Simu Liu Says ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ Is a “Watershed Moment”

Shang Chi

At the world premiere of Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Ringsleading actor Simu Liu shared his excitement about the film — the first time the studio has delivered a superhero flick with an Asian lead —  telling Variety what an “incredible honour” it was and that he hoped it would not be the last.

“Because we’ve been celebrating a lot of firsts in our community — when Crazy Rich Asians came out three years ago, we celebrated that as the first studio movie with a predominantly Asian cast in almost 25 years,” the actor said.

“I’m looking forward to the moment where we no longer celebrate firsts. We’re celebrating seconds, and thirds, and fourths, and fifths. So I’ll take this moment for what it is. It is absolutely that watershed moment. But I hope that there are many more just like it afterwards.”

For the actor, the opportunity to provide greater visibility for the Asian community in a superhero film, much like Chadwick Boseman did for the Black community with Black Panther, is one he takes very seriously as he knows all-too-well what it means,

“I’ve heard the classic ‘go back to China’ more times than I can count,” the 32-year-old Kim’s Convenience star previously told Variety. “The truth is that Asian people have been targeted and discriminated against for far, far longer than COVID has been around. These recent attacks, fuelled by racist rhetoric in the wake of the coronavirus, are yet another reminder that we are only seen as the foreigners, the unwelcome presence…the other.”

The world premiere of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings comes just a few days after Liu responded via Twitter to a remark made by Disney CEO Bob Chapek, who had said the theatrical-only release strategy for the tentpole would be “an interesting experiment.” The film will be in cinemas for 45 days before it is added to Disney+.

“We are not the experiment,” Liu Tweeted in response. “We are the underdog; the underestimated. We are the ceiling-breakers. We are the celebration of culture and joy that will persevere after an embattled year. We are the surprise.”

Referencing his post on the red carpet, Liu said, “I just wanted people to know how fired up I was for this movie. It’s been a tough, tough time for everybody. And, I think sometimes it’s just so important to get messaging through that’s just emotional. It’s raw.

“And it just shows the world just how much I, and we all, believe in this movie and how incredible it’s going to be. It’s truly going to change the world.”

Starring Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh, Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, Florian Munteanu and Ronny Chieng, the movie tells the story of Shang-Chi, who has been trained as an assassin since childhood by the Ten Rings terror organisation.

Having escaped the clutches of the Ten Rings, Shang-Chi tries his best to assimilate back into society and live a normal life but finds himself being drawn back into the organisation. 

In addition to featuring a beautifully diverse cast, the film will also celebrate martial arts — a skill that Liu trained extensively to master for his role.

Liu’s advocacy for the importance of Asian representation onscreen also extended to his former sitcom Kim’s Convenience, which was abruptly cancelled by Netflix after its fifth season.

In a lengthy Facebook post, the actor spoke on the issue of having a show about a Korean-Canadian family be overseen by a predominantly white group of producers, who often would not tell their cast what developments were in store for their characters until soon before shooting. This process left little to no time for the actors to weigh in and ensure that their stories were being told authentically.

“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,” Liu wrote. “I can appreciate that the show is still a hit and is enjoyed by many people… but I remain fixated on the missed opportunities to show Asian characters with real depth and the ability to grow and evolve.”

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be in Australian cinemas on September 2, 2021. Catch the trailer below.

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