Canadian actor Simu Liu cast as Marvel’s first Chinese superhero, Shang-Chi

New details about Marvel’s first Chinese hero were revealed at San Diego’s Comic-Con Saturday, including who the lead actor will be — and he’s Canadian.

Simu Liu, known for his role as Jung Kim on the CBC sitcom Kim’s Convenience, will star in the highly-anticipated superhero film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

The upcoming film marks Marvel’s first feature with an Asian lead.

Liu, 30, left China at the age of five and was raised in Mississauga, Ont. He graduated from the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University and began working at an accounting firm. When he was laid off within a year, he opted for a new career path.

He began acting in 2012 with a role on the TV series Nikita. Since then, he has had credits on Fresh Off The Boat, Orphan Black, Slasher and Bad Blood among other series. In 2017, he was nominated for both a Canadian Screen Award and an ACTRA Award for his role on the TV series Blood and Water. He won an ACTRA ensemble award the following year as part of the Kim’s Convenience cast.

Liu is best known for his role on the Canadian sitcom Kim’s Convenience, whose cast members seen here attended the 2019 Canadian Screen Awards. (Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The character of Shang-Chi, based on the Marvel Comics superhero, is often referred to as a master of Kung-Fu, having been trained in martial arts by his father from a young age. Awkwafina and Tony Leung will co-star in the film, which will be directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.

The announcement took place during Marvel’s heavily-attended panel at Comic-Con, in which the studio offered sneak peaks at its upcoming productions. It was also shared on social media by Deadpool creator Robert Liefeld, who said Liu was hired within days of being tested.

Strides for Asian actors

Marvel’s news comes on the heels of some major — and long-overdue — strides by Asian actors and creators in Hollywood, who have been historically underrepresented both on screen and behind the camera.

Last year’s Crazy Rich Asians, based on the novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, has become one of the top-grossing romantic comedies of the last several decades, according to Box Office Mojo. It featured a rarely-seen all-Asian cast and included film locations in Malaysia and Singapore (where most of the story is set). It was also nominated for a 2019 Golden Globe Award in the category of best comedy.

Canadian Domee Shi won an Oscar this year for Pixar’s animated short film Bao, which tells the story of a dumpling that comes to life in the home of a Chinese empty-nester.

Other recent films such as Always Be My Maybe, starring Ali Wong and Randall Park, and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, starring Lana Condor and Noah Centineo, have featured Asian leads in universally-themed storylines without making ethnicity the central focus.

China, a coveted market for Hollywood, has also become a significant market for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Avengers: Endgame became the top-grossing North American film at the Chinese box office, and the third overall. It smashed records there when it was released in April, earning more than $600 million US — the first foreign film to do so in the country.

The release date for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is slated for February 12, 2021. In addition to the film, Marvel also revealed The Eternals, starring Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden and Kumail Nanjiani, is set for release Nov. 6, 2020. It will also introduce the studio’s first deaf hero, played by Lauren Ridloff.



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