After departure of 2 stars, critics contend 'Hawaii Five-0' lacks diversity

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii Five-0 fans are still reeling from the announcement that the show's eighth season will be missing two of its biggest characters.

Now, some critics are accusing the show of racism in its casting decisions.

Last week, CBS confirmed that Daniel Dae Kim (who plays Chin Ho Kelly) and Grace Park (Kono Kalakaua) won't be returning to the show in September. Several publications have said the Asian-American actors were seeking pay equity with their co-stars.

Wendie Burbridge, who writes a Hawaii Five-0 blog, "Five-0 Redux", said fans were shocked by the decision.

"They are so sad. I mean they are really sad," she said.

Variety and other publications said the stars were making 10 to 15 percent less than co-stars Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan.

Some critics say there's a larger issue of diversity.

"Hawaii Five-0 is racist," said Guy Aoki, founding President of Media Action Network for Asian Americans. "The numbers don't lie. If you look at the seven seasons of the show and every person who hangs out with the team to catch the bad guy is white or black and only one is Asian."

CBS, which has a diversity division dedicated to these issues, didn't respond Monday.

On Friday, Hawaii Five-0 executive producer Peter Lenkov called Kim and Park "ohana."

CBS said, "They've helped us build an exciting new Hawaii Five-0."

Aoki, a former Hawaii resident now living in Los Angeles, said he meets yearly with the presidents of the top four networks and he's complained that "Hawaii-Five-0" doesn't represent Hawaii. He said he was just starting to see Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders play positive characters on "Hawaii Five-0" this year.

"I've had an ongoing battle with CBS about 'Hawaii Five-0' since day one because they were using Asian Pacific Islanders as guest stars mostly as suspects," said Aoki.

Burbridge, who is part Native Hawaiian and Asian, disagrees. "I know a lot of people complain about the diversity, but I see it every week and I watch every time, it is probably one of the most diverse shows on television. We need more of those kinds of shows," she said.

Neither Park nor Kim have said anything publicly about their departures.

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