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Boston actor ‘disappointed’ at ‘Hawaii Five-O’ pay inequality

“To have those actors, who finally break out from a role perspective, then get paid significantly less than their Caucasian counterparts, it’s disappointing,” said Michael Tow, an actor, producer and Brookline financial planner, about the two actors who will not be returning to CBS’s “Hawaii Five-O.”
Lane Turner/Globe Staff/File 2015
“To have those actors, who finally break out from a role perspective, then get paid significantly less than their Caucasian counterparts, it’s disappointing,” said Michael Tow, an actor, producer and Brookline financial planner, about the two actors who will not be returning to CBS’s “Hawaii Five-O.”

After a dispute regarding unequal pay, actors Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park will not return to the eighth season of CBS’s “Hawaii Five-O.” Variety reported that Kim and Park were offered a salary that was between 10 to 15 percent less than that of their costars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan.

The negotiations failed to reach an agreement.

For the past seven seasons, both Kim and Park held prominent roles on “Hawaii Five-O.” The actors also reflected the show’s connection to Asian-American culture in Hawaii, where more than half of residents reported at least partial Asian heritage in the 2010 US Census.

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Kim discussed his feelings about leaving the show in a Facebook post Wednesday, saying it was an “honor” to play Chin Ho Kelly for the past seven years.

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“As an Asian American actor, I know first-hand how difficult it is to find opportunities at all, let alone play a well developed, three dimensional character like Chin Ho,” Kim wrote. “I will miss him sincerely.

“What made him even more special is that he was a representative of a place my family and I so dearly love. It has been nothing short of an honor to be able to showcase the beauty and people of Hawaii every week, and I couldn’t be prouder to call these islands home. To my local community, mahalo nui loa.”

Kim seemed to refer to issues of diversity and pay equality in television by writing: “I’ll end by saying that though transitions can be difficult, I encourage us all to look beyond the disappointment of this moment to the bigger picture. The path to equality is rarely easy. But I hope you can be excited for the future. I am.”

Michael Tow, an actor, producer and Brookline financial planner who’s had roles in “Unfinished Business” and “Master of None,” expressed anger and disappointment at CBS’s failure to pay Kim and Park equally.

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“When [viewers] think of ‘Hawaii Five-O,’ they don’t think of Alex O’Loughlin,” Tow said. “It’s Daniel Dae Kim.”

“These are roles that are not stereotyped,” said Tow. “These are roles that are essentially the main characters, which is great to see. And there’s so few of them. But then to have those actors, who finally break out from a role perspective, then get paid significantly less than their Caucasian counterparts, it’s disappointing.”

Kim has chalked up a variety of film and TV roles in recent years, but stepped into the spotlight with a long-running role on the TV series “Lost.” Park, meanwhile, starred on the hit series “Battlestar Galactica.”

On Thursday, “Hawaii Five-O” showrunner Peter Lenkov said on Twitter that “CBS was extremely generous” in the salary negotiations with Kim and Park and that they “were getting unprecedented raises.”

He went on to add: “No one wanted to see them go — they are irreplaceable.”

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In his own acting career, Tow said “it’s very, very rare” for him to get an opportunity to play a role that is not stereotyped, which he believes makes the loss of Kim and Park’s roles even greater.

Tow said he was proud that Kim and Park rejected the lower pay. “To turn down that kind of money — that’s not easy for anybody,” he said. “To me, that’s a strong stand for equality.”

Tow says he plans to parody the incident in a video on his YouTube channel Tow-Arboleda Films in a mock effort to reveal the “true” backstory behind the “Hawaii Five-O” dispute, to be released Tuesday.

Kaitlyn Locke can be reached at kaitlyn.locke@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ke_locke.