'Hawaii Five-0' Star Exits Spark Asian-American Concern: "Racial Hierarchy" Remains "Intact"

Members of Hollywood's small but vocal Asian-American community are speaking out in support of former Hawaii Five-0 stars Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, who have left the series after failed contract negotiations with CBS and CBS Television Studios.

"Unfortunately, the racial hierarchy established in the original 1968-1980 series remained intact in the 2010 reboot: Two white stars on top, two Asian/Pacific Islander stars on bottom," Guy Aoki, founding president of Media Action Network for Asian Americans, wrote in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

News of Kim's and Park's departures broke Friday before the Independence Day holiday, with sources confirming to THR that Kim and Park had requested and been denied pay equity alongside fellow original castmembers Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan. In a lengthy Facebook post Wednesday, Kim noted that he based his decision to leave on the inability to reach an agreement on a new contract, and added, "The path to equality is rarely easy." Sources say that Kim and Park asked to be compensated on par with leads O'Loughlin and Caan, who also receive a cut of the series' back-end profit.

"The studio apparently didn't think the two Asian leads were quite as worthwhile as the two white dudes," wrote Phil Yu of the influential blog Angry Asian Man. "This behind-the-scenes drama over pay equality demonstrates that the studio values, quite literally, the show's white actors over its Asian ones. They're not even pretending anymore, in the most basic way, that this show doesn't put its white stars at the center."

In January, Hawaii Five-0 lost series regular Masi Oka, who also had been on the procedural since the first season. The Hawaii-set drama will have no Asian-American stars for its eighth season. "Is it suspicious that all the Asian leads in Hawaii Five-0 left this year, and what does this say about racial and gender bias on actor salaries?" wrote Anderson Le of You Offend Me You Offend My Family, the Asian-American pop culture site he founded alongside filmmaker Justin Lin.

"It's a huge blunder in this day and age. Does CBS not realize how badly this looks?" says actor and director Chris Tashima, who won an Oscar for best live-action short in 1998 and has known Kim for years. "These are issues we've always been fighting. I'm waiting for the class-action lawsuit on racial discrimination because it's that blatant. I'm curious: Is Scott Caan making the same as Alex O'Loughlin? If he is, [the show's] not McGarrett [the name of O'Loughlin's character], it's Five-0. There's absolutely no reason why it should not be treated as an ensemble piece in every respect."

Others in Hollywood have tweeted their reactions to the story, whose latest development saw CBS issue a statement Wednesday afternoon calling its salary raise offers to Kim and Park "large and significant."