“Kim’s Convenience” stars Simu Liu and Jean Yoon are expressing frustrations with the apparent lack of representation of Asian voices among the writers of the show.
Producers of the show, which is streaming on Netflix and stars Liu and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as members of a Korean-Canadian family who run a corner store in Toronto, announced in March that the fifth season would be the show’s final season.
Upcoming Marvel star Liu first revealed the concerns in a Facebook post last week. Yoon, who plays the role of the family’s matriarch Umma, backed up her co-star on Twitter Sunday in response to an opinion piece about the controversy.
Liu wrote he was disappointed in the show’s “overwhelmingly white” producers not accepting more input from the majority Asian-Canadian cast. He further reflected on his character’s journey, saying he wanted to be a part of a sixth season but had grown “increasingly frustrated” with the portrayal of Jung and how he and other cast members were treated.
“I love this show and everything it stood for. I saw firsthand how profoundly it impacted families and brought people together,” he wrote.
Yoon shared a similar story on Twitter.
“As an Asian Canadian woman, a Korean-Canadian woman w more experience and knowledge of the world of my characters, the lack of Asian female, especially Korean writers in the writers room of Kims made my life VERY DIFFICULT & the experience of working on the show painful,” she tweeted.
The show ended a full season shorter than what was planned in early 2020 when the comedy was renewed for two additional seasons at the CBC.
Liu said it was his “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 … 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.”
Yoon also condemned commentary from The Globe and Mail’s TV critic John Doyle in the opinion piece on the controversy, writing his defense of the show’s co-creator Ins Choi “is neither helpful nor merited.”
“He created the TV show, but his co-creator Mr. Kevin White was the showrunner, and clearly set the parameters,” she wrote. She noted that Choi’s diminished presence on set became a “crisis,” so between the fourth and fifth seasons, the cast was told Choi would resume control of the show.
Instead, she wrote that the cast received drafts of all Season 5 scripts in advance because of the COVID-19 pandemic and they “discovered storylines that were OVERTLY RACIST, and so extremely culturally inaccurate that the cast came together and expressed concerns collectively.”
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The producers said in a March statement provided to USA TODAY that they decided not to move forward with another season after two of the show’s co-creators left to pursue other projects. “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,” the statement read.
Producers had no further comment when reached by USA TODAY Thursday.
On Sunday, though, the show responded through its official social media accounts by sharing screenshots from show writer Anita Kapila’s Facebook page. Kapila’s page is unverified and private.
“Kapila is a South Asian award-winning writer and co-executive producer, and has worked on Kim’s Convenience since the first season,” the show shared.
The screenshots show Kapila acknowledging “the women and BIPOC” she worked alongside, including Clara Altimas, Nadiya Chettiar, Carly Stone and Sonja Bennett. Kapila also mentions the “most diverse crew” and directors.
“We were not perfect. But we were there. I will forever be proud of what we accomplished,” Kapila writes in the screenshots.
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There are plans for an upcoming spinoff series starring “Kim’s” Nicole Power. Liu said it has been “difficult” to see.
“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,” he added in his Facebook post. “And not that they would ever ask, but I will adamantly refuse to reprise my role in any capacity.”
Contributing: The Associated Press