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Simu Liu expresses frustration with Kim's Convenience's "overwhelmingly white" producers after abrupt cancelation

  • With Kim's Convenience's fifth and final season dropping on Netflix today, Liu wrote a lengthy Facebook post describing how the comedy about Asian Canadians didn't really have Asian representation behind the scenes, other than co-creator Ins Choi. “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.” He also called out 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, “padawan learner” 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.” “Boy I was wrong here,” Liu wrote. “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.” Choi's reps did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Liu also expressed frustration that Nicole Power, the only non-Asian member of the cast, is getting her own spinoff, titled Strays. “The producers of the show are indeed spinning off a new show from the Shannon character,” Liu wrote, admitting that “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.”

    ALSO:

    • Kim's Convenience's cancelation still stings: "For five seasons, the show has ... offered viewers a glimpse into the fully realized lives of an Asian Canadian family, as each member attempts to navigate their unique identity and find their place within a multicultural society, highlighting the many minorities who shape Toronto’s diverse community but remain underrepresented on screen," says Kaitlin Thomas. "The show’s corner store setting conveniently allows a rotating group of visitors and customers to appear, including members of the LGBTQIA community, a pair of Muslim women, and a couple of Mr. Kim’s friends, like Mr. Mehta (Sugith Varughese), the owner of a local Indian restaurant, or Mr. Chin (John Ng), a Chinese businessman. It does all of this without ever feeling like the writers are merely trying to check diversity boxes. It also never makes the story about the traumas these minorities often face. That’s not to say characters don’t encounter racism and discrimination—they do—but there is no trumped up drama, just a positive series about community and family that uses its half-hour platform to educate both its characters and its audience. It’s been refreshing to see a show as thoughtful and inclusive as Kim’s Convenience, especially as tokenism remains a large problem in television and film."
    • Kim’s Convenience succeeded because it didn’t do what was obvious, or more specifically, what would have seemed obvious to a white audience: "Rarely has a show centered an Asian family cast without centering its story lines on being Asian," says Brian Ng. "But perhaps what has resonated most with Asian viewers of Kim’s Convenience is that this series—an oasis where integration, not mere tolerance, is standard—exists at a time marked by bleak coverage about the hatred of our community. It has become impossible to separate watching Kim’s Convenience from the recent rise in anti-Asian racism, not least because members of its cast have done their part by releasing their own PSAs about the issue."
    • Kim's Convenience helped normalize Asian food on TV: "For decades, Asian cuisines have been played for laughs on television," says Priya Krishna. "In a 1977 episode of the detective sitcom Barney Miller, Stan 'Wojo' Wojciehowicz tells his colleague Nick Yemana that his lunch of fish head soup 'smells like garbage. A 1974 episode of Sanford and Son has Fred Sanford comparing the smell of sake to sweat socks at a dinner with members of a Japanese real estate firm....While (Kim's Convenience) reaches a wide audience, its framing around food has made it especially meaningful to members of the Korean diaspora. Irene Yoo, a Brooklyn chef and YouTube host, said that after seeing so many immigrant narratives told through the lens of historical trauma, she loved 'being able to see my stories and my food sort of gently and casually referenced' in a way that has usually been reserved for shows about white families. She called that 'quietly revolutionary.' Her favorite episode centers on the daughter, Janet (played by Andrea Bang), and her struggle to recreate her mother’s bindaetteok."

    TOPICS: Simu Liu, CBC, Netflix, Kim's Convenience, Strays, Ins Choi, Nicole Power, Asian Americans and TV




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