Daniel Dae Kim unwittingly found himself in two public conversations about Hollywood racism this summer. In July, he and Grace Park left starring roles on "Hawaii Five-0" over an alleged pay disparity between them and their White co-stars. Last month, he stepped into the "Hellboy" film reboot’s role of Asian-American Major Ben Daimio when White actor Ed Skrein ("Deadpool") left following accusations of Whitewashing.
Kim, who is Korean-American, touched on both of these stories and spoke about his work to empower creative professionals of color in an interview published by The Hollywood Reporter (THR) today (October 24). He avoided diving into his "Hawaii Five-0" departure, but he did address how his predicament fit into larger progress around pay equity:
Whether meaningful change comes from my personal situation is not something that can be judged in the moment, it can only be judged looking backward. I try to make the right decisions based on my own moral compass. It comes with consequences, and it comes with controversy, but many decisions of these kinds come with those things. … I’m aware of the larger ramifications of these kinds of stories in the culture at large, let’s put it that way.
He also reflected on the significance of joining "Hellboy" and how he relates to Major Daimio:
I don’t really think there has been a hero of Asian descent from a comic book in an American movie before. I think that’s pretty significant if that is true. That’s kind of the macro of the casting of this.
And I do feel a certain identification with the character. Daimio is marked by his appearance: literally marked [with a large facial scar]. So he’s someone who has to navigate his world despite the obstacles of how people react when they see him. And that’s something I can relate to. I grew up in a steel town, and at the time when I was a kid there weren’t any Asian families in the area. So it had its challenges.
Kim currently executive produces ABC’s "The Good Doctor" through his own company, 3AD. The medical drama, which is based on a Korean television show of the same name, stars White actor Freddie Highmore ("Bates Motel") in the lead role. Kim filled out the show’s supporting roles with various actors of color, including Antonia Thomas ("Misfits"), Tamlyn Tomita ("Teen Wolf") and Nicholas Gonzalez ("Being Mary Jane"). He cites the series when affirming the structural importance of hiring people of color:
Something I often say is, I stand on the shoulders of the people who came before [me], and I’m ready to lift up people to stand on my shoulders. And one of the ways we can do that is to hire them. And that’s why it was so important for me to be a job creator, because there is no substitute for on-the-job experience. A lot of us, and I can tell you from experience, just didn’t have the kind of opportunity it required to get better at the same rate as others.
So it’s really important to me to create those opportunities. And as a producer, I think "The Good Doctor" shows that I’m not in it to create roles for myself, although I won’t rule that out, but it’s not my primary focus.
Read the full interview at HollywoodReporter.com.