Simu Liu simultaneously had a really bad and really good day across the two properties that made him famous.
Liu had gotten into an argument on the set of “Kim’s Convenience” about a line that perpetuated a negative stereotype for his character. Later that same day he was informed that he would lead Marvel’s next big superhero movie, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”.
“I didn’t want audiences to see the character playing into that joke,” Liu tells Entertainment Weekly for the publication’s July 2021 cover issue. “It was terrifying. I was on the verge of tears. It was actually a really, really rough day.”
“I found myself on stage with some of the most famous people in the world wearing my $20 Zara sweater and skinny jeans,” he said of the Shangi-Chi reveal. “It was insane.”
For Liu, there is an inherent conflict in portraying Shang-Chi.
“There are two paradigms that are completely at odds with each other,” Liu says. “One being, as a progressive Asian American man, I’ve always wanted to shatter barriers and expectations of what Asian men are and be very aware of the boxes that we’re put into”
“Martial artists, sidekicks, exotic, or Orientalist. And then the other paradigm is, like, kung fu is objectively super f**king cool,” he adds. “There is a reason why kung fu caught fire and the world became obsessed with it — because it’s incredible to watch.”
Ultimately, Liu plans to “reclaim that s–t.”
“There was a time [as an Asian actor], I didn’t want anybody to see me doing martial arts,” he shares. “But I grew up watching Jet Li and Jackie Chan, and I remember the immense amount of pride that I felt watching them kick a**.”
“I think Shang-Chi can absolutely be that for Asian Americans. It means that kids growing up today will have what we never did — the ability to watch the screen and to really feel seen.”
Liu concedes that “Shang-Chi” can be a big moment for Asian-American representation in Hollywood; however, the work is far, far from done.
“Just because there’s one Asian American superhero in the MCU, it does not by any means imply that our fight is finished right there,” Liu says. “When we don’t have to celebrate every single win, I think we’ll be a little bit closer to our goal, but until then, there’s just so much left to do.”
“I’m ready to be in a position where I can effect real change, amplify voices, and put people in positions to get stories told that wouldn’t ordinarily get that opportunity. So, yes, all of that stuff I’m ready for,” he concludes. “It couldn’t come fast enough, actually.”