Kim’s Convenience stars Simu Liu and Jean Yoon blast the hit Netflix sitcom’s ‘racist’ storylines and ‘horsepoop’ pay
- Simu Liu – star of Marvel’s highly anticipated Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – was frustrated with the way his character was portrayed
- Co-star Jean Yoon voiced her concerns over the lack of Korean writers involved in the show, which made the experience ‘painful’ for her
Now Kim’s Convenience has officially ended, its stars are venting their frustrations about the smash-hit sitcom.
After the fifth and final season debuted last week on Netflix, actors Simu Liu and Jean Yoon voiced their concerns regarding the series’ “overwhelmingly white” production team, “horsepoop” pay and “overtly racist” storylines, among other grievances.
Based on actor and playwright Ins Choi’s stage production, Kim’s Convenience premiered in 2016 and centred on a Korean-Canadian family running a convenience store in Toronto. In the show, Liu – star of Marvel’s highly anticipated Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – portrayed Yoon’s on-screen son, Jung.
“I’ve heard a lot of speculation surrounding myself – specifically, about how getting a Marvel role meant I was suddenly too ‘Hollywood’ for Canadian TV,” Liu wrote in a lengthy Facebook post. “This could not be further from the truth. I love this show and everything it stood for. I saw first-hand how profoundly it impacted families and brought people together.”
Yet Liu expressed disappointment with the way that he and his character were treated as the series progressed.
“I WAS, however, growing increasingly frustrated with the way my character was being portrayed and, somewhat related, was also increasingly frustrated with the way I was being treated,” he wrote. “It was always my understanding that the lead actors were the stewards of character, and would grow to have more creative insight as the show went on.
“This was not the case on our show, which was doubly confusing because our producers were overwhelmingly white and we were a cast of Asian-Canadians who had a plethora of lived experiences to draw from and offer to writers … there was deliberately not a lot of leeway given to us.”
Liu also sounded off on Strays, the forthcoming spin-off series spotlighting Jung’s work supervisor, Shannon, played by Nicole Power.
“I love and am proud of Nicole, and I want the show to succeed for her … but I remain resentful of all of the circumstances that led to the one non-Asian character getting her own show,” Liu wrote. “And not that they would ever ask, but I will adamantly refuse to reprise my role in any capacity.”
In addition to creative differences, Liu claimed that he and his Kim’s Convenience cast mates were grossly underpaid in comparison to other popular shows such as Schitt’s Creek, which boasted “brand-name talent” but received lower ratings than Kim’s Convenience, according to Liu.
“For how successful the show actually became, we were paid an absolute horsepoop rate,” he wrote. “The whole process has really opened my eyes to the relationship between those with power and those without. In the beginning, we were no-name actors who had ZERO leverage. So of course we were going to take anything we could.
“Basically we were locked in for the foreseeable future at a super-low rate … But we also never banded together and demanded more – probably because we were told to be grateful to even be there, and because we were so scared to rock the boat.
“Maybe also because we were too busy infighting to understand that we were deliberately being pitted against each other. Meanwhile, we had to become the de facto mouthpieces for the show (our showrunners were EPICALLY reclusive), working tirelessly to promote it while never truly feeling like we had a seat at its table.”
While both Liu and his cast-mate Yoon have credited Korean-Canadian artist Choi with introducing the Kim family to mainstream audiences, they alleged that his influence over the series was eclipsed by a dearth of Korean representation behind the scenes.
They also alleged the Kim’s Convenience writing team “lacked both East Asian and female representation”, as well as “a pipeline to introduce diverse talents”, according to Liu.
“Aside from Ins, there were no other Korean voices in the room,” Liu wrote. “And personally I do not think he did enough to be a champion for those voices (including ours). When he left (without so much as a goodbye note to the cast), he left no protégé, no padawan learner, no Korean talent that could have replaced him.”
Yoon expressed her unhappiness by tweeting: “As an Asian-Canadian woman, a Korean-Canadian woman [with] more experience and knowledge of the world of my characters, the lack of Asian female, especially Korean writers in the writers room of Kim’s made my life VERY DIFFICULT & the experience of working on the show painful.”
Despite trying “so hard” to make himself available as a creative resource, Liu wrote that efforts made by him and others to improve the show from the inside were dismissed. Without adequate input from talent of Korean descent, Yoon added that the show’s authenticity suffered.
“The cast received drafts of all S5 scripts in advance of shooting BECAUSE of Covid, at which time we discovered storylines that were OVERTLY RACIST, and so extremely culturally inaccurate that the cast came together and expressed concerns collectively,” Yoon tweeted.
“My prior experience had taught me that if I just put myself out there enough, people would be naturally inclined to help,” Liu wrote. “And boy was I wrong here. I wasn’t the only one who tried. Many of us in the cast were trained screenwriters with thoughts and ideas that only grew more seasoned with time. But those doors were never opened to us in any meaningful way.”