Jean Yoon Says Working On 'Kim's Convenience' Was 'Painful' & Made Life 'Very Difficult'
There were "overtly racist" and "culturally inaccurate" storylines, she tweeted.
Another member of the Kim's Convenience cast is speaking out about their awful experience behind the scenes of the beloved series.
Jean Yoon, who plays family matriarch Umma on the show, put out a series of tweets on June 6 about "overtly racist" storylines, the lack of representation in the writers' room and the "disrespect" shown to actors when they advocated for their characters.
@MisterJohnDoyle Dear sir, as an Asian Canadian woman, a Korean-Canadian woman w more experience and knowledge of t… https://t.co/0fiQyT4fwu— Jean Yoon (윤 진 희 or 尹真姬) (@Jean Yoon (윤 진 희 or 尹真姬)) 1623010133.0
"The lack of Asian female, especially Korean writers in the [writers'] room of [Kim's Convenience] made my life VERY DIFFICULT & the experience of working on the show painful," Yoon said. She added that while her "fellow Korean artist" Ins Choi created the show, his co-creator Kevin White was the showrunner who "clearly set the parameters" and that was hidden from the cast.
"The cast received drafts of all [Season 5] 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," Yoon said.
"What I find tragic about this situation was the refusal to believe the urgency with which we advocated for inclusion in the [writers'] room," she tweeted. "But [Season 3] & [Season 4] 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."
What else did Jean Yoon reveal about Kim's Convenience?
Yoon said that White being the showrunner who set parameters for the series was clear because Choi had a "diminished presence on set." Between seasons four and five, that "became a crisis" and the cast was told Choi would take control of the show for the final season.
According to her, that restored a lot of the show's core values and most of the offensive storylines were taken out, including one that she asked to be removed.
"If an Asian actor says, 'Hey this isn't cool,' then maybe should just fix it, and say THANK YOU," Yoon tweeted.
She also revealed that there were no Korean cultural resources in the writers' room and if she hadn't spoken up, all of the Korean food in the show "would have been wrong."
Yoon made a connection between this situation and a scene from Season 5 where her character cries because she thinks God abandoned her and the more she prays for something, the more certain it is that it'll get worse.
"That's what it felt like. The love died," Yoon said.
What did Simu Liu say about the series?
He said that the spin-off series about Shannon being created made him "resentful of all of the circumstances that led to the one non-Asian character getting her own show."
Liu also revealed that the cast was "paid an absolute horsepoop rate" that was nothing compared to the wages for shows like Schitt's Creek.
Just like Yoon, Liu said that the writers' room lacked both East Asian and female representation and that when the cast tried to share ideas and thoughts for the show, nothing came from it.
"I can appreciate that the show is still a hit and is enjoyed by many people," he said. "But I remain fixated on the missed opportunities to show Asian characters with real depth and the ability to grow and evolve."
"I still believe in what the show once stood for; a shining example of what can happen when the gates come down and minorities are given a chance to shine," Liu said.
Narcity reached out to CBC and Kevin White for comment but did not immediately hear back before publication.