Going out to Hawaii Five-0! Kim's Convenience creator shares powerful poem on being an Asian actor
Saturday in New York, Ins Choi dedicated this performance to Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park
After seven seasons, Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim won't be returning to Hawaii Five-0. True story. The news surfaced last week after Variety reported that the actors were negotiating to receive the same salary as their white co-stars, and in the fall-out, they've opened a conversation about equal pay in Hollywood and beyond — one that CBC Radio's q joined in on last Wednesday. But here's a response you might have missed.
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Ins Choi is the creator of Kim's Convenience, and a Soulpepper production of the popular play-turned-CBC sitcom is currently appearing off Broadway. Saturday, Choi took the stage in New York as part of a post-show cabaret, and he dedicated a spoken-word poem to the Hawaii Five-0 stars. Called "Mine Eyes Are Lean," Choi originally wrote the piece for a 2015 Luminato Festival performance, The North-South Project — but in it, he reveals his own struggles with being an Asian actor.
Equal pay is just one part of the problem, as his emotional account goes to show. As one line goes: "When I audition, I get Chinese waiter No. 5. In the background. True story." Representation matters, and in the piece, Choi reflects on the consequences of not seeing yourself reflected on screen. It's something he talked about with CBC Arts earlier this year, actually — when he spoke to us about the movie that changed his life, Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon. "It was the first time I saw a cool Asian man speaking English, kicking ass, but a story centred on an Asian man in North America," Choi told us at the time. Seeing that movie inspired him to be an actor. In "Mine Eyes Are Lean," Choi shares his dream for the next generation. "They'll say, 'Hey, I see those lean eyes. They kind of look like my lean eyes. Maybe one day the world will open their eyes and see me.'"
Watch Ins Choi performing "Mine Eyes Are Lean."
(YouTube video captured by Howard Sherman.)