Spoilers for the episode at the end of the post.
Reaching 100 episodes is worthy of celebration and as CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 marched toward the milestone, executive producer/showrunner Peter Lenkov was itching to do something different. So, with the help of CBS Television Studios’ senior vp music Amy Osler, he reached out to one of his favorite musicians, Five for Fighting’s John Ondrasik, with the hopes that he could use an unreleased song from the catalogue. What he got was something even better.
Ondrasik — the 49-year-old singer-songwriter behind Top 40 hits from the early aughts, “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” “100 Years” and “Riddle (You and I)” — instead created a brand-new song, “All for One,” inspired by the proven franchise. It was something Lenkov admits he never thought would come to fruition. “We got around to talking and the question came up, ‘What if he actually wrote an original song?’ ” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “In the script I was very specific with what the music would accompany. He basically wrote what I consider almost the theme song to the show — something that really highlights themes of the show and the spirit of ‘ohana [Hawaiian for ‘family’] and the bonds of friendship. He captured it all in three-and-half minutes.”
Lenkov sent Ondrasik a page of the script — a scene highlighting the show’s “outlaw spirit” — to aid him in the songwriting process, one that happened unusually fast (just a couple of days). The first demo tape was a hit with Lenkov, so much so that changes were minimal: Ondrasik fixed a few vocal lines, added more acoustic instruments and had it mixed. “Sometimes you don’t want to overthink it,” he says of the painless process. “All of Me” also marks Ondrasik’s first time writing a song specifically for an episodic drama. He previously contributed music for feature films.
“The challenge was to create a piece of music that could sustain an emotional experience for three minutes. To do that, you need clarity in the lyrics and a production that continues to build and pull people in. This was unique because usually when people use my songs in film and TV, folks have heard them a thousand times,” Ondrasik tells THR, whose most popular ballads have been heavily licensed (2001’s “Superman” was used on Smallville and Dawson’s Creek that same year).
It was also an opportunity for Ondrasik to step outside of the Five for Fighting box, if you will. “This song needed to a little more tempo, needed to be a little bit more rock, not the typical Five for Fighting piano ballad most people know. But at the same time, you kind of have a box and an expectation,” he says with a chuckle. “It’s a blast to contribute to what really is a landmark for [Hawaii Five-0]. To get to play a small part is a lot of fun.”
“All of Me” will close out the Nov. 7 episode of Hawaii Five-0 and be played close to its entirety, serving as the soundtrack to a montage that celebrates 100 stories from the past five seasons. (It will be available for purchase as a single on iTunes following the broadcast.) The song’s placement, as Lenkov explains, comes at an emotional apex for the main characters.
“Our hero, McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin), is rescued and as he’s being carried out, the song starts,” Lenkov previews. “They’re all helping each other out; it’s a moment where they need each other. As that progresses, we start to fade out of that in real time and flash to these moments that are thematic of the team being there for one another.”
The 100th is a markedly different episode for Hawaii Five-0, which follows the traditional procedural structure of a crime or mission a week. Lenkov, who penned the installment, approached it like a “What if?” episode. “If anybody saw the pilot, it’s a 180-degree version of that. What if everybody was different? What if the first responder didn’t die? What if Danny (Scott Caan) wasn’t happily married? It’s as if the show is starting all over again without everyone being broken toys,” he says.
The two-time platinum-selling Ondrasik, whose sixth studio album Bookmarks was released in 2013, has desires of composing and creating music for the small and big screen more regularly. “I look forward to doing more of these kinds of things. They’re a lot of fun and it’s a different dynamic,” he says, in comparison to recording an album. “For me going forward, the next decade is that time to come into this space and try to find more projects like this.”