‘Hawaii Five-0’: Why CBS Must Quickly Solve The Show’s Lack of Asian American Stars

IndieWire | 7/6/2017 | Staff
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As Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park exit “Hawaii Five-0,” the show suddenly finds itself without any regular Asian American cast members. That’s a huge problem for a show set in Hawaii, and a representation gap that producers will need to address before the show returns this fall.

The new “Hawaii Five-0” has made an effort to recognize Hawaiian culture in ways that other Hawaii-set TV shows hadn’t in the past – featuring more of the music, customs and traditions from the islands. But the depiction of the state’s large Asian American population was still mostly limited to cast members Kim, Park and Masi Oka.

Oka - Exit - Year - Network - Producers

But with all three gone (Oka announced his exit earlier this year), the network and producers hopefully understand it’s a huge void that needs to be addressed in the coming days, as production begins on Season 8. A show set in Hawaii without any Asian American stars would be rightfully subject to controversy – just as Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha” was ridiculed for its mostly-white cast, and the fact that Emma Stone played a part-Asian character.

A lack of Asian American characters has been a problem since Hollywood began depicting Hawaii on screen. Around 58 percent of the Hawaii population is Asian American or hapa (the Hawaii term for part-Asian), but that has rarely been reflected in series based in the islands.

Classics - Eye - Hawaii - Five-0 - Magnum

Classics like “Hawaiian Eye,” the original “Hawaii Five-0,” “Magnum, P.I.,” and more recent series like the revamped “Baywatch Hawaii” (syndicated, 1999), “Hawaii” (NBC, 2004), and “North Shore” (Fox, 2004) were all led by white and African-American stars, with Asian American and Pacific Islanders relegated to supporting cast.

And it’s not just a scripted series issue: Key reality shows that have been set in Hawaii, including A&E’s “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and two attempts by MTV (“Maui Fever” and “Living...
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