As far as TV shows go, Hawaii Five-O is a pretty safe bet for a broadcaster like CBS. The show, about a police task force that fights crime in Hawaii, is precisely the kind of procedural drama that audiences love. The original crime-drama on which it’s based was a huge hit in the 1970s. And it has a popular and diverse cast of stars.
Sorry, had a popular and diverse cast of stars.
Two of the show’s actors, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, walked last week because they couldn’t come to terms with CBS on their contracts for the show’s upcoming eighth season. Kim and Park, both Asian-Americans, reportedly asked for salaries on par with those earned by their white co-stars, Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, but were turned down, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
All four actors had been with the show since the beginning and held roles of comparable stature.
“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,” Kim said in a lengthy Facebook post on July 5. “The path to equality is rarely easy,” he added. “But I hope you can be excited for the future.”
CBS, for its part, said in a statement sent to Quartz: “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.”
Whatever the case, this is far from the first time the plight faced by Asians in Hollywood has come into the spotlight. Movies like Doctor Strange and Ghost in the Shell have been slammed for hiring white actors to fill Asian roles and Asian-American actors like Aziz Ansari (paywall) and Kal Penn, of Harold and Kumar, have spoken out about the dearth of multi-dimensional roles available to them.
Penn posted some of the most stereotypical roles he’s auditioned for or considered auditioning for on Twitter.
And actors from other ethnic and racial minority groups, and women, have been more vocal of pay equity in the industry.
Shameless star Emmy Rossum recently fought for and won a salary on par with what her male co-star William H. Macy’s made at another CBS company, Showtime. She says it helps when your colleagues have your back. “As it was happening, I’ll tell you the person who supported me the most was William H. Macy,” Rossum told the Hollywood Reporter this month. “To have the man counterpart on my show be like, ‘Yes, she does deserve this and more’ was so validating. And after it became public, it was a quick resolution.”
The highest-paid actors on shows like The Big Bang Theory and Friends also famously agreed to take pay cuts so that co-stars who had become bigger parts of the respective shows over the seasons could earn the same salary. There’s been no word on what O’Loughlin and Caan’s positions were on Kim and Park’s salaries.
The original Hawaii Five-0 went on for 12 seasons and was one of the longest running crime shows on US television. The reboot may not have such a long and prosperous run.