Asian American actors exit 'Hawaii Five-0' over pay equality

CBS refused to pay Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park as much as their white co-stars.

Aloha. Hawaii Five-0 stars Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park are leaving the CBS series over a salary dispute, because the network reportedly refused to pay them as much as their white co-stars.

Daniel Dae Kim, Grace Park Exit ‘Hawaii Five-0’

After seven seasons as series regulars, Kim and Park have departed from the popular cop action drama because they were unable to negotiate the same salaries as their co-stars Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan. The studio apparently didn't think the two Asian leads were quite as worthwhile as the two white dudes.

About ten to fifteen percent less worthwhile, if sources are correct.

According to Variety, Kim and Park were seeking equal pay, but couldn't reach a deal with CBS Television Studios, whose final offer to the two actors was reportedly "10-15% lower" than the salaries of O'Loughlin and Caan. What kind of bullshit is that? It was enough for Kim and Park to walk.

So say goodbye to Chin Ho Kelly and Kono Kalakaua, who will not appear in the show's upcoming eighth season. The characters' absence will be referenced in the season premiere. And with that, Hawaii Five-0 has unceremoniously lost all of its main Asian American characters.

Wait, you get paid HOW much?

CBS released a statement about their departure from the show, ahead of news about the pay dispute.

"We are so appreciative of Daniel and Grace's enormous talents, professional excellence and the aloha spirit they brought to each and every one of our 168 episodes," the statement read. "They've helped us build an exciting new Hawaii Five-0, and we wish them all the best and much success in their next chapters. Mahalo and a hui hou..."

I don't think it's a coincidence that this news dropped on the Friday before a holiday weekend. It seems that somebody at CBS was hoping the details of the salary dispute might get buried in your 4th of July news feed.

Hawaii Five-0 is a modern reboot of the long-running, classic police procedural set in Honolulu. It's a big loud action show that is sometimes, frankly, dumb as rocks, and often laughably makes Hawaii look like the most dangerous place on the planet. But when the series premiered in 2010, with Kim and Park representing half the starring ensemble alongside O'Loughlin and Caan, it was arguably the most AAPI show on TV. And I always appreciated that, in spite of the show's numerous flaws.

Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, who have been on the show since episode one -- Kim was actually the first actor cast in the pilot -- were the primary reason I tuned into Hawaii Five-0, season after season. Their characters never received the proper shine they really deserved, regularly taking a backseat to McGarrett and Danny, but I always thought Chin Ho and Kono brought at least a scant sense of legitimacy to the optics of these proceedings. Because otherwise, this show would have been full-fledged White Savior in Paradise.

The four original leads.

A TV series set in Hawaii that does not reflect its unique AAPI-majority population is simply bullshit. This has always been a significant problem with the cast of Hawaii Five-0: none of the leads were Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. And now, as it stands, with the departure of Kim and Park, as well as Masi Oka's exit from the cast last season, the show has glaringly lost all of its Asian American stars.

This is not insignificant. This is bullshit, not least because this behind-the-scenes drama over pay equality demonstrates that the studio values, quite literally, the show's white actors over its Asian ones. They're not even pretending anymore, in the most basic way, that this show doesn't put its white stars at the center.

If the producers of Hawaii Five-0 have any basic sense, they'll fill in the remaining ensemble with new Asian American, Native Hawaiian and/or Pacific Islander actors -- and more power to them. But they'd be joining at what is likely the twilight seasons of the series, and probably with significantly less pay.

You gotta give props to Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park for taking a stand on this. Fair is fair, and they're talented performers who deserve better than this situation. Or at least as much as their white co-stars. Thankfully, they're also in a rare position for Asian American actors in Hollywood, with enough clout and recognition right now to actually to walk away when the shit ain't right. This is how you lead.


Now I can finally take this show off my DVR.

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