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Game Changer

Hawaii Five-0's Brian Yang talks about island life, Linsanity and Hall & Oates.

Hawaii Five-0 actor Brian Yang looks mighty cool dressed in Tori Richard in a posh penthouse at Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk.

Some actors credit their big breaks to stupendous feats. Hawaii Five-0’s Brian Yang—obviously talented and hardworking—credits his high-profile run on the CBS juggernaut to his admittedly quirky, “die-hard obsession” with a certain ’80s duo of legendary fame. The 39-year-old actor and producer is convinced that, had he not jetted to Hawai‘i in 2011 to catch the one and only Hall & Oates at Blaisdell Arena—the 35th time he’d seen them in concert, to be precise—he wouldn’t have gone to a Honolulu casting call that ultimately secured him the recurring role of Charlie Fong.

Since that serendipitous hiring, the poised and personable Chinese-American star—raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and now splitting his time between New York and Honolulu—has fully embraced his time in the islands, calling Hawai‘i his “second home.” Yang’s life on O‘ahu typically entails hiking and running on the beach, but also attending events like First Friday and Eat the Street to check out the local arts and foodie scenes. “I’m here, and I may as well absorb it all,” he says. “I like being part of the city.” Yang particularly loves the pace of island life—and the diversity of being able to hit the beach on the North Shore, then return to town to dine at a top restaurant, attend an art event and enjoy a drink at The Modern Honolulu.

Careerwise, the UC Berkeley grad, who speaks Chinese and even hosted a reality show in China, is focused on a project that has him hooked. At the moment, he’s securing distribution for Linsanity, a documentary about Chinese-American NBA star Jeremy Lin that he produced via his production company, 408 Films. The film, narrated by fellow Five-0 star Daniel Dae Kim, debuted earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival and recently screened at Hawaii International Film Festival’s spring showcase. Again, serendipity was at work with this project. A self-proclaimed “hoop head,” Yang and crew gained access to Lin before his Cinderella run with the New York Knicks, allowing for prime footage. Yang acknowledges his fortuitous path, but doesn’t take anything for granted, saying he’s just enjoying the opportunities coming his way and “riding the wave.”