Daniel Dae Kim: I Love ‘Friends,’ but Series Was ‘Challenged’ When It Came to Diversity

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Daniel Dae Kim is reflecting on the lack of Asian-American representation in Hollywood.

The “Lost” icon and “Hawaii Five-O” alum opened up about teaching his children to appreciate when Asian stars are onscreen, in everything from a commercial to blockbuster movies.

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“When my kids are watching shows, my wife and I always did this natural thing, which was whenever there was an Asian face on screen, to point it out to say, ‘Look,'” Kim told Esquire. “Just by doing that, it kind of created a dynamic where you would notice when you didn’t see it.”

One of the shows Kim in which saw no AAPI representation? “Friends.”

“My kids loved ‘Friends’ because they would watch repeats and they would say to me, ‘Hey, how come in their New York everyone is white?'” Kim continued. “‘Thank you for thinking about that,’ I would tell them. Because it’s true. As much as I love that show, when it came to diversity it was…it was…challenged, shall we say.”

The long-running NBC sitcom was led by four white leads and rarely brought minority representation into its narrative.

Kim added, “When we see a show that has no minority representation, we’d say, ‘Wow that, that’s an awfully homogeneous cast.’ It’s important that we look at all of our entertainment through our lens. But it always says something about the way that I grew up.”

The founder of production company 3AD noted that Asian Americans are statistically more likely to identify with non-Asians more than any other race.

“So that means that they would see someone like Jennifer Aniston or any of the cast of ‘Friends’ and be able to say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s me,'” Kim explained. “Whereas other people of other races would not be able to do that as easily and as willingly, unless the character was of the same race. That was a very interesting thing, that psychologically we look outside of our own experience because we didn’t have others to look towards and we were taught to assimilate. That’s a very interesting dynamic in the collective psyche of Asian America.”

Kim shared an Instagram screenshot of a document from the Chinese Historical Society of American Museum showing the pay rates for the cast of the original 1960s series “The Green Hornet,” with lead star Bruce Lee making less than every other actor on the series, including the stuntmen.

“It gave me a strange sense of comfort to know that it was not just me,” Kim said of the long-standing wage gap with Asian American stars. “And it was not just the people around me today who have experienced that very thing, but if someone like Bruce had gone through this and survived and rose above it. It gave me comfort to know that I could do the same.”

Kim also talked about his decision to part ways with CBS’ “Hawaii Five-O” series in 2017 over a pay disparity. Kim sought parity with co-stars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, which CBS did not agree to.

He said, “When I left ‘Hawaii Five-O,’ I didn’t necessarily do that for myself as much as I did for generations coming behind me because it takes people like us who are established and can make the choices to take a job or not, that will help those who don’t have a choice, who are starting out and, you know, are offered something less than equal and have to take it because they don’t have the choice.”

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