Actor Daniel Dae Kim finally addressed reports that he had left the US TV show Hawaii Five-0 over a pay dispute, writing Wednesday in a Facebook post: “By now many of you have heard the news, and I’m sad to say it is true.
“I will not be returning to Hawaii Five-0 when production starts next week. Though I made myself available to come back, CBS and I weren’t able to agree to terms on a new contract, so I made the difficult choice not to continue.”
Kim did not directly address reports that he wanted equal salary as his white co-stars and left the show when he could not come to terms with broadcasting channel CBS.
But, he wrote: “The path to equality is rarely easy.”
In his Facebook post, Kim also touched on the difficulties of being an Asian American actor in Hollywood – a topic about which he has spoken publicly before.
Hawaii Five-O’s Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park the latest to take a stand against racist, sexist pay practices in Hollywood
His statement comes as more actors have spoken out about the inequality of pay in Hollywood.
The 48-year-old actor thanked his fans, and reminisced about a show that had given him an opportunity that other Asian American actors say they have seldom encountered: a meaningful character to play.
Kim had played the role of Chin Ho Kelly, a member of the Five-0 task force team, since the rebooted show was launched in 2010. He was one of the first actors announced as part of the cast, and he made his directorial debut on the show.
“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,” he wrote. “I will miss him sincerely.”
Kim had risen to prominence during his six seasons on the TV show Lost, which was also filmed in Hawaii, a location he said was “representative of a place my family and I so dearly love.”
Variety, citing anonymous sources, reported last Friday that CBS’s final offers to Kim and colleague Grace Park were 10 to 15 per cent lower than the salaries of their white Hawaii Five-0 co-stars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, though other sources disputed those figures. Park is also leaving the show.
CBS called Kim and Park “important and valued members” of the show and said in a statement: “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.”
When contacted for comment, Kim’s publicist said the actor is currently travelling but that his Facebook statement “sheds light on the situation”.
As The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg wrote, “questions of diversity and equality have been hotly debated in Hollywood in recent years.”
Actresses including Jennifer Lawrence and Natalie Portman have spoken out about being paid less than their male co-stars.
“Compared to men, in most professions, women make 80 cents to the dollar,” Portman said. “In Hollywood we are making 30 cents to the dollar.”
Actress Emmy Rossum reportedly negotiated equal pay with her co-star William H. Macy on Showtime’s Shameless, while Robin Wright received executive producer credit and a raise after telling House of Cards producers that she wanted “to be paid the same as Kevin”, according to an interview.
Although there have been more opportunities for Asian Americans in recent years, the number of parts is still limited.
A recent study from the University of Southern California found that there were no Asian or Asian American characters in the top 100 films of 2015. Asian Americans made up four per cent of the hundreds of roles on scripted broadcast shows during the 2014-15 season, according to a UCLA study.
Kim has spoken out in the past about the difficulties for Asian American actors.
“I’m such a fan of films and books like Lord of the Rings and even Star Wars, despite the fact that, as an actor, I’ll never be employed by them,” Kim said in 2015.
“Until the people who have ownership over the creative process, write these characters, things will not change fast enough.”
Kim appears to be make strides toward that end. In a recent panel on Asian Americans in entertainment, Kim said he started working as a producer because Asian Americans “were waiting for a space that never came”.
His Facebook statement ends by mentioning upcoming acting projects and his first show as a producer, the medical drama The Good Doctor (based on the 2013 South Korean series of the same name), which is scheduled to air on ABC this autumn.
“I hope you can be excited for the future. I am.”