CBS Chiefs: ‘Hawaii Five-0’ Actors Were Offered ‘a Lot of Money to Stick Around’

Kelly Kahl Thom Sherman
Kahl: Rex/Shutterstock; Sherman: Courtesy of CBS

CBS’ new top programming executives addressed the network’s struggles with onscreen diversity Tuesday — including the recent controversy over the departure of two Asian actors from “Hawaii Five-0.”

“We love both those actors and did not want to lose them,” CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl said at the Television Critics Association press tour on Tuesday. “We made very, very strong attempts to keep them and offered them a lot of money to stick around.”

In June, actors Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park exited “Hawaii Five-O.” As Variety reported at the time, the actors had been seeking equal pay with stars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, but failed to reach deals with CBS Television Studios, which produces the series.

The departure of the show’s only two series regulars of Asian descent over a salary dispute involving the pay scale of their white co-stars sparked criticism of CBS on social media and in the press.

Kahl did not go into details of the negotiation, saying, “In my mind it was purely a business transaction.” He characterized the departure of veteran actors as natural for a show entering its eighth season. “It’s happened on ‘CSI,’ it’s happened on ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ it’s happened on ‘Law and Order: SVU.'”

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Kahl appeared at TCA alongside senior executive vice president Thom Sherman. The two fielded multiple questions about the network’s poor record with diversity in front of and behind the camera, with one reporter noting that CBS has failed to put a new series with a female lead on the air for two seasons running.

“We had six pilots with female leads and the way things turned out those pilots were not deemed to be as good as the pilots that were picked up,” Sherman said.

Sherman and Kahl did not handle the development slate that led to the upcoming season’s crop of new shows. Kahl, a 21-year veteran of the network and its longtime scheduling chief, was named CBS entertainment president in May. His promotion came with the departure of Glenn Geller, who stepped down as the network’s top programming executive following a mild heart attack suffered in March. As part of the restructuring, Sherman was recruited from sister network the CW to head programming under Kahl.

Reporters also grilled Kahl and Sherman on CBS’ casting department, which is staffed entirely by white casting directors, and how it has affected the onscreen diversity or lack thereof in CBS’ series.

“I personally don’t think that has anything to do with it,” Kahl said, adding of the casting department, “They’re fantastic at what they do,” and noting that it has “cast many diverse roles in the past.”

Pressed on why the department is staffed entirely by white casting directors, Sherman said, “They’ve been together for a long time. That’s the department as its been. But we are cognizant of the issue. We hear you, and we will be looking to expand the casting department.”

As his predecessors have, Kahl defended CBS’ diversity record and promised it would continue to improve.

“We can debate the pace of the change, but there is change happening at CBS,” Kahl said, noting an overall uptick in diverse series regulars in recent years. “Every single drama on our air has at least one diverse regular character.”

He added, “We said in the past that we’re going to do better, and we are doing better.”

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  1. Dianna says:

    I think you’ve lost a few fans in our household. We’ve watched from the beginning but Kono and Chin are two of our favorite characters. Should have kept them…it won’t be the same at all thus the reason I won’t be watching:-(.

  2. Enia One says:

    Time to move on! These actors chose to. No “racism” here!!!

  3. Kacee says:

    It’s interesting that you have to dig pretty deep to find any Asian-American characters in The Good Doctor, which is co-produced by Daniel Dae Kim. If the plight of the Asian-American actor is so important to him, why not put his money where his mouth is? Does Freddie Highmore make more than the supporting characters of his new series? Also, according to his social media- he’s been on set in Vancouver for TGD, how could he have been totally committed to both projects on competing networks?

    • Rocky says:

      I agree totally. Btw I believe they just hired 3 Asian actors to replace them. So I guess the race card is no longer valid. And I’m sure the new actors understand that they are supporting characters not main characters.

      • Rocky says:

        Is contience a word. I don’t think so. But once again, I’m not a white person without a conscience, I’m a Spanish American that still believes that equal pay for supporting characters is not valid. That’s like saying a doctor should make the same as a nurse. That’s ridiculous and not racist. Main characters carry a show, same as NCIS, Big Bang Theory, Blue Bloods and I can go on and on. Once again, use the race where it is valid not for meaningless theories.

      • Mrs. X says:

        Spoken like a white person without a contience.

      • Eric H says:

        Just because they hired thee Asian actors to replace the ones that left still doesn’t mean they aren’t potentially racist. It just means CBS knew they had to cover their butts and they now get away with it at a much lower cost, which is what I think they wanted all along. How a show in Hawaii has all the Asians and native Hawaiians as supporting roles and none as major players is still a bit odd? That’s how the old show was and it’s been rightfully called out as racist. The executives are now reversing whatever progress the show had made in making Chin-Ho and Kono equals to Danny and Steve and reverting back to the old show’s hierarchy.

  4. Rocky says:

    Seriously now. The stars of the show are Steve and Danny. That has always been since the original series. As a minority myself, playing the race card is ridiculous and demeaning to those who are supporting characters. Kim and Park were decent actors but inno way outstanding like Danny and Steve. Let someone else shine in their place because they were not irreplaceable. I love Hawaii Five-0 but I watch for the Steve and Danny. It’s a shame when other main characters on other shows don’t get called out for making more money. A main character is not the same as supporting character.

    • L L says:

      Thank you for saying that. I keep seeing the media perpetuate the myth that they were all equal roles which fans know was not the case. I adored the characters and their storylines but can also recognize the business economics for CBS for not paying supporting cast the same as leads. It would set a precedent for all of their similar procedural dramas many of which I believe have vastly larger pay disparities than Hawaii Five-0.

  5. Chrissa says:

    Was watching H5O because of Grace Park, big Battlestar Galactica fan here. I usually fast forward through Caan’s parts, very grating, so are McGarrett’s entire CIA family. Now I am getting rid of my season pass, no need to watch anymore.

  6. Jean says:

    Won’t watch H5O anymore, Kono and ChinHo were better than Danno and the tiring McGarrett.
    CBS lacks diversity on purpose, they want to retain their lead as the oldest appealing network.q

  7. rudy285 says:

    I find it amazing that this article went from 2 Asian actors not making the money as white counterparts to CBS not having diversity. Are they related? I thought all of Hollywood was on equal terms and pay (sarcasm implied)? If Greedywood is all about equality then all actors make the same amount and maybe some of those “white” casting people declare themselves as minority races. We are in a culture of claiming whatever we want to be right?

  8. Donna says:

    Why should Scott Caan make more? Doesnt seem like he is in as many episodes as the rest of the cast
    Don’t get me wrong I love the guy and the show wouldn’t be the same without him EITHER.
    Bringing in 2 or 3 new people and giving another 3 people more airtime should tell you something isn’t right.

    • L L says:

      They are paid per episode. Scott Caan doesn’t get paid for episodes in which he doesn’t appear. On the other hand Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim were paid for every episode for the season even if their appearances were minimal as they sometimes were since the show worked around their schedules so they could participate in or develop other projects.

  9. Shirley says:

    I don’t think Scott Caan should have equal pay he wasn’t on there as we’re Daniel and Grace.
    They worked their back side off. I wish Daniel and Grace all the best. They are true to their talent.

    • worthymagic says:

      He has a contract to work fewer episodes, and I am sure that it is adjusted depending on how many episodes he does. He doesn’t get paid for episodes he doesn’t appear in.

      • Eric H says:

        He (and O’Loughlin) also got back-end money from the show’s profits, which more than makes up for him not working as many episodes. For the executives to not even offer that to DDK and Park after putting in the same, if not more, hours into the show than Caan, it was a tad disrespectful and showed what they thought of those two’s contributions. No wonder they left.

  10. Mike_22003 says:

    Tone Deaf, comparing departures on other show to THIS show is not wise. THIS show got rid of the two asian character and the show is called Hawaii 50, not LA 50. More white men taking when they shouldn’t.

  11. Alyson Rossi says:

    Letting Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim go is a HUGE mistake. Half the time that wise ass Scott Caan isn’t in the show and The actor who plays McGarrett over acts. Joni and Chin Ho carried that show—I’m DONE!

  12. Cath says:

    By saying “a lot of money” they are trying to besmirch the very people they claim to “admire.” That wording is certainly not designed to make those reading think well of both cast members. It is designed to paint them as greedy and ungrateful. Shame on CBS.

  13. blue439 says:

    CBS offered “a lot of money” but not as much as the white stars. They are completely missing the point. They don’t seem to see all-white casting directors as a problem either — no wonder their record on diversity is the worst.

  14. Linda says:

    Won’t be the same
    Hate change. They were part of the show
    Stupid for letting them.go

  15. Michelle says:

    What do they consider a lot of money? The minorities should just smile and take what is offered? When their salaries EQUAL that of the 2 white leads, then I’ll consider that fair and “a lot” of money.

  16. Brandon says:

    This shit is all a lie,The people at CBS are racist.On every show that they have the whole cast is 95 percent white.Thats why Daniel Dai Kim and Grace Park left,because they wanted equal pay as the white actors Alex O’Lughin and Scott Caan,and CBS would not give them that.If any of you say that Daniel and Grace left for any ridiculous reason you are mother fucking idiot.

  17. Michael Rose says:

    Offering “a lot of money” is not the same as equal pay. One has to wonder if Alex and Scott were offered what Grace and Daniel were offered, would they stay on? Highly doubtful. This move will cost CBS dearly as I seriously doubt H5O will last through S8. There used to be a lot of excitement and anticipation around this time of year, I’m not seeing that now. Those 2 were wildly popular and carried the whole show at times, too bad…

    • worthymagic says:

      You’re offering Alex and Scott a PAYCUT? I’m going to guess that they would quit the show. Would the show continue without them? I would guess NO! That would probably have put Kim and Park OUT OF A JOB, because the ratings were never great to begin with. It was constantly given the Friday excuse. Do you wonder why they don’t start a new Hawaii Five O with non white leads? Why not give it a thought?

  18. Let it go.... says:

    Alex is the lead. The show is about Steve McGarrett and his Five-0 Team. Scott is his second in command. This is why they were paid more money. They have more screen time and more responsibility. Daniel sees it as a equality issue and that’s his right, but I can see why CBS turned them down. It has nothing to do with racism or equality, it’s just common sense. Why should they get equal pay when they do less work? How does that make sense?

    I fail to see the issue.

    • Brandon says:

      They don’t do less work Did u not see
      Season 7 u idiot The whole season was
      About Chin

      • L L says:

        Since you inaccurately representated Season 7, I checked it out as I never miss an episode:

        While the characters of Chin Ho and Kono are important members of the team to the fans such as myself who were invested in their personal storylines the roles were always supporting ones. They did not have the number of storylines/character-centered episodes as either Steve McGarrett or Danny Williams. The actors’ filming responsibilities were also not nearly equal. You could also include Lou Grover as part of the tier of supporting roles. Take the last season (25 episodes) for example. I made a quick look and by my count 1/2 an episode centered on Lou’s character while Kono and Chin each led a story in 1 1/2 episodes. Two episodes centered solely on Danny and at least 5 episodes were Steve-centric. In addition at least 2 more episodes were centered on Danny and Steve jointly. Call those the bromance episodes. The remaining episodes were general case episodes which generally involve a more usual split of screen time i.e. slightly more Steve/Danny with rotating pairings of the remaining 3.

        For the Kono-centric episode which was a Danny-less episode, Kono was partnered with Steve so at most Grace Park had slightly more screen time than Alex O’Loughlin. A similar situation occurred with the outstanding episode where Chin’s niece was kidnapped. Daniel Dae Kim had a couple of extra scenes but Alex O’Loughlin also had separate important scenes and otherwise they were in scenes together. Conversely, the Steve, Danny or bromance episodes concentrated mainly on their characters with the actors filming the bulk of those episodes either individually or jointly with the other 3 characters appearing sparingly.

    • Andy Martin says:

      It has nothing to do with how much face time an actor has on the TV screen, it has everything to do with who draws viewers and has the largest fan base. Grace and Daniel are way more popular then and bring far more to the table than Scott. Nobody is tuning in to watch Alex’s wing man, but Grace’s Battlestar fans and Daniel Lost fans loyally follow them whenever they are on TV. I agree that Alex is the lead and should be compensated as such but Scott is an empty suit and probably the least liked actor on Five-0. It does appear as if CBS likes their white guys, in a very similar fashion they refused to compensate Cote de Pablo a diverse actor on NCIS and basically ran her off the show like Grace and Daniel.

      • Eric H says:

        I think CBS has severely underestimated the draw of Park and Kim. To replace the big names, they hired or promoted a bunch of no-name actors who won’t steal the spotlight from O’Loughlin and Caan (and to a lesser extent, McBride) but likely won’t bring any new fans to show or keep some of the older viewers’ attention. Based on the set photos,the newbies aren’t out in the field with the team and are seemingly being hidden or tasked with menial duties. I can’t see how this show lasts if it’s only going to revolve around the three remaining team members, especially when Caan misses his required number of episodes.

      • Brandon says:

        What u say is very true,that is what they did with Cota de Pablo and also look at LL Cool J he is probably gonna be gone by season 9 on Ncis La

  19. Michael Anthony says:

    “Alot of money doesn’t mean anything, unless it’s parity. You think other professions don’t care that others doing the same job might earn more? Of course they do, everyone does,

    • worthymagic says:

      Really? It has to be parity? Mariska Hargitay makes $500,000+ an episode on Law & Order:SVU. Maybe ICE-T makes $225-250,000 an episode(if he is in it). You’re telling me that Kelli Giddish, who has been on the show since season 13, and probably makes between $125-150,000 per episode(if she is in it) would tell NBC to go spit if they offered her $250,000 an episode, which is at least 50% less than what Mariska Hargitay gets? Your love of these actors or their characters is clouding your mind. Does money matter? Yes. People turn down jobs all the time because they don’t think they are being offered enough money. That is LIFE. Park and Kim said goodbye even though CBS offered them more than most SECONDARY actors get. They WEREN’T THE STARS. Maybe IN YOUR MIND THEY WERE, but NOT CBS’s!

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