Kim's Convenience: Simu Liu Blasts Producer Bias, Won't Reprise Role

The fifth and final season of Kim's Convenience premieres worldwide on Netflix this week, and star Simu Liu, who plays Mr. Kim's eldest son Jung and is on track to becoming a movie star with Marvel Studio's Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, has written a long Facebook post calling out the producers and creator over the show's abrupt cancellation and launching a spinoff with the sole white regular cast member.

Kim's Convenience Abruptly Cancelled at 5th Season
"Kim's Convenience", CBC, Netflix

It seems Liu has zero f's left to give and vented his full frustration not just at the abrupt cancellation of Kim's Convenience, but the "overwhelmingly white" producers who ignored the requests from the cast to help write the unrealized final season of the show when many of them were already screenwriters. He also called out co-creator and showrunner Ins Choi for not doing "enough to be a champion" for diverse television talent. Liu said that upon leaving the series, Choi did not leave a protege or another Korean showrunner who could have filled his shoes. The actor wrote that he, and others, reached out to Choi for feedback and mentorship, in an attempt to have more involvement in writing, thinking "people would be naturally inclined to help" but were ignored. The reasons for Choi to walk off the show's proposed 6th season are still not known. Choi has refused to explain to any of the cast members why he so unceremoniously left the show and its cast and crew high and dry. He does explain that the producers own the show and it was their call to cancel it when Choi and fellow showrunner Kevin White left.

Just two weeks after Kim's Convenience producers announced the final season, the CBC announced a  spin-off series starring Nichole Power, the sole white regular cast member, whose character Shannon will go on to further adventures but none of the Asian characters.

"It's been difficult for me. I love and am proud of Nicole, and I want the show to succeed for her…but I remain resentful of all the circumstances that led to the one non-Asian character getting her own show," he wrote, and declared that he would not reprise the role of Jung as a guest star if asked.

He also decried the lack of growth and progression in the characters' stories through 5 seasons. It seems Kim's Convenience was stuck in that sitcom groove of not letting the characters change. The producers seemed content to keep the characters in a loop of repeating their mistakes and dysfunctions endlessly.

"I wasn't the only one who tried. 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."

"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," he wrote. "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. But we were often told of the next seasons' plans mere days before we were set to start shooting… there was deliberately not a lot of leeway given to us. Imagine my disappointment year after year knowing that Jung was just stuck at Handy and in absolutely no hurry to improve himself in any way."

"More importantly, the characters never seemed to grow. 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's long post doesn't say it explicitly, but he seems to point out the problems, limitations, and blind spots of the Canadian TV industry in its failure at diverse representation.

Kim's Convenience: Simu Liu's Full Statement

Here's a look at Liu's Facebook post in its entirety for the sake of preserving message and content, followed by the transcript:

"Season 5 of Kim's Convenience comes out on Netflix today, and I'm feeling a host of emotions right now. It is, of course, our last season, thanks to a decision by our producers not to continue the show after the departure of two showrunners. There's been a lot of talk and speculation about what happened, and I want to do my best to give accurate information, so I'll itemize my thoughts below:

  1. The show can't be "saved". It was not "cancelled" in a traditional manner, i.e. by a network after poor ratings. Our producers (who also own the Kim's Convenience IP) are the ones who chose not to continue. Neither CBC nor Netflix own the rights to Kim's Convenience, they merely license it. However, the producers of the show are indeed spinning off a new show from the Shannon character. It's been difficult for me. I love and am proud of Nicole, and I want the show to succeed for her… 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.
  2. I wanted to be a part of the sixth season. I've heard a lot of speculation surrounding myself – specifically, about how getting a Marvel role meant I was suddenly too "Hollywood" for Canadian TV. This could not be further from the truth. I love this show and everything it stood for. I saw firsthand how profoundly it impacted families and brought people together. It's truly SO RARE for a show today to have such an impact on people, and I wanted very badly to make the schedules work.
  3. I WAS, however, growing increasingly frustrated with the way my character was being portrayed and, somewhat related, was also increasingly frustrated with the way I was being treated. I think this is a natural part of a collaborative undertaking like making a TV show; everyone is going to have different ideas on where each character ought to go, what stories ought to be told. But 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. 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. But we were often told of the next seasons' plans mere days before we were set to start shooting… there was deliberately not a lot of leeway given to us. Imagine my disappointment year after year knowing that Jung was just stuck at Handy and in absolutely no hurry to improve himself in any way. More importantly, the characters never seemed to grow. 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.
  4. We didn't always get along with each other. This part really breaks me because I think we all individually were SO committed to the success of the show and SO aware of how fortunate we all were. We just all had different ideas on how to get there. Speaking for myself personally, I often felt like the odd man out or a problem child. This one is hard because I recognize that a lot of it reflected my own insecurities at the time, but it was buoyed by things that happened in real life; nomination snubs, decreasing screen time, and losing out on opportunities that were given to other cast members. This is a reality of show business, there is only so much to go around. LA became the new territory for me, and I pursued it with so much drive and vigor partially because I knew that I could not rely on Kim's to take my career where it needed to go, nor could the cast be the type of family that I had imagined. I had no mentor during this whole process and nobody from the producing team of the show ever even remotely reached out. So… I probably said and did things that were stupid and not helpful. That being said… I was always so careful in presenting a united front to the press. I think we've all individually done a lot of work over the years and there will always be be a mutual love and respect, as well as a recognition of the bond forged from this totally unique experience of being on a hit show that changed the world.

5) For how successful the show actually became, we were paid an absolute horsepoop rate. The whole process has really opened my eyes to the relationship between those with power and those without. In the beginning, we were no-name actors who had ZERO leverage. So of course we were going to take anything we could. After one season, after the show debuted to sky-high ratings, we received a little bump-up that also extended the duration of our contracts by two years. Compared to shows like Schitt's Creek, who had 'brand-name talent' with American agents, but whose ratings were not as high as ours, we were making NOTHING. Basically we were locked in for the foreseeable future at a super-low rate… an absolute DREAM if you are a producer. But we also never banded together and demanded more – probably because we were told to be grateful to even be there, and because we were so scared to rock the boat. Maybe also because we were too busy infighting to understand that we were deliberately being pitted against each other. Meanwhile, we had to become the de facto mouthpieces for the show (our showrunners were EPICALLY reclusive), working tirelessly to promote it while never truly feeling like we had a seat at its table.

6) Our writer's room lacked both East Asian and female representation, and also lacked a pipeline to introduce diverse talents. Aside from Ins, 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). When he 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. I tried so hard to be that person; I sent him spec scripts I was working on, early cuts of short films I had produced… I voiced my interest in shadowing a director or writer's room… my prior experience had taught me that if I just put myself out there enough, people would be naturally inclined to help. And boy was I wrong here. I wasn't the only one who tried. 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.

7) I'm adding this in late BUT I reallly need to mention that our actual day-to-day crew… were PHENOMENAL. You couldn't ask for a better group of people or a better working environment. From our props to our grips and gaffers to sound and set dec, everyone contributed to a positive work environment.

In the end… I'm so incredibly saddened that we will never get to watch these characters grow. That we will never see Jung and Appa reuniting. That we will never watch the Kim's deal with Umma's MS, or Janet's journey of her own self-discovery. But I am still touched by the volume and the voracity of our fans (Kimbits…still hands-down the best fandom name EVER), and 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.

I'll answer some questions if you have them… otherwise, check us out on Netflix!"

And since you're here…

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About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist who just likes to writer. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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