'Hawaii Five-0' Boss Defends "Diverse Cast," Says Stars Were Offered "Unprecedented Raises"

HAWAII FIVE-0 Still - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of CBS

Hawaii Five-O showrunner Peter M. Lenkov is breaking his silence on the controversy surrounding stars Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park's decision to leave the CBS procedural.

In a letter to fans posted Thursday on Twitter, Lenkov reveals that Kim and Park were offered "unprecedented raises" but ultimately sought to exit the Hawaii-set drama after seven seasons. The duo, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter, had sought salary equality with stars Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan. A CBS insider told THR that supporting actors Kim and Park's contract dispute had nothing to do with race. Kim, the source stressed, was offered a raise to come within 2 percent of what Caan and O'Loughlin make — minus the duo's lucrative points of the show's back end. Negotiations with Park, meanwhile, were complicated by the actress' desire to only do a handful of episodes and be written out of the show. But the CBS source noted a substantial increase was still offered to her. Lenkov's post further supports that.

"The truth is this: both actors chose not to extend their contracts," he wrote. "CBS was extremely generous and proactive in their renegotiation talks. So much so, the actors were getting unprecedented raises, but in the end they chose to move on. … After being away from her family for seven years, I understood Grace's decision to leave. There was an opportunity for her to return for a handful of episodes, but for several reasons that didn't work out."

Lenkov, who also oversees CBS' MacGyver reboot, also noted that the network held out until the last possible moment in confirming Kim and Park's departure. (THR held the news for at least a month before the network would confirm their departures.)

The showrunner also addressed criticism that Kim and Park's departure and lack of salary equality was due to race. He pointed to the show's inclusive casting track record and listed off a handful of actors who had either been series regulars or recurred on the long-running series. Kim and Park had both been with Hawaii Five-0 since its start.

"In our 168 episodes, Hawaii Five-0 has and will continue to showcase one of the most diverse casts on TV: Chi McBride, Jorge Garcia, Mark Dacascos, Ian Anthony Dale, Will Yun Lee, Masai Oka, Dennis Chun, Taylor Wily, Shawn Garnett, Kimee Balmilero, Kekoa Kekumano, Shawn Anthony Thomsen, as well as Daniel and Grace … all of these great talents regulars or recurring. I'm proud of that roster and of our show."

In a note on his Facebook page Wednesday, Kim singled out how important playing Chin Ho was and seemingly connected his decision to leave to a lack of pay equality for Asian-American actors: "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. I will miss him sincerely. … [T]hough 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."

CBS responded to Kim's comments Wednesday afternoon with a statement: "Daniel and Grace have been important and valued members of Hawaii Five-0 for seven seasons. We did not want to lose them and tried very hard to keep them with offers for large and significant salary increases. While we could not reach an agreement, we part ways with tremendous respect for their talents on screen, as well as their roles as ambassadors for the show off screen, and with hopes to work with them again in the near future."

Read Lenkov's full note to fans below: