CBS Execs Talk Five-0 Exits, Status of Diversity Push ('Change Is Happening')

HAwaii Five-0

“There is change happening,” newly minted CBS entertainment chief Kelly Kahl said on Tuesday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, where for a second year running the network’s lack of diversity in casting was a hot topic.

Kahl said that between this fall’s new offerings (which include the Shemar Moore-led S.W.A.T.) and midseason entries , diverse casting is up “almost 60 percent,” while inroads have been made in the writing and directing ranks as week. “We are absolutely moving in the right direction. We are making progress,” he reiterated.

CBS however once again did not greenlight any new shows fronted by a woman. Senior EVP Thom Sherman — also new to his post — reminded that a year ago there were “several female-led” pilots (that didn’t move forward), before adding: “I feel confident that we will be successful” in improving that representation.

Speaking of diversity, Kahl was asked to revisit Hawaii Five-0‘s big shake-up. Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim parted ways with the show in late June, when their reported request for salary parity with series leads Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan were not met. In a Facebook post about his “difficult choice not to continue,” Kim told fans, “The path to equality is rarely easy.” In response, showrunner Peter M. Lenkov said that H50 had been “extremely generous and proactive in their renegotiation talks,” offering “unprecedented raises, but in the end they chose to move on.”

Kahl echoed that at TCA, saying, “We love both those actors and did not want to lose them. We made very, very strong attempts to keep them,” offering “an awful lot of money.” But the reality, with long-running dramas, he said, is “sometimes you lose cast members.” As the CSIs, Grey’s Anatomy and SVU have all experienced, “At some point there’s some cast turnover.”