The Stars of ‘Kim’s Convenience’ Are Opening Up About How the Show Failed Them

Over five seasons, CBC’s hit sitcom Kim’s Convenience has carved out a small but devoted base of fans who loved the funny and frequently poignant exploits of a Korean Canadian family running a small Toronto convenience store. The show won praise for its clever writing and launched the career of Simu Liu, who’s fast on his way to becoming a mega-celebrity as the star of Marvel’s upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

But behind the scenes, another story was unfolding. The stars of Kim’s Convenience were frustrated by “overtly racist” storylines in the script, and how rarely they felt heard when they voiced concerns about the portrayals of Korean Canadian families. The stories being told are a reminder that while racial representation is good, it only goes so far if there’s no seat at the table involved.

It all started when Liu posted a lengthy Facebook message as Kim’s Convenience wrapped its fifth and final season. In it, Liu was frank about his experience with the show, detailing both gratitude for his family and appreciation for the crew while also expressing disappointment with other elements of the show. He addressed rumors that the show was ending because Liu was moving on to bigger and more exciting Hollywood opportunities.

“This could not be further from the truth,” he wrote. “I love this show and everything it stood for. I saw firsthand how profoundly it impacted families and brought people together. It’s truly SO RARE for a show today to have such an impact on people, and I wanted very badly to make the schedules work.”

Liu says that he was getting frustrated with how little creative input he and his fellow cast members were being given on the show — particularly when it came to portrayals of their characters that they felt veered into racial stereotypes.

“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,” he wrote. “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. … there was deliberately not a lot of leeway given to us.”


Liu also said that he and his fellow cast members were locked into bad contracts, making less money per episode than his fellow Canadian sitcom colleagues in Schitt’s Creek — a show that did not perform as well in the ratings as Kim’s Convenience did.

It’s rare for an actor to speak so candidly about their experience on a show, and one of Canada’s Globe and Mail TV critics wasn’t a fan. He wrote a column blasting Liu as being “unfair” and “mean-spirited,” and that’s when Jean Yoon joined the chat to defend Liu and echo his frustrations.

“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 wrote. She noted that while Ins Choi, the Korean writer who wrote the play Kim’s Convenience was based on, was the showrunner, his influence over the series was eclipsed by a preponderance of white writers and producers.

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Liu agreed.

“Aside from Ins, there were no other Korean voices in the room,” Liu wrote. “And personally I do not think he did enough to be a champion for those voices (including ours). When he left (without so much as a goodbye note to the cast), he left no protege, no padawan learner, no Korean talent that could have replaced him.”

So far, there has been very little response from the writers and producers. What there is is a reminder that diversity is not enough. For there to be real change — both in Hollywood and our own workspaces, neighborhoods and churches — people from historically marginalized communities need to be given voice and leverage in the white spaces they’ve been traditionally boxed out of.

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