Why Grace Park had to leave Hawaii Five-0

In an era chock full of TV reboots, CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 balanced nostalgia and modernity with precision, appealing to fans both young and old. Yet while the show’s effective formula gave fans 10 seasons of fun and excitement, the action-packed police procedural began to falter when two of its leads — Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park — abruptly left the series after its seventh season. Kim’s character, Detective Lieutenant Chin Ho Kelly, supposedly left the team to start his own task force in San Francisco, while Park’s Officer Kono Kalakaua left for Carson City to help take down a sex trafficking ring, per Screen Rant.

However, behind the scenes, Kim and Park’s departures weren’t nearly as cut and dry. According to Variety, the actors “sought pay parity with the series’ lead actors, Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan,” who are both Caucasian. Although CBS allegedly offered both stars “large and significant salary increases” leading up to the eighth season, the amount wasn’t sufficient and both immediately chose to leave the show.

“Daniel and Grace have been important and valued members of Hawaii Five-0 for seven seasons,” CBS said in a statement. “We did not want to lose them and tried very hard to keep them with offers for large and significant salary increases. While we could not reach an agreement, we part ways with tremendous respect for their talents on screen, as well as their roles as ambassadors for the show off screen, and with hopes to work with them again in the near future.”

Grace Park chose her integrity over Hawaii Five-0

Although Grace Park’s departure from Hawaii Five-0 had to do with unequal pay among cast members, executive producer Peter M. Lenkov implied the actress left the show to reunite with her family. However, as Park revealed in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, that wasn’t the case. “I let him know, ‘That wasn’t cool that you made a statement on my behalf,'” Park said. “I know he did it to be helpful, and I care about Peter as a person, but I didn’t leave for that reason.”

“There were a number of factors spanning the show that affected the non-renewal of my contract. I’m grateful for the lessons learned, but I chose what was best for my integrity,” she added. 

“I know that people are always trying their best, and everyone’s coming from their own backgrounds. Throughout the whole series, I kept trying to see the best in everybody… Would I do it all over again? I wouldn’t be so quick to say yes … I’m still figuring stuff out. Sometimes people are just really good at burying stuff, and I think I’m like that.”

As Variety‘s Sonia Saraiya wrote, Park and co-star Daniel Dae Kim represented the series’ opportunity to “address, reframe, and appreciate” the original 1968 iteration of the show, as the focus on its white actors resulted in “yellowface casting in a manner that would be utterly unacceptable by contemporary standards.” But, as the pay debacle illustrated, the reboot had its own latent race issues.

Grace Park has 'A Million Little Things' to be thankful for now

While leaving Hawaii Five-0 left Grace Park with mixed feelings, the actress traded her police badge for a law degree when she joined the cast of ABC’s A Million Little Things as Katherine Saville. Although her character remained on the periphery during the show’s early episodes, Park quickly found herself at the heart of the drama. 

“She doesn’t need to be likable. She’s just doing the things she needs to get done,” Park told Entertainment Weekly. “Not everyone might like her, and I thought that was actually quite a relief of pressure, that you didn’t need to make your character funny or likable or cool or sexy or the lead.”

“These characters weren’t really living the lives they needed to live,” the actress said of the show. “That struck a strong chord with me. From the outside, people may think, ‘Oh, she’s really living the life she wants!'” she laughed. “I feel like I’m so far away from doing that.”

Park noted that, while not every member of the ensemble cast has the same salary — as they’re all at different points in their careers — she hopes they’ll eventually achieve parity. “You can’t always get back what you lost, but if you made it through, right now is a breathtaking time to watch the old structures fall, allowing the new life to rise.” And as AMLT enters its third season, this star will surely shine even brighter as the drama unfolds!

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