'Hawaii Five-O' Stars' Bold Stand

Daniel Dae Kim's classy note to fans suggests the pay flap that led to his and Grace Park's exit is about more than money.

It's a fair bet that most of the public feels little pity for actors who rake in big bucks. As Jennifer Lawrence put it in characteristically blunt terms a couple years ago amid a backlash over her slamming of Hollywood's gender pay gap: "I don’t need money, I have plenty of money, I’m already overpaid."

And, as evidenced by the recent flap over what turned out to be vastly overblown reports about the difference in compensation received by “Man of Steel” star Henry (Superman) Cavill and "Wonder Woman" box office breakout Gal Gadot, intricate pay packages can't easily be reduced to a headline destined to rile up folks.

So credit Daniel Dae Kim, who recently exited CBS' long-running "Hawaii Five-O" with Grace Park over a reported money dispute, with penning a classy thank-you note to fans and the show's creative team Wednesday, via Facebook. Even if he didn't directly confirm accounts that he and Park, who are Asian-American, left because they are getting paid 10 to 15 percent less than their white co-stars, Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, Kim suggested the clash was more a matter of principle than riches.      

“I encourage us all to look beyond the disappointment of this moment to the bigger picture,” Kim wrote. "The path to equality is rarely easy."

Some might note that actors’ pay battles don’t compare with hard-fought advances in equality gained in the streets and in the courts, sometimes at the cost of lives and livelihoods. The fight is ongoing.

But for all its flaws, Hollywood has played a role, symbolic and otherwise, in helping the cause – to the point where the success of “The Cosby Show” was credited by some with helping pave the way for the election of the nation’s first African-American president a generation later.

The pay issue ultimately boils down to fairness, even if major network TV show negotiations leave all players relatively rich in a country with an average household income of about $50,000 – likely far less than any “Hawaii Five-O” stars make per episode.

Kim and Park's names weren't atop the credits of the rebooted crime drama, but they certainly contributed greatly to show's success over its first seven seasons. Their stand over pay equity came with the risk of not only missing a season of paychecks, but also with the danger of being shunned by future employers (though Kim used his Facebook note to plug his role as a producer on the upcoming ABC show “The Good Doctor”).

“Aloha,” of course, means both hello and goodbye. In this case, hopefully Kim and Park’s farewell to “Hawaii Five-O” leads to the greeting of a meaningful, if awkward, conversation Hollywood needs to have.

Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us