“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ” star Simu Liu covers the June 2021 issue of Men’s Health magazine photographed by Peter Yang.
The star of this summer’s Shang-Chi—and the FIRST ASIAN lead in a Marvel movie—talks about playing a superhero onscreen, being a change agent IRL, and the challenges, responsibilities, and powers that come with those roles.
On his initial thoughts when Marvel announced Shang-Chi: “I was almost disappointed, I was like, how many opportunities do we have for Asian superheroes, and this one guy is, like, just a kung fu master? It just felt kind of reductive and, you know, not true to life and not anything that I could relate to.”
On the Asian American experience: “There is something missing in Asian America. They’re missing people to tell them, ‘It’s okay to be who you are. You belong. Just be unapologetically you; you’re not less than anybody else.’”
On his Marvel character Shang-Chi: “I am that person that struggled with my identity my whole life. I am that person that’s always felt like he wasn’t enough. And those [experiences] are more core to Shang-Chi’s character than his ability to punch people.”
On playing a role that resembled his childhood (in Kim’s Convenience): “I kind of saw [my parents’] side for the first time, it really just hit me how much they sacrificed to come to this new country, to speak a language that they didn’t know at all. It really made me sad for all the years that I spent resenting them.”
On being an Asian man in Hollywood: “When I think about my parents, they wanted to minimize all of their struggle; they never enjoyed talking about what they went through coming over here, in a way, those stories will be lost in time if we don’t fight for them, because white people aren’t going to write it for us. So in a lot of ways, I feel like it’s our responsibility to kind of, to document and to expose it, what has been going on in our world and our collective world and communities, and to share that story.”
On the increasing level of violence against Asians: “We’re experiencing harassment and violence at an unprecedented level, and it’s just very important to be a guy that stands up and says, ‘Hey, this is not okay.’ And there is a real responsibility that comes with not just anybody with a platform but with mine, specifically, of being the first of a community to be, you know, a superhero. Maybe that’s why I loved superhero movies from the very get-go, they grapple with these big ideas of good versus evil. Once you have power, how are you going to use it?”
On his next role: “On the shoulders of all that’s come before me, with Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan and Jet Li, to finally be in an opportunity where we can explore uncharted territory for Asian faces, to then stay in the martial-arts realm, it wouldn’t be a good move. I think you’ll see me in something that’s not distinctly Asian. And pretty soon you’re going to start seeing my name pop up in projects I’m not acting in, ultimately, when it’s all said and done, it will be more than just the roles that I took on as an actor. It’ll be what I’m able to contribute to the world in terms of stories, in terms of culture.”
[Photo Credit: Peter Yang for Men’s Health Magazine]
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