After losing two of the key players on its drama series “Hawaii Five-0” in a skirmish over salaries, CBS sent out word that the network did all it could to come to terms with the actors.
As we reported Wednesday, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, both of whom have been with the show from Day One, won’t be back this fall for “Five-0’s” eighth season.
Kim commented about his departure from the show in a Facebook post, and while the post accentuates the positive — including thank-yous to “everyone at CBS” — Kim offered a few clues that some industry watchers have taken as suggestions that race may have played a part in the salary dispute.
“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,” Kim writes in the post. Later he adds: “The path to equality is rarely easy.”
It is widely believed that Kim and Park, while technically in supporting roles — a throwback to the show’s original incarnation dating back to the late 1960s — were seeking pay parity with castmates Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan. Some media reports have suggested that the Asian actors were offered about 10% to 15% less than the two stars, while others have noted that backend points may have been an issue.
Following up on the exits of Kim and Park, CBS sent out the following statement:
“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 some observers aren’t buying it. In a column in Variety, TV critic Sonya Saraiya writes: “The actors’ departure highlights an ongoing problem for CBS: Despite being America’s most-watched TV outlet for 14 of the past 15 years, the network cannot claim to be fully representative of the audience it serves.”
Saraiya notes that CBS has recently taken “baby steps,” including launching a diversity casting initiative.
“This makes the confusion around Park and Kim even more counterintuitive,” Saraiya’s column adds. “’Hawaii Five-0′ was a seemingly effortless success story for the network — a show that both found an organically inclusive storyline and attracted regular viewers.”
The Hollywood Reporter, meanwhile, quotes Guy Aoki, founding president of Media Action Network for Asian Americans, saying in a statement: “Unfortunately, the racial hierarchy established in the original 1968-1980 series remained intact in the 2010 reboot: Two white stars on top, two Asian/Pacific Islander stars on bottom.”