“Hawaii Five-0” star Taylor Wily dead at 56 — rest in peace

Taylor Wily, the Hawaiian-born former sumo wrestler famous for his acting roles in Forgetting Sarah MarshallHawaii Five-0, and Magnum, P.I., has died at 56.

A family friend first reported his passing on Hawaii outlet KITV; she did not provide a cause of death. Hawaii Five-0 producer Peter M. Lenkov also confirmed the news on social media, sharing a photo of him with Wily.

“I am devastated. Heartbroken,” Lenkov wrote. He later posted a more lengthy tribute:

“T, as I told you many times, I fell in love with you at the first audition. You came in with a towel on your head mopping up sweat, and I was smitten. You charmed me into making you a regular… on the show… and in my life. You were family. And I will miss you every day, brother.”

Wily is best known to audiences for playing informant Kamekona Tupuola on the long-running CBS series. But long before achieving fame as an actor, Wily was a successful sumo wrestler and MMA fighter.

Born Teila Tuli on June 14, 1968 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Wily began his sumo career in 1987 under the name Takamikuni. Weighing 440 pounds, he was one of the largest wrestlers in the sport and one of the rare foreign-born competitors to have success in the traditionally Japanese competition.

WAIKIKI, HI – SEPTEMBER 23: Actor Taylor Wily poses for a photo as he arrives at the CBS ‘Hawaii Five-0’ Sunset On The Beach Season 7 Premier Event at Queen’s Surf Beach on September 23, 2016 in Waikiki, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

He was unbeaten in his first 14 bouts and won two consecutive championships, and was the first foreign-born wrestler to become champion in the makushita division, the sport’s third-highest division. He retired in 1989 due to knee problems.

Wily then competed in mixed martial arts, competing in the first-ever Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993. He lost the fight, but a punch to the face reportedly broke his competitor’s hand, and he holds a unique place in the sport’s history as the first person to lose a UFC brawl.

“There was a different feeling when you walked through that octagon,” Wily told the New York Post in 2018. “I was scared. I ain’t lying, I was scared.”

“Now when I look back on it, now that I’m more mature, I’m just grateful to God to just have the opportunity to risk it. Because how many times are you going to have the opportunity to risk something that nobody else did before.”

Years later, Wily would reemerge in a more lucrative and less violent career as a Hollywood actor. He had his breakthrough in the 2008 comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall as Kemo, a friendly cook at a Hawaiian resort.

He then landed his best-known role as Kamekona Tupuola on the 2010 reboot of Hawaii Five-0, a reformed criminal and shave ice stand owner who serves as an informant to the titular police department.

Making his debut in the pilot, Kamekona became a fan favorite recurring character and was credited as a main character in season 8. He appears in 171 episodes of the series.

WAIKIKI, HI – NOVEMBER 10: Taylor Wily attends the Sunset on the Beach event celebrating season 8 of “Hawaii Five-0” at Queen’s Surf Beach on November 10, 2017 in Waikiki, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

Wily also appeared as Kamekona on fellow CBS reboots MacGyver and Magnum, P.I. He also made a cameo in the 20th season of The Amazing Race.

After the actor’s death, Wily’s sister Alyssa shared a video on Facebook of the family celebrating his life.

“Mourning and celebrating our favorite brother and uncle the way he would want us to,” she wrote. “Family, Food, Music and Good Vibes.”

According to Deadline, Wily is survived by his wife Halona and their two children.

WAIKIKI, HI – SEPTEMBER 23: Taylor Wily (R) and his family arrive for the premiere of CBS’ “Hawaii Five-O” Season 3 at Sunset on the Beach on Waikiki Beach on September 23, 2012 in Waikiki, Hawaii. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

Rest in peace to the great Taylor Wily — what a career and such a memorable character on Hawaii Five-0.

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