Simu Liu talks Kim's Convenience demise at Banff World Media Festival
Actor speaks of experiences on set, says there's a lesson to be learned from the way series ended
Kim's Convenience star Simu Liu says he was not out to end anyone's career when he shared his criticism of what went on behind the scenes of the now-defunct CBC series.
But as he shared his experiences on set, the Toronto-raised actor says there's a lesson to be learned from the way the hit Korean Canadian family comedy ended.
Liu — who is now the star of Marvel's upcoming film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings — addressed the situation in a virtual chat with musician and actor Sook-Yin Lee at the Banff World Media Festival.
He was following up on his Facebook post from earlier this month, in which he decried a lack of East Asian and female representation in the show's writers' room.
Cast members speak out
Liu is among several cast members who have spoken publicly about their unhappiness with the way producers ended the show. Kim's Convenience was abruptly cancelled in March as its fifth season was airing, after co-creators Ins Choi and Kevin White decided to move on to pursue other projects.
The show aired its final episode on April 13.
Others who have spoken out include Liu's co-stars Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Jean Yoon. Yoon recently took to Twitter to say that a lack of Asian female writers made her experience working on the show "painful."
On Wednesday, a representative for the show stated that "the producers don't have any further comments at this time."
In his Facebook post, Liu said the show had an "overwhelmingly white" team of producers who shut out creative input from the largely Asian Canadian cast.
In his discussion with Lee on Wednesday, Liu acknowledged creative differences can exist on any production, but said he was upset about the way producers cancelled Kim's Convenience — a show lauded for its cultural representation.
"To see such a Canadian success story snuffed out in such an anticlimactic and almost pathetic kind of way, it did not befit a show of that calibre and of that social reach and social quality," Liu said.
"It really got me thinking about the importance of representation. And when I say representation, I mean so much more than what you see on the surface in front of the screen. I think it is so important to have voices in the decision-making process that are sensitive to the groups that your show or your production represents.
"In the case of Kim's Convenience, that was Korean Canadians, that was East Asian Canadians, and we rightly felt like we didn't have that voice in the writers' room or at the creators' table."
Division between writers, actors
Actors consider themselves stewards of character, added Liu, who played son Jung on the show. Paul Sun-Hyung Lee portrayed the family patriarch Appa, while Jean Yoon played matriarch Umma and Andrea Bang starred as daughter Janet.
"We really care about taking a character from point A to point B, figuring out what that character's journey is and presenting it to the audience, because that's what makes compelling storytelling, is the characters," Liu said.
"I have always thought that our relationship should be a harmonious one with the writers, but in this particular situation it wasn't."
Importance of representation
Liu's chat with Sook-Yin Lee touched on a variety of topics, including how he uses his platform to address social justice issues, inclusion and representation in media — exemplified by his recent involvement with the Made/Nous "Seek More" campaign.
The two also talked about the risk of succumbing to stereotypes when white and non-Asian writers craft Asian characters.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SeekMore?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SeekMore</a> challenges Canadians to watch, share, and seek more inclusivity both in front and behind the camera.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SeekMore?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SeekMore</a> with <a href="https://twitter.com/kdeveryjacobs?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@KDeveryJacobs</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/ShamierAnderson?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ShamierAnderson</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/SimuLiu?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SimuLiu</a>. <a href="https://t.co/pQ8zEhdI3m">pic.twitter.com/pQ8zEhdI3m</a>—@made_nous
Liu said it wasn't his intention to come across as hostile or incendiary with his Facebook post. In that post, he wrote that he grew increasingly frustrated with the way he was treated and about how his character was being portrayed while working on Kim's Convenience.
Further down, he added that his experiences speak to a bigger issue about the "relationship between those with power and those without, and how do people with power kind of hoard that power instead of diversifying it when it could make a project better."
He spoke to that issue again in his discussion with Lee on Wednesday.
"I just hope that there's a lesson to be learned at the end of all of this for everybody moving on into the future, because this is the show that deserved better and unfortunately it's too late for us," Liu said.