“Five-0” ac­tors quit over wages

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Sonia Rao

When “Hawaii Five-0” re­turns to CBS this fall, it’ll be short two orig­i­nal cast mem­bers.

Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, who starred on the 2010 re­boot for seven sea­sons, left the show last week­end amid ru­mors of un­suc­cess­ful salary ne­go­ti­a­tions with the net­work. Va­ri­ety re­ported on Fri­day that the ac­tors, both of Korean de­scent, were of­fered 10 to 15 per­cent less than co-stars Scott Caan and Alex O’lough­lin, both white men. Kim con­firmed on Face­book Wed­nes­day that it was his own de­ci­sion to quit.

“Though I made my­self avail­able to come back,” Kim wrote, “CBS and I weren’t able to agree to terms on a new con­tract, so I made the dif­fi­cult choice not to con­tinue.”

Ac­tors of color have long fought for equal treat­ment in Hol­ly­wood, with the con­ver­sa­tion gen­er­ally sur­round­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion on screen. In tele­vi­sion, stars such as Gina Ro­driguez of The CW’S “Jane the Vir­gin” and Con­stance Wu of ABC’S “Fresh Off the Boat” have voiced their sup­port of di­verse cast­ing and sto­ry­lines. But Kim and Park’s ex­its high­light a facet of the strug­gle addressed less often: pay in­equity.

Inequitable salaries among both film and tele­vi­sion ac­tors have been a hot topic in re­cent years, though the fo­cus has gen­er­ally been on gen­der rather than race. Kim and Park’s de­par­tures ar­guably call into ques­tion how much the net­work val­ued the Asian ac­tors. And these ex­am­ples are just the tip of the ice­berg.

Va­ri­ety re­leased es­ti­mates last Oc­to­ber of how much the high­est­paid ac­tors on TV earn, based on “a wide sur­vey” of pro­fes­sion­als in the in­dus­try. Ka­ley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki and Jim Par­sons of CBS’S “The Big Bang The­ory” topped the com­edy chart, at $1 million an episode. Only one of the top 15 com­edy ac­tors was not white — Dwayne John­son, who is half black and half Samoan, was listed at $400,000 for each episode of HBO’S “Ballers.”

A sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion oc­curred with drama ac­tors, with Alexis Bledel and Lau­ren Gra­ham of Net­flix’s “Gil­more Girls” re­vival top­ping the chart at $750,000 an episode. The high­est-rank­ing drama ac­tor of color, 23rd on the list, was Vi­ola Davis, with $250,000 per episode of ABC’S “How to Get Away With Mur­der.”

Yes, these are six-fig­ure num­bers, and it’s fair to as­sume that most of the ac­tors on Va­ri­ety’s lists make more money than they could pos­si­bly need. But the salaries as­cribe a cer­tain value to the ac­tors within the in­dus­try, es­pe­cially in an era when the busi­ness side of en­ter­tain­ment is much more vis­i­ble.

The six-per­son cast of NBC’S “Friends” fa­mously earned $1 million each per episode dur­ing the fi­nal sea­son, a pay­check ac­tress Lisa Kudrow de­fended to Huff­post a few years ago. The salary level makes pro­por­tional sense when “the show is ac­tu­ally gen­er­at­ing an enor­mous amount of money” and the ac­tors con­trib­ute to char­ac­ter-driven story lines, she said.

This rea­son­ing rings true with CBS, which, ac­cord­ing to Dead­line, fin­ished the 2016-17 TV sea­son as the na­tion’s “most-watched net­work” for the ninth year in a row. The six “Friends” starred in each of the show’s 236 episodes and earned the same salary in their last sea­son, whereas Kim and Park earned less in their sev­enth sea­son than Caan and O’lough­lin.

The four have each been in all 168 episodes of “Hawaii Five-0.”

Caan was part of the gang in the “Ocean’s” movies but O’lough­lin only dab­bled in a few TV se­ries be­fore “Hawaii Five-0.” Kim and Park were reg­u­lars on “Lost” and the 2004 “Bat­tlestar Galac­tica” se­ries, re­spec­tively — no­table achieve­ments, es­pe­cially in an in­dus­try with a his­tory of white­wash­ing or over­look­ing Asian and Pa­cific Is­lan­der sto­ries.

In a state­ment re­ported by The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter on Wed­nes­day, CBS noted that it did of­fer Kim and Park raises.

Grace Park (meet­ing Barack Obama in 2012)

Daniel Dae Kim

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