“Kim’s Convenience” Actors Simu Liu And Jean Yoon Reveal That The Last Season’s Original Scripts Contained Racist Storylines

Jean Yoon and Simu Liu both have spoken out about the lack of diversity in the writers’ room.

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This article includes descriptions of violence that may disturb some readers.

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This article reveals plot details of a current movie or series.

Season five of Kim’s Convenience recently premiered on Netflix. It turns out that the original scripts were shockingly a lot more racist than you would have expected.

Adapted from the stage play of the same name by Ins Choi, Kim’s Convenience is a Canadian sitcom about a Korean family that owns and runs a convenience store in Toronto.

Kim’s Convenience cast on set | @SimuLiu/Twitter

The show released its final season recently, and one of its lead actors Simu Liu (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), who portrays Jung, has been outspoken about its premature ending. He had forewarned that the show would not have a proper conclusive finale.

Simu Liu | @SimuLiu/Twitter

Liu also explained that the series was not ending due to low ratings (it actually did even better than critically acclaimed Schitt’s Creek) but because of producers. Since it was not traditionally canceled, it, unfortunately, cannot be saved. Networks like CBC or streaming services, such as Netflix, don’t have the rights to it and cannot revive it.

Kim’s Convenience cast | CBC Television

In a new Facebook post, he also revealed that the same producers who decided to end Kim’s Convenience are actually working on a spin-off centered on the one non-Asian character, Shannon, Jung’s former boss and girlfriend. So, while the Kims are not given a proper ending to their storyline, the producers will continue Shannon’s story.

Nicole Power as Shannon (left) and Simu Liu as Jung (right) | CBC Television

Liu said that while he hoped there would be a season six, he had become frustrated with both how his character was portrayed and how he was treated in recent years.

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.

— Simu Liu

Kim’s Convenience cast | @SimuLiu/Twitter

He confirmed that the writers’ room had no East Asian nor female representation. After the original creator Choi left, there was no Korean representation behind the scenes at all. Even though Liu himself is Chinese, he still attempted to fill in the gap along with some of the other actors. They attempted to influence the storylines to maintain some authenticity but were ultimately rejected.

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.

— Simu Liu

From left: Simu Liu, Andrew Phung, and Michael Musi | @SimuLiu/Twitter

His on-screen mom Jean Yoon, who also portrayed Umma in the original play, responded to a judgmental article about Simu’s statements regarding the show’s ending that framed him as bitter, ungrateful and pitted him against Choi. Yoon not only spoke in defense of her costar but in agreement with him. She ended up revealing some of her own uncomfortable and painful experiences that she had while working on Kim’s Convenience.

As 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 Kims made my life VERY DIFFICULT & the experience of working on the show painful … your attack on my cast mate Simu Liu, in the defense of my fellow Korean artist Ins Choi is neither helpful nor merited. Mr. Choi wrote the play, I was in … He created the TV show, but his co-creator Mr. Kevin White was the showrunner, and clearly set the parameters. 

— Jean Yoon

Kevin White (left) and Ins Choi (right) | @KimsConvenience/Twitter
She revealed that White was truly the showrunner all of this time, although it was concealed from the cast for a long time. Due to White’s control overtaking Choi’s, the show began to suffer. Ultimately, the characters became more like caricatures with racist stereotypes. Season five was somewhat saved when Choi resumed control.

The cast received drafts of all S5 scripts in advance of shooting BECAUSE of Covid, at which time we discovered storylines that were OVERTLY RACIST, and so extremely culturally inaccurate that the cast came together and expressed concerns collectively. Under Mr. Choi’s leadership, S5 restored many of the core values of the original show, and most offensive ‘jokes’ were removed.

— Jean Yoon

From left: Patrick Kwok-Choon, Ins Choi, Jean Yoon | @jean_yoon/Twitter

Yoon gave a brief glimpse into the horrible final season that could have been by summarizing a scene that was drafted while White was still in charge.

Pastor Nina comes to the story to pick up Mrs. Kim for a Zumba class. Mrs. Kim is wearing NUDE shorts, and Pastor Nina is [too] embarrassed to tell her she looks naked from the waist down. Mr. Kim enters, and the joke is that if you’re married[,] you can say anything. No one, [especially] Mrs. Kim, would be unaware that a garment makes her look naked. Unless she is suddenly cognitively impaired. or STUPID. Stripping someone naked is the first act before public humiliation or rape. So what was so funny about that? At my request, Mr. Choi cut [the] scene.

— Jean Yoon

From left: Amanda Brugel as Pastor Nina, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Appa, and Jean Yoon as Umma | CBC Television

That portrayal of Mrs. Kim was never okay and not true to her character either, but it would have been especially ill-timed as well. Yoon recalled that if it had aired, it would have been just hours after the Atlanta, GA, shooting in which several people, including six Asian women, lost their lives.

THAT scene would have aired hours after 8 people, 6 Asian women, were shot in Atlanta, GA in a hate crime spree that shocked the nation. THIS IS WHY IT MATTERS. If an Asian actor says, ‘Hey this isn’t cool,’ then maybe should just fix it, and say THANK YOU.

— Jean Yoon

Jean Yoon | @jean_yoon/Twitter

Like Liu, she also confirmed that no writers involved truly knew or understood Korean culture, not even the food. The writers did not proactively attempt to educate themselves about the culture despite working on a TV series about a Korean family.

If I hadn’t spoken up[,] all the Korean food in the show would have been WRONG. Ins doesn’t know how to cook or how things are cooked, no one else in the writers room were Korean, and THEY HAD NO KOREAN CULTURAL RESOURCES IN THE WRITERS ROOM AT ALL. What I find tragic about this situation was the refusal to believe the urgency with which we advocated for inclusion in the writers room. The failure to send us treatments, outlines, the resistance to cultural corrections & feedback.

— Jean Yoon

| @SimuLiu/Twitter

The writers on staff refused to acknowledge and take seriously the only people who truly understood the characters’ culture, the Asian actors who portrayed them. Rather than show the cast respect and listen to their concerns, they ignored and resisted them.

There is so much I am proud of. But S3 & S4 in particular had many moments of dismissal & disrespect as an actor, where it mattered, with the writers. And the more successfully I advocated for my character, the more resistance and suspicion I earned from the Writers/Producers.

— Jean Yoon

If we can learn anything from this situation, both women and Asian writers must be part of the creative process, especially when there are women and Asian characters in storylines. While we hope for more Asian representation in entertainment, we don’t want them to continue to portray harmful stereotypes. The only way we’ll truly have accurate storylines is if we have Asians both in front of and behind the camera.

In the final bedroom scene in S5, Mrs. Kim weeps because she believes that God has abandoned her. The more she prays for something, the more certain it will get worse. That’s what it felt like. The love died.

— Jean Yoon

Source: @jean_yoon, Simu Liu and Image
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