular qualities to the role or offer advice to the show’s producers?

JM: Well, we had technical advisors, but let me tell you, having one of our actors also have the professional experience of actually knowing what to you, you know. He would subtlely say sometimes, “Hey, boys, you know you have to do it this way because ...” <laughs> “... that’s the way you do it.” And we didn’t argue. You know, Kam was a wonderful guy, a good friend, and he was also wonderful to me. I’d never been in the state of Hawaii before, except for one hour in my life, and he was especially wonderful at teaching those of us who were newcomers to the state of Hawaii about old Hawaii when he knew before the war, and about the legends and things. He was a knowledgeable storyteller and knew a lot about the state of Hawaii.

BBC: Was there a particular episode you remember when the plotline was focused particularly on him?

JM: Kam did have several that put a spotlight on him, and he always pulled it off very nicely. He had a deft touch. When he came to work, he was as prepared as anybody on the set, including Jack. You know, I mean he just absolutely was there, knew the words and was ready to go.

BBC: Now, his early life was marked by tragedy. His young family died after a plane collision. Did he ever talk about this?

JM: You know, I had known Kam for a number of years, and one day we were shooting at the Diamond Head Cemetery. And, we were special friends, but he said, “Jimmy, come over here.” And he walked me over down the row of graves, and he pointed down, and I looked down. And he said, “That’s my wife and my children.” I said, “What?” I had known him for six or seven years; he had never mentioned anything. And there we were suddenly standing there, looking down at these graves, and I knew he had a family and his wife and so on. This, of course, happened years before, and I was just speechless.

BBC: Do you know how he felt about his fame? Hawaii Five-O has been shown all over the world for several decades.

JM: Oh, he was thrilled by it. He had a little showman in him, and that’s why he was in the acting business. <laughs> I remember, we were shooting in Hong Kong or Singapore and places, and of course, everybody was speaking to him in Chinese and he couldn’t speak a word of it. <laughs> But he was thrilled that they would be talking away and pointing at him, and they knew he was in Hawaii Five-O.

BBC: How will you best remember him?

JM: Oh, a man of great dignity, a good friend, and a good sense of humor. I last talked to him a few weeks ago. I knew he’d lost his wife of 54 years a couple of months ago, and I said, “Kam, you sound great.” And he said, “Jimmy, the only thing I have great is my voice.” He said, “Other than that, everything is going downhill pretty quick.” And that’s the last I heard from him.

BBC: James MacArthur, remembering Kam Fong Chun.

>>Back to Top<<

{Home} {Current News} {Latest Site Updates} {Film Credits} {Television Credits} {Stage Credits}
{Other Credits} {Combined Credits} {Biography} {FAQ} {Charles MacArthur Salute}
{Email James MacArthur} {Photo Index} {Articles & Interviews} {Non-English Articles}
{Video Clips} {Contact Site Administrator} {Site Help} {Search Site} {Interactive Games}
{View/Sign Guestmap} {Join Mailing List} {Join Discussion Group} {Send an E-Card} {Free Screensavers}
{Site Visitor Statistics} {Site Awards} {Site Accreditations & Affiliations} {Links} {Privacy} {Copyright}
Site Layout and All Original Site Content © 2001-11 curator@jamesmacarthur.com. All rights reserved.

Site best viewed at 800x600 or higher screen resolution.