HomeAsian AmericansSimu Liu looking for lead role post-Shang-Chi

Simu Liu looking for lead role post-Shang-Chi

By Randall Yip, AsAmNews Executive Editor

Actor Simu Liu learned a hard truth about Hollywood after the phenomenal success of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

He discovered one successful lead role doesn’t necessarily lead to another, at least for Asian actors.

“Hollywood does not look for lead characters who look like me,” he told Nightline co-anchor Juju Chang on stage in New York City at The Asian American Foundation Leadership Summit.

Shang-Chi made $432 million at the box office in the midst of a pandemic and at a time theaters were struggling to attract customers. Yet he said the offers for lead roles did not come after the 2021 hit movie.

As the action hero puts it, “The fight never ends. Just because we have a superhero on the screen doesn’t mean the fight is over.”

Liu immigrated with his parents at the age of five from Harbin, China to Mississauga, Ontario. The Chinese Canadian actor has similar stories to those Asian Americans who have been ridiculed for eating “smelly” foods unfamiliar to their non-Asian classmates. Even today, Liu is puzzled by those reactions.

“Have you guys smelled a salami sandwich?” he wondered out loud. He envisioned a White kid in China whipping out a salami sandwich and all the Chinese kids screaming P.U.

Simu Liu on stage at The Asian American Foundation Summit with Juju Chang of ABC News. Behind him are photos from his childhood
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Liu made his parents happy studying business administration at the University of Western Ontario.

Deloitte hired him after he graduated, but fired him after eight months. He kept the news from his parents. Instead he used his small severance pay on head shots.

Desperate for money, he answered an ad on Craigslist to participate in a photo shoot for stock photos. He earned $100 which he said seemed better than unemployment at the time.

His first big role occurred when the CBC cast him in Kim’s Convenience, the story of a Korean immigrant family’s struggles running a convenience store.

“First time I saw my lived experience on screen,” he said.

Netflix picked up the Canadian broadcasting hit and streamed it world-wide. He says that show made him recognizable around the globe and he is often stopped when traveling.

He named such actors as Daniel Dae Kim and Randall Park as his role models, calling them “part of a generation of actors and creators” at a time when “opportunities were so scarce.”

Liu’s next role will be to play the part of Ken in the upcoming Barbie movie. He credited director Greta Gerwig for turning such an iconic childhood memory into a creative movie and script.

He revealed he had to audition for the role which was not written for an Asian actor.

Simu Liu sits in front of a photo of him as Shang-Chi
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By now Liu’s parents are aware of his success at an actor. He’s happy to know that his parents will always support him whether he is successful on screen or not. They offered him encouragement and affirmation while he nervously waited to hear whether he would land the role of Shang-Chi.

Hugs and affection followed after he heard the good news.

However, he noted to laughter, his parents still haven’t told him they love him.

“Asian parents just don’t do that,” he said.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


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