Friday, July 7, 2017

Hawaii Five- uh-oh: Reactions pour in, CBS on the defensive

Promotional material for Hawaii Five=0 always featured the four actors together.

THE DEPARTURE of Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park from the popular Hawaii Five-0 TV series continues to grow more heated because there's more at stake than failed contract talks.

With the announcement of the departure of two stars on Hawaii Five-0 at the beginning of a long July 4th weekend, it took a while for the news to percolate throughout the AAPI community.

Now that everybody has heard about the high profile Asian/American stars leaving the popular cops & robbers series, we're getting a strong reaction with the "B" word being bantered about.

"On my social media fees, people are saying, 'Boycott,'" says entertainment law attorney Daniel M. Mayeda.

In a lengthy Facebook post yesterday, Kim said, "The path to equality is never easy." 

After an initial press release last week announcing the separation in which CBS praised the two actors, the continuing debate prompted the network to issue another press release  today (July 6) explaining that Kim was offered pay only a few percentage points below the two white costars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan.

Park, who negotiated separately, was also given a substantial raise, said CBS.

LA Weekly reported: "This production has no affinity for the people of Hawaii or for Asian Pacific Islanders," says Guy Aoki, founder of the Media Action Network for Asian-Americans. Without Kim and Park, "It's simply not Hawaii," he says.

"Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park are exceptional actors and their departure from Hawaii Five-0 is truly unfortunate," Stephen Gong, executive director of the Center for Asian-American Media, said via email. "Now more than ever, we need more equity and diversity that truly represents the American experience in front of and behind the camera."

Variety shared some  of the details in thecontract talks with its stars:
"Industry sources said O'Loughlin and Caan are making about $200,000 per episode apiece for the upcoming eighth season of the show, produced by CBS Television Studios. A source close to the situation said CBS' last per-episode salary offer to Kim was about $5,000 apart from the two lead actors, and CBS offered to set a new overall deal with Kim's 3AD production banner. However, sources close to Kim said the differential was more significant. 
The dispute on the difference in compensation levels may hinge on the fact that O'Loughlin and Caan have a small share of the backend profits of the show. 'Hawaii Five-0' commanded a lucrative $2 million-per-episode cable syndication deal with TNT in 2011, although the show turned out to be a lackluster performer for the cabler. It remains a successful property for CBS in international markets — all of which means O'Loughlin and Caan's profit participation stakes probably plump up their take-home pay considerably. 
Park, meanwhile, was said to have sought a deal for less than half of a full season's worth of episodes, which would have been a financially challenging prospect for the network at the salary that she sought. 'Hawaii Five-0' delivered some 25 episodes in its most recent season.
Although technically, Kim and Park could be listed as supporting players, the promotional material for the show implies that the four stars are a team. In acting parlance, they're an ensemble. For a state such as Hawaii where AAPI people are in the majority, it would be a huge oversight (not to mention, insult) to leave out that cultural aspect of the island state.
RELATED: Daniel Dae Kim says 'Aloha' to Hawaii Five-0
Among the networks, CBS has come under fire for being the least inclusive and despite executives saying that they need to better in having a more diverse product. However, in the six new shows to be introduced this fall, all six are led by white males. Variety's TV critic Sonia Suraiya concluded, "Apparently CBS is still finding it hard at times to put its money where its mouth is."

After the kerfuffle caused by Kim and Park's departure, I expect that any day now, CBS will introduce a pair of actors to replace the fan favorites. No doubt, at last one, and perhaps both, will be AAPI actors.

A role on Hawaii Five-0 will be a great opportunity for any new AAPI actor seeking to break into the entertainment business. Unfortunately, their good fortune will come at the expense of two of television's most prominent and iconic Asian/American actors.