By Wayne Harada
Rose Freeman, widow of the creator and original executive producer of “Hawaii Five-0,” died Sunday (March 4) at her Santa Monica home. She was 82.
In TV circles, she was known as the devoted behind-the-scenes steward of the “Five-0” property and legacy.
“She was at home, overlooking the ocean, where the family spent most of our lives,” said daughter Lisa Freeman, who, with sisters Robin Freeman Bernstein and Susan Freeman Mann, by her side. “It was peaceful.”
Freeman was wife of Leonard Freeman, the visionary producer who saw merit and potential in a Hawaii-based TV drama shot entirely in the Islands, who died in 1974. Since then, she became the guardian angel, shepherd and guiding force of the original as well as the reboot now filming its second season in Hawaii.
“My mother made sure that the show would be watched over,” said Lisa Freeman. “So she has kept the legacy alive; my father’s creativity goes on and on because of her.”
Rose Freeman passed on the creative torch to the current producing team of Peter Lenkov, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, said Lisa Freeman. Without her blessing, the CBS show would not have been able to relaunch for a new generation of fans.
“She just had the greatest fondness for Peter and his talent,” said Lisa Freeman. “Peter Lenkov was my mother’s last phone call; she told him how much she loved him, how proud she was with my father’s show.”
The conversation took place March 2, and she passed on March 4.
Eddie Sherman, the former Honolulu Advertiser and MidWeek columnist, had been a close friend of the Freeman family from the early days of production on the Jack Lord-as-Steve McGarrett era.
“It was Rose’s mother (vaudeville actress Amelia Berky) , who lived in Hawaii, that was the impetus for Lenny and the family to come to Hawaii,” said Sherman. “In those days, all television shows were done in Hollywood (the Mainland) and not on location. Lenny broke ground, the first to do the (entire) show away from Hollywood.”
Rose Freeman had no artistic involvement with the original show, which ran for 12 years, from 1968 to ’80, resulting in 284 hours of programming material, still in syndication all over the world. “It’s a monumental deal,” said Sherman, since the original still airs in 200-plus markets globally.
“Basically, she was happy with the success of the show (the original and the revival) and how much it means to the family,” said Sherman. “For Rose, it was great that the show was on the air, and great for Hawaii.”
Rose Freeman was an actress, under the name Joan Taylor, and starred in science fiction films including “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers” and “20 Million Miles to Earth” and westerns such as “Apache Woman” and “Rose Marie.” On TV, she was Milly Scott in “The Rifleman,” starring Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford. On stage, she performed in “Here Comes Mr. Jordan” at the Pasadena Playhouse, where she met Leonard Freeman.
But it was Rose Freeman’s devotion to the “Five-0” brand that endeared her to the TV community.
Columnist Sherman said George Litto, who was Leonard Freeman’s agent (and, consequently, Rose’s, too) who helped negotiate the “Five-0” management deal, involving both the original and the current production with Alex O’Loughlin as McGarrett, that gives the Freeman family overseeing power as well as residuals from syndication on the vintage shows as well as the current one.
The three surviving daughters will assume the stewardship with their mom’s passing.
Other survivors include her brothers Tom and David Emma, six grandchildren, Robin's husband Nat, Lisa's partner Phranc and Susan’s husband Danny.
A celebration of her life will be held tomorrow (March in California.