Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park Leave Hawaii Five-0, Citing Unequal Pay With White Co-Stars

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As ever, the struggle for equal pay in Hollywood continues on.

This time it’s Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, who have both left CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 after seven seasons. Both of them are veterans (of the show and of Hollywood) in their own right, but despite that, they were still underpaid when compared to their white co-stars. Variety’s sources claim that the two were requesting pay increases which would place them on equal footing with Scott Caan and Alex O’Laughlin. It makes sense, as both Kim and Park have been on the show just as long as Caan and O’Laughlin—168 episodes.

Shortly after this story came to light, CBS released a statement regarding Kim and Park’s departure, writing: “Daniel and Grace have been important and valued members of ‘Hawaii Five-0’ for seven seasons. We did not want to lose them and tried very hard to keep them with offers for large and significant salary increases. While we could not reach an agreement, we part ways with tremendous respect for their talents on screen, as well as their roles as ambassadors for the show off screen, and with hopes to work with them again in the near future.”

But according to Business Insider, those “large and significant salary increases” still left them at a level that’s 10-15% lower than Caan and O’Laughlin.

Knowing that we live in a world with dearth roles for Asian actors and actresses, deciding to leave the show could not possibly have been an easy decision. Kim acknowledged this fact in a Facebook post to his fans, writing: “As an Asian American actor, I know first-hand how difficult it is to find opportunities at all, let alone play a well developed, three dimensional character like Chin Ho. I will miss him sincerely.”

I have nothing but respect for anybody who chooses to make a stand not just for themselves but for everybody who comes to work in their industry long after whenever they may retire. I’m also cognizant of the fact that, while we don’t have exact numbers, these salaries are likely pretty high already as compared to yours and mine. That aside, equality is about more than just the numbers; it’s about the future of the industry.

Consider for a moment that Kim and Park stayed on even after their negotiations broke down. What does that signal to CBS? It shows that Asian actors and actresses may be willing to work for lower wages because there really isn’t anywhere else to go—which is itself a problem that CBS certainly isn’t trying to help fix with their pretty dismal lineups. Asian actors and actresses (and writers and directors and artists and other creatives of all non-white races) are not a monolith, true, but the actions we take now, no matter how small, are destined to snowball into something much, much larger than ourselves. The struggle for equality, inclusion, diversity—it’s all already begun a long time ago, and it’s high time for Hollywood to change at all levels of the industry.

Will Kim and Park’s departure actually have any effect on the industry as a whole? Perhaps not. But if it so happens to inspire more Asian actors and actresses to start asking for what they know they’re worth, then maybe as an entire group, the industry could very well change.

Well … that’s the hope, at least.

(image: CBS)

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Jessica Lachenal
Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (thebolditalic.com), and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters (spinningplatters.com). She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.