Daniel Dae Kim has always been serious about representation.
In an interview with Vulture, the actor talked about his positive experience working on “Lost”, as well as the trouble he later faced on “Hawaii Five-0”.
“One thing that has never really properly been reported is the amount of pay cut I took to do ‘Hawaii Five-0’ from ‘Lost’,” he revealed. “It was drastic, and it was never made up.”
After starring in the remake of the classic TV series for seven seasons, Kim left the show due to the significant pay disparity between himself and co-stars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan.
Kim had met with CBS to demand equal pay among the co-stars, including fellow star Grace Park.
“Make us all equal,” he said, “Make us all the ensemble that I thought we always were, and get me back to where I was with ‘Lost’.”
He continued, “I didn’t think that was an unreasonable position to take. It was very clear and simple. I was very transparent about it with my castmates, with my showrunner, with the studio from the start. It became much more dramatic because of the way that it didn’t come together.”
Ultimately Kim and Park both left the series and their relationships with the other co-stars suffered.
“I think any time you have an ensemble of actors, everyone’s objectives are unique and individual,” Kim said. “So it’s hard for me to collectively say whether they were allies in this … I do know that the way things got spun by the end changed my relationships with them.”
Before “Hawaii Five-0”, Kim had his breakout role as Jin on the mystery drama “Lost”, revealing that at first he did express concerns to the show’s creators about stereotypical portrayals of Koreans.
“When I read the script for the pilot, I knew this was a land mine,” Kim said. “My greatest fear was that the pilot of ‘Lost’ would air but the series would not — because if you were to see the pilot as the totality of my character, you would have been left with that stereotype.”
He continued, “While we were shooting, I remember sitting down with Damon Lindelof and J.J. Abrams and saying, ‘Guys, this character cannot progress in this same way.’ They basically said, ‘Trust us.’ I did, and it turned out for the best. As an Asian actor, you’re just looking to get hired. It’s about working within the system to try and change it when you have the opportunity. The character grew to a place where I don’t think you’d call him a stereotype by the end.”
Kim also talked about the work he did to make sure he had the character’s accent as close to correct as possible.
“It is a funny thing about my accent. It’s not standard Korean (표준어) because I speak Busan satoori (사투리),” he explained. “So when we first started, because Yunjin spoke standard Korean, it was decided that I was going to try and change my Busan to standard Korean. So that, plus thinking about the acting of it and realizing I did have an American accent — it became this weird mix of things.”
Unfortunately, he still got hit with some criticism over the accent.
“There’s no doubt it stung when I felt like the people I was trying to respect and please the most were the ones who were critical of me,” Kim said. “It was painful because, as my career since then has borne out, I take a great deal of pride in being Korean American. I know that not every representation is 100 per cent something we can stand behind all the time, but I choose to look at things as whether they’re moving the needle of progress on a larger scale. I don’t think you can question the positive effect ‘Lost’ had on representation. You could even argue it has had an effect on the way we cast now, if you look at the copycat shows that came out as a result of ‘Lost’.”