Wednesday, July 5, 2017

'Aloha' from Daniel Dae Kim; what the future holds for him

Daniel Dae Kim: 'Hang loose, brah!'

ALOHA mean hello and goodbye. For actor Daniel Dae Kim, it's goodbye to a TV show that has made him a household face for the past seven years, and hello to a creative future in which he has more control.

Kim posted a farewell message today (July 5) on his Facebook page to fans of Hawaii Five-0 after news came about that he and fellow Korean/American actress Grace Park would be leaving the hit CBS show.

Both actors have starred in the 2010 reboot of the 1968 show since its premiered, but neither was able to reach an acceptable deal with the network for the next season. The final offer made to the actors from CBS was reportedly 10 to 15 percent lower than co-stars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan earn, according to Variety.

RELATED: Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park leaving Hawaii Five-0
Always the consummate professional, the tone of Kim's message was one of regret at leaving his Hawaii Five-0 family and hopefulness for the future. Not a drop of bitterness or rancor over the failed attempt to get equal compensation as his two white co-stars. But he did referenced the pay disagreement. "The path to equality is never easy," he said.

Here is Kim's full Facebook posting:
Sorry for the delay in hearing from me, but like you I’m sure, my July 4th holiday was busy with friends and family. I’m back now and didn’t want to let any more time go by without reaching out. 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.  
As sad as it feels to say goodbye, what I feel most is gratitude. I am so deeply thankful to our crew, writers and everyone associated with the show – and especially the cast, who have been nothing but supportive through this entire process. They and the crew have been my second family for seven years and I wish them nothing but success for season 8 - and beyond. 
I also want to say to thank you to Peter Lenkov, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and everyone at CBS. I will always be grateful for their faith in me to bring Chin Ho Kelly to life. 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.  
What made him even more special is that he was a representative of a place my family and I so dearly love. It has been nothing short of an honor to be able to showcase the beauty and people of Hawaii every week, and I couldn’t be prouder to call these islands home. To my local community, mahalo nui loa. 
Finally, I want to thank all of you, the fans. I’ve read your messages and I can’t tell you how much they’ve meant to me. I never, ever forget that YOU are the reason Hawaii Five-0 is the success that it is, and interacting with you online and in person around the world(!) has been one of the greatest joys of this entire experience. I’m so sorry we won’t be continuing this journey together. 
I’ll end by saying that though transitions can be difficult, I encourage us all to look beyond the disappointment of this moment to the bigger picture. The path to equality is rarely easy. But I hope you can be excited for the future. I am. 5-0 continues on after one of its strongest seasons. I’ve got new acting projects on the horizon, and as a producer, my company, 3AD, has its first show, THE GOOD DOCTOR, set to air this fall on ABC. I hope you’ll tune in. There’s a lot to look forward to and I’ll be sure to share it with you. In the meantime, 
Aloha, thank you and Happy Independence Day!
Taken at face value, this is the equivalent of "not burning the bridges behind you." 

The AAPI actors' request for equal pay comes at a time in Hollywood when women have begun to exert their power in two high-profile cases. Recently, actresses Robin Wright in House of Cards and Emmy Rossum of Shameless were successful in getting equal pay as their male co-stars in negotiations that made news because of equal-pay-for-equal-work is still an evolving issue.

Asian Americans can be heroes, too. Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park played cops in  'Hawaii Five-0'

It makes one wonder if there's more to the story behind the story of Kim's and Park's contract talks.  “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,” Kim told the New York Times last year.
Asian/American actors know how difficult and rare it is to get roles in American movies and television beyond the stereotypes and tokens. Kim's role as Chin Ho Kelly is one of the few that was more than just window dressing. In Kelly we see a three-dimensional character who through seven seasons has had to deal with love and tragedy, express a sense of humor and still be tough enough to take chances and deal with the bad guys.

In other words - Kelly was a fully-rounded human being, not a caricature, not a stereotype, not an "other."

In the last few years, with the controversy sparked by #OscarsSoWhite, whitewashing and yellow facing, like several other AAPI actors, Kim has been more outspoken in the lack of inclusion in Hollywood.

For Kim, he has often stated that AAPI actors and other creatives need to take the next step themselves rather than wait for the mainstream decision-makers change their minds or hand him a role. 

True to his words, Kim is currently producing his own show, The Good Doctor. Through his own production company, Kim is excited about carving out space for a more diverse group of actors and stories. 

He started working on The Good Doctor, he said, because Asian-Americans "were waiting for a space that never came," he told NBC. 

Now that he is producing his own material, Kim said he can "create worlds from the ground up. How I envision them. How I would populate them." But, he said, that also means the shape of the obstacles he faces has changed. He said that when you're a young actor, "you see systemic racism as being out there in the ether." These days, he said, he is looking at it face to face when he works directly with people to produce, write and cast the work he's involved with.

Kim added that despite the obstacles, he thinks Asian-American actors need to be prepared to blow casting directors away. "We like to talk about the ways in which we're overlooked," Kim said. "Our responsibility is to be good at what we do. ... It's important for us not to ask for charity."

For Kim, the effort to diversify starts with the decision-makers being more mindful of their process right from the beginning of the creative process. That includes seeking source material that is original, outside of their own experiences and - at the same time - entertaining.

"It takes a mindfulness because there are so many casting directors who say, ‘Oh, I never really thought of that, but sure,’ when someone who is Asian is brought up as a possible choice for a role," said Kim. "To me, that is a double-edged sword, because on the one hand, I’m glad they are open to the idea, on the other hand, why aren’t they mindful of it from the start? Why do people need to be reminded? Why is a role that shows up in black and white, without any specific ethnicity, assumed to be white?”

“The progress that needs to be made is we need to now start having shows where Asian people are in the lead roles instead of the supporting roles,” said Kim. “I really look forward to the day when no one even thinks about the racial diversity in a cast because it is so assumed that it could be anyone or anything. I long for the day when that wouldn’t be a question anymore. So we have a long way to go if that’s the goal.”

Because of the still-rare roles for AAPI actors, Kim and Park and the characters they played  had prominent roles in the fight for inclusion and why their contract negotiations held such high interest in the AAPI community.

Now that Kim and Park's departure is a fait accompli, it remains to see what repercussions the act might have on the show. No doubt the producers will try to find AAPI replacements considering that the show takes place in Hawaii and any depiction of that Pacific island state without AAPI people is just not Hawaii.

However, there is one reaction the producers might not have expected. My wife told me, "I'm through with that show. I'm not watching it anymore."