Actor Simu Liu calls out Kim's Convenience producers in candid Facebook post
Writers' room lacked East Asian representation, women and a 'pipeline' for more diverse talent, says Liu
Actor Simu Liu, who was an integral part of CBC's award-winning comedy Kim's Convenience, took to Facebook on Wednesday with a candid post detailing the workplace culture during his time on the show.
With the final season launching on Netflix Canada, the Canadian actor criticized its "overwhelmingly white" producers for discounting input from Asian cast members, revealed that the actors were paid at an "absolute horsepoop rate" and that showrunners were "epically reclusive."
"We were a cast of Asian-Canadians who had a plethora of lived experiences to draw from and offer to writers," he said in his post.
In March, the acclaimed sitcom was abruptly cancelled after five seasons despite having already been renewed for a sixth. The show announced that co-creators Ins Choi and Kevin White were moving on to other projects.
In a previous interview with CBC News, actor and lead Paul Sun-Hyung Lee said Choi told the cast in late January that he would be leaving the show.
Lee said it wasn't an option for the show to continue without Choi.
WATCH | Paul Sun-Hyung Lee blindsided by end of Kim's Convenience:
"Kim's was so unique because you had an all-Asian cast. And if you don't have someone who's Asian, who's part of the producing team, the optics look terrible," he said.
Liu, who has been previously outspoken on social media about the show ending, said the show's writers' room lacked East Asian representation and women, as well as a "pipeline" to introduce more diverse talent.
"Aside from Ins, there were no other Korean voices in the room," he wrote.
Cannot believe this is the last time I will say this... but the new season of Kim’s Convenience is now out on Netflix.<br><br>Give it a watch and let’s talk about it. Lord knows I have opinions... <a href="https://t.co/g58kLXB0fp">pic.twitter.com/g58kLXB0fp</a>—@SimuLiu
After Choi's departure, Liu voiced his interest in shadowing a director or attending a writers' room session to fill in gaps, he said.
"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."
Second Jen co-creator Amanda Joy previously told CBC News the cancellation of Kim's Convenience brought up an important question on Asian representation in Canadian media: Why is that the only show?
Over the years of the show's production, there have been attempts to connect with the community at large. In 2019, Choi partnered with BIPOC TV & Film and The Regent Park Film Festival in Toronto to offer a six-hour TV writing workshop to eight writers of colour. Showrunners also led a week-long writers' room at Theatre Alberta in 2018 to mentor emerging, diverse writers in the development of actual storylines for the show.
Actors moving on to new projects
And while Kim's Convenience has shut its doors, there are still plans for a spinoff with actor Nicole Power, who portrays Shannon on the show.
"It's been difficult for me. I love and am proud of Nicole, and I want the show to succeed for her," Liu wrote in his post, "but I remain resentful of all of the circumstances that led to the one non-Asian character getting her own show.
"And not that they would ever ask, but I will adamantly refuse to reprise my role in any capacity."
Calgary-raised actor Andrew Phung, who played Kimchee on the show, will also star in his own show, Run the Burbs, created by Phung and filmmaker Scott Townend.
Liu called out Kim's Convenience producers for ending the show, and remarked how CBC and Netflix "merely license it."
On Wednesday, CBC announced Liu as a co-creator of a new CBC Gem series called Hello (Again), alongside Canadian writer-producer Nathalie Younglai. The young adult romantic drama is scheduled to launch in winter 2022.
"Kim's Convenience had a great run on CBC and we're excited about Simu's new project," said CBC's head of public affairs, Chuck Thompson, who declined further comment.
"It's not our place to speak for the producers or Simu Liu."
Kim's Convenience producers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
'I wanted to be part of the sixth season'
Liu sought to quash the idea that since landing the Marvel superhero movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, slated to release this fall, he'd become "too Hollywood" and would shrug off Canadian opportunities.
"I wanted to be a part of the sixth season.... I love this show and everything it stood for. I saw firsthand how profoundly it impacted families and brought people together," he wrote.
Liu portrayed Jung Kim, the estranged son of the Kim family and local mainstay at Handy Car Rental, and described "growing increasingly frustrated" with the way his character was being portrayed.
Regarding the dynamics on the show, Liu said: "We didn't always get along with each other," and that he "often felt like the odd man out or a problem child."
He acknowledged that his personal insecurities to do with feeling overlooked for award nominations and new opportunities contributed to the acrimonious atmosphere.
Liu said he is "deeply saddened" by the number of narratives that will be left unfulfilled, including a reconciliation between Lee and Liu's father-and-son characters, Appa and Jung.
His grievances now don't change his feelings around how it all began, he said.
"I still believe in what the show once stood for; a shining example of what can happen when the gates come down and minorities are given a chance to shine."
With files from Jackson Weaver