Hawaii Five-0 stars Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park are leaving the CBS series after seven seasons, the result of a breakdown in contract negotiations. Both actors have starred in the 2010 reboot of the 1968 show since its premiere, but neither was able to reach an acceptable deal with the network to return for season eight.
When Variety first reported the news of Park’s and Kim’s departures on June 30, it was believed that CBS’s final offer to the actors was 10 to 15 percent lower than what their white co-stars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan earn, and that Park and Kim, who both identify as Asian, were seeking salary parity. O’Loughlin and Caan also have back-end deals, which give them a cut of the show’s profits.
The exact details of Park’s and Kim’s final offers from CBS still aren’t clear. But on July 5, Kim seemed to confirm that CBS was unwilling to pay Park and him as much as it pays their white co-stars, with a heartfelt Facebook post addressing his decision to leave the show:
“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,” Kim wrote. “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 went on to thank Hawaii Five-0’s crew, cast and fans, while acknowledging the importance of his role as an Asian actor on the show. “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 said. He also encouraged his followers “to look beyond the disappointment of this moment to the bigger picture,” noting that “the path to equality is rarely easy.”
Park has not publicly addressed her and Kim’s pay differences or salary negotiations, but CBS defended the offers it made to both actors in its own statement.
“Daniel and Grace have been important and valued members of Hawaii Five-0 for seven seasons,” the statement said. “We did not want to lose them and tried very hard to keep them with offers for large and significant salary increases.”
Meanwhile, Variety reported that despite the fact that Kim and Park were part of Hawaii Five-0’s central ensemble, CBS classifies their roles as supporting rather than lead, and that classification was a reason the two made less than O’Loughlin and Caan, who are billed as the show’s leads.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, which cited an unnamed source at CBS, those “large and significant salary increases” at one point included a raise for Kim that came within 2 percent of O’Loughlin’s and Caan’s earnings, though without a back-end profit-sharing deal.
As for Park, she was reportedly also offered a significant pay increase, but her negotiations were apparently complicated by her own desire to reduce her episode commitment and eventually be written out of the show.
On July 6, Hawaii Five-0 executive producer Peter Lenkov corroborated CBS’s statement in an Instagram post directed at the “H50 community,” in which he emphasized that it was Kim and Park’s decision to walk away.
“The truth is this: Both actors chose not to extend their contracts,” Lenkov wrote. “CBS was extremely generous and proactive in their renegotiation talks. So much so, the actors were getting unprecedented raises, but in the end they chose to move on. No one wanted to see them go — they are irreplaceable.”
The absence of Kim’s and Park’s characters, cousins Chin Ho Kelly and Kono Kalakaua, will be addressed in the season eight premiere, though there’s currently no word on how. Season seven ended with up-in-the-air storylines for both characters, with Kelly ready to head a task force in San Francisco while Kalakaua left her team without warning, boarding a flight to Carson City, Nevada, to investigate a child sex trafficking hub.
While the casting shake-up may sadden many Hawaii Five-0 fans considering Kim’s and Park’s prominent roles on the show, their decision to leave has sparked debate over Hollywood’s racial wage gap. Kim has been particularly outspoken about this issue, telling the New York Times last year, “The harsh reality of being an actor is that it’s hard to make a living, and that puts actors of color in a very difficult position.”
In 2015, a University of Southern California study found that only 3 to 4 percent of broadcast and cable scripted roles went to people of Asian descent and “at least half or more of all cinematic, television, or streaming stories fail to portray one speaking or named Asian or Asian American on screen.” Those sorts of details — whether a role is speaking or non-speaking, regular or recurring — have an impact on how much an actor earns.
Kim and Park both played highly visible series regular roles on Hawaii Five-0. And their departures — which will result in there being no major Asian or Pacific Islander characters on a show set in Hawaii — are a clear sign that Hollywood still has a long way to go in terms of upending its status quo.