The Stars of This Beloved Show Are Calling Out the Producers for Racism
Two actors from this popular sitcom, which recently debuted on Netflix, are discussing their experiences.
Fans were heartbroken when it was announced in March that the fifth and most recent season of the popular Canadian sitcom Kim's Convenience, which debuted on Netflix on June 2, would be its last. But just as the final episodes became available to stream in the U.S., two of the show's stars, Simu Liu and Jean Yoon, took to social media to call out the show's mostly white writers and producers for racism. Yoon described her "painful" experiences working on set and the "overtly racist" storylines including in earlier scripts. Read on for more on what the actors' had to say about the show.
Liu called out the "overwhelmingly white" producers for not consulting more with the Asian cast.
In a Facebook post on June 2, Liu, opened up about what had been happening behind the scenes of the popular sitcom, which revolves around the Korean-Canadian Kim family who run a convenience store in Toronto. "It was always my understanding that the lead actors were the stewards of character, and would grow to have more creative insight as the show went on," explained Liu, who played Jung Kim, one of the convenience store owners' adult children. "This was not the case on our show, which was doubly confusing because our producers were overwhelmingly white and we were a cast of Asian Canadians who had a plethora of lived experiences to draw from and offer to writers."
Liu explained that instead of collaborating with the cast, the actors were often given their scripts just days before shooting was set to begin on a new season. "I can appreciate that the show is still a hit and is enjoyed by many people… but I remain fixated on the missed opportunities to show Asian characters with real depth and the ability to grow and evolve," Liu wrote.
Liu also called out a lack of diversity among the show's writers.
But it wasn't just a lack of communication between the cast and producers that Liu says was a problem; he also called out the major lack of diversity where it deeply mattered. "Our writer's room lacked both East Asian and female representation, and also lacked a pipeline to introduce diverse talents," he said, adding that besides the show's co-creator Ins Choi, "there were no other Korean voices in the room. And personally, I do not think he did enough to be a champion for those voices (including ours)."
Liu cites Choi's decision to leave the show after its fourth season as one of the major reasons why Kim's Convenience was ultimately canceled in such an untimely manner. "When [Choi] left (without so much as a goodbye note to the cast), he left no protege, no padawan learner, no Korean talent that could have replaced him," Liu wrote.
He also went on to say that he and his fellow cast members actively pursued shadowing directors or sitting in the writers' room during production to offer their insight, but that "those doors were never opened to us in any meaningful way."
Liu's co-star, Jean Yoon, responded to his post by sharing her own "painful" experiences on the show.
But Liu wasn't the only cast member of Kim's Convenience to call out a difficult environment behind the scenes. By responding to a column that took issue with Liu's claims by John Doyle, a television critic from The Globe and Mail, Jean Yoon, who played Kim family matriarch Yong-mi Kim, posted a series of tweets that described similar experiences of being shut out from the show's creative direction.
"[A]s an Asian Canadian woman, a Korean-Canadian woman [with] more experience and knowledge of the world of my characters, the lack of Asian female, especially Korean writers in the writers' room of Kim's made my life VERY DIFFICULT & the experience of working on the show painful," she wrote.
Yoon went on to explain that after receiving full scripts for the latest season in advance, "we discovered storylines that were OVERTLY RACIST, and so extremely culturally inaccurate that the cast came together and expressed concerns collectively." She said that "most [of the] offensive 'jokes' were removed" only after Choi was briefly brought back in to take control of showrunner duties.
Representatives from the show have not provided further comment.
When reached, a representative for Kim's Convenience directed Best Life to the original statements released when it was announced the show was ending in March. "Authenticity of storytelling is at the center of the success of Kim's Convenience. At the end of production on Season 5, our two co-creators confirmed they were moving on to other projects," the statement reads. "Given their departure from the series, we have come to the difficult conclusion that we cannot deliver another season of the same heart and quality that has made the show so special."
"It's been a privilege and a very great pleasure to work with the Kim's family of gifted writers and performers for the last five years. Thank you to our fans for the love and support you've given this show," the producers said.
Best Life also reached out to production company Thunderbird Entertainment for a response to Liu and Yoon's claims but did not immediately hear back.