“Hawaii Five-0” loses two Asian stars


Nathan Siegel

Two stars of the hit CBS crime show “Hawaii Five-0” will not return to the small screen for future seasons. Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim, two Korean actors who play members of the Hawaii police force on the show, reportedly failed to reach a salary agreement with the network after discovering that their white co-stars were being paid significantly more than them per episode.


According to show runner Peter Lekov, who had been at the helm of the show for seven seasons and worked on other primetime hits such as “24,” CSI: NY”, and “MacGyver,” the actors were “getting unprecedented raises, but in the end they chose to move on.”. In his statement to Forbes, Lekov does not discredit or deny allegations that race is a factor in the show’s salary negotiations. Kim and Park are featured in every episode of the show to date, and have plenty of experience prior to joining the police procedural.


There is a clear racially-motivated pay gap in the entertainment industry, as evidenced by the “2016 List of Highest Paid Actors and Actresses”. Of the top fifteen men, the only man of color in the top pay bracket was Kunnal Nayyar, an Indian actor from CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory.” For women, actresses of color Sofia Vergara, Mindy Kaling, Kerry Washington and Priyanka Chopra ranked in the top fifteen, but a 26% fraction of the list is concrete proof that there is progress to be made in the industry.


Unfortunately for actors like Park and Kim, inequality is motivated by ratings, according to Academy member Chris Tashima. Because of the success of white-starring television programs has been profitable, putting actors of color in television shows still poses a risk for networks, as they fear their ratings will go down. As a result, racial pay gaps occur, and Park and Kim are paid less because network executives believe that a show starring Asian actors is more likely to fail, and thus, cost them money.  Although “Hawaii Five-0” has seen excellent ratings throughout its run, it is clear that ethnicity is still a consideration when it comes to pay.


Photo courtesy of Slate.com