Taylor Wily, 'Hawaii Five-0' and 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' actor, passes away at 56

Wily starred as Kamekona in more than 170 episodes of 'Hawaii Five-0', His character became a fan favorite, gradually morphing into the show's resident entrepreneur.
Last Updated : 22 June 2024, 07:59 IST

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Taylor Wily, who played a shrimp truck vendor and police informant on the television reboot of Hawaii Five-0 and who in his earlier years was an acclaimed professional sumo wrestler, died Thursday. He was 56.

Paul Almond, a legal representative for Wily, confirmed his death. The location and cause of his death were not immediately available.

Wily starred as Kamekona in more than 170 episodes of Hawaii Five-0, a re-imagining of the 1970s crime drama that followed the escapades of state police officers on the island. His character became a fan favorite, gradually morphing into the show's resident entrepreneur, running a shaved-ice business and a helicopter tour company alongside his shrimp venture.

Hawaii Five-0 could become Kamekona Five-0, Masi Oka, who played Dr. Max Bergman on the series, said in a 2012 interview with CBS.

The series, which ran from 2010 to 2020, followed a fictional state police unit that seemed to routinely crave shrimp. Wily's character was a warm and comedic presence onscreen that resonated with fans across the world as well as with residents in Hawaii.

Peter Lenkov, a producer of the series, said on social media that he was drawn to Wily from his first audition and that he was impressed enough with Wily to write in his character as a recurring role.

The energy that Wily brought to his performances, even in smaller roles, was infectious. As Kemo, a staff member of a hotel in Hawaii in the 2008 film "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," he provided support for Jason Segel's character as he broke down and needed to regain his footing. His quiet humor brought levity to situations that involved heartbreak and loss.

Taylor Tuli Wily was born June 14, 1968, in Honolulu. Although he was known for his tender demeanor, he could be an intimidating physical presence, standing over 6 feet tall and weighing at times more than 400 pounds.

In 1987, a friend introduced him to sumo wrestling, on the promise that the friend wouldn't tell Wily's mother. Soon after, Wily competed in a tournament.

"I won a case of Spam and some rice, and that was it, I was into sumo," Wily said in a 2016 interview with Sherdog, a YouTube channel dedicated to the UFC.

In the same interview, Wily discussed why he was billed as Teila Tuli for his UFC match. "They didn't want me to come with such an English name," he said. "So I took Taylor and spelled it the way we spell it here in Polynesia, Teila, and used my middle name, Tuli, and got rid of Wily."

He added, smiling, that he hoped the admission wouldn't send bill collectors his way.

For two years, he competed in Japan as a sumo wrestler under the name Takamishu. He won several championships, eventually reaching the makushita division -- the third-highest in the league -- and he became the first wrestler born outside Japan to win a title match.

He left the sport in 1989, citing knee injuries, and pivoted to mixed martial arts. Wily fought in the first UFC, in 1993, where he lost by a technical knockout.

He first appeared on television in a 1982 episode of "Magnum, P.I.," and he made several guest appearances on shows that included "Marker" and "North Shore."

His survivors include his wife, Halona, and two children.

In a 2014 interview with Hawaii News Now, Wily discussed his appreciation for his role on "Hawaii Five-0" and what the experience meant to him.

"It's the best job in the world -- you get to play Hollywood but be right here in Hawaii," he said. "Home."

Published 22 June 2024, 07:59 IST

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