Vinny Begg: Theatre class led to Hawaii Five-O'
Writer: Missy Trippett
Photographer: Joel Gaspar
Vinny Begg is a former Leeward Community College student who landed himself a spot on “Hawaii Five-O.” After a career in the military, a few semesters of college, he had a stint as a criminal on the CBS hit show. After playing a Yakuza gangster that went to prison, he sat down with Ka Mana’o for a little Q&A.
So how long were you at Leeward?
Off and on, since ’06. I wasn’t really full time, just feeling it out, taking classes here and there. I had just gotten out of the military, didn’t know where I was going.
How was your time at Leeward?
I did pretty good in psychology; the teacher asked me to be an assistant. I had a really good teacher, he gave good advice — not just on psych, life stuff too. I also took a lot of drama.
Drama … do you think taking those classes led you to where you are now?
Yeah, it opened me up. I didn’t really expect (to see) myself acting. After taking one class, it became a little hobby of mine. The professor, Dr. (Paul) Cravath, is retired now, but he gave me a little boost and encouraged me to turn my resume in to different places.
Did you get any jobs?
I was on “Beyond the Break” a bunch of times, doing background work. I played a crack head as comic relief for [a] local independent movie called “All for Melissa.” “Hawaii Five-O” is actually the third TV show I’ve been on. I was doing a whole bunch of background, then they asked me to be a Yakuza.
How many episodes of “Hawaii Five-O” did you film?
I lost count already — a lot for background and I was featured once. That one I was part of a Yakuza biker gang. I got arrested by Grace Park. Daniel Dae Kim took my gun.
Wow, so will we be seeing your character around more?
Well, as an actor, once you are a “featured act” you just see your face, then they don’t use you anymore. [Since] my character was arrested, they had me in prison and everything.
What was it like filming in prison?
It was pretty nuts! There were guards and stuff to make sure nothing happened. They cleared out a yard for a fight. It was a one-day shoot so, about seven hours. It was just really weird; I was just like, “Man, I really don’t wanna be here!”
It must’ve been interesting with all of those big names around. Did you get to talk with any of them while on set?
Yeah, it was cool. I got to talk to Grace, she’s really cool. She’s from Canada; she’s very nice, and personable! I also got to meet Cary Tagawa!
With all of the excitement of being a part of “Hawaii Five-O,” do you think it has changed you at all?
It’s probably just given me a big outlet. I guess that’s how it has changed me – I’m looking into film acting more. I’m a stage actor first, and now I’m into film acting. Stage acting is a lot of exaggerated gestures and emotions; film acting … they (the audience) have to see the emotion in your eyes. It’s also opened me up a little bit more. Before I did acting, I kept to myself a lot. I’ve met a lot of people I probably would have never met if I never dove into this hobby.
I don’t expect this to be full-time, if the opportunity arises and I get picked up for a big role, then yeah, but as far as moving to LA … I think I should concentrate on getting my BA.
Totally understandable, but I’m curious: what would your dream role be?
My dream role … hmmm … let’s see … my ideal character would be a bad guy whose bad actions are justified in some way.
That’s a complex character.
Yeah, but a lot of bad guys are just … bad! Nobody ever really sees into their backstory. It would be cool to show them as a “product of their environment,” kind of like Carlito in “Carlito’s Way.”
It sounds like you have a pretty good sense of direction now, is there any one thing that you feel helped you achieve that?
Taking that class at Leeward, I have to give it up to Dr. Cravath. He helped me find my power. Leeward is a really good stepping stone as far as finding out what you wanna do. Especially after getting out of the military, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. Now I have a set idea of what I want to do with my life. It led me in a positive direction.
Do you want to leave us with any final thoughts?
Dr. Cravath was really a great teacher. He’s touched a lot of people’s lives – I kinda give it to him, he opened up my eyes to this whole world of acting. It’s something I’ll continue to do, whether or not it pays the bills.
Notes: Former Leeward student Jomar Miranda also landed on the CBS hit show. He appeared as Wo Fat’s bodyguard in the premiere episode of season two. According to honolulupulse.com, Miranda’s character got knocked around by Chin Ho and was shot and interrogated by Steve McGarrett. His bodyguard character was his first major television role after appearing as an extra on the first season of “Hawaii Five-O.” Miranda, who has a background in martial arts, has appeared in several independent and short films since 2007. Miranda was travelling out of state during production of this issue and was unavailable for an interview.