‘It’s a big moment for our community’: Simu Liu on being Marvel’s first Asian lead

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In 2018 Simu Liu sent a tweet in which he asked Marvel "are we gonna talk or what?", and used the hashtag #ShangChi.

Now, in a storyline perhaps worthy of its own Hollywood movie, the actor's first film as the superhero is hitting cinemas across the world.

And Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings isn't just a dream come true for Liu – as the character is Marvel's first Asian superhero – the movie marks a milestone moment for many film fans who have been waiting to feel represented by the studio and within the genre.

Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios' SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ..Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

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Liu is playing Shang-Chi. Pic: Marvel Studios

"It's a big moment for our community, obviously, and for me personally, too," Liu told Sky News.

"It's my first feature film in the Hollywood world and I didn't want to do anything less than the absolute best."

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The film is an origin story, and sees Shang-Chi forced to confront a past he thought he'd left behind.

It's also an action movie, with huge amounts of martial arts – something Liu admits he wasn't ready for when he first won the role.

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"I had some stunt background and a background in gymnastics, but by no means was I some sort of Jackie Chan or a Bruce Lee, like a pure master of the art – and I knew that I had my work cut out for me," he said.

"But that being said, I think that's the challenge that every actor faces when they're taking on a role and whether it's martial arts or playing piano or violin or figure skating or whatever you have, it's our job to immerse ourselves and fully commit to selling the reality of the character.

Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) in Marvel Studios' SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo by Jasin Boland. ..Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

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Liu says he had to train for the role. Pic: Marvel Studios

"So for about four months in Sydney, leading up to the start of photography, I worked, I want to say five or six hours a day, five days a week in the stunt department, and then I did an hour, an hour and a half of strength and conditioning, so I definitely took it seriously."

In another first for Marvel, the film has a mostly Asian cast, which includes Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh and the legendary Tony Leung.

Liu has joked on Twitter about how tough it is to impress his parents – but in working with Leung, he definitely had their attention.

 Xialing (Meng...er Zhang), Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Katy (Awkwafina)

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Awkwafina (R) also stars in the film. Pic: Marvel Studios

He said they would call every week during production.

Liu explained: "Every time they'd call they'd be like, 'How's Tony?' I'd be like 'Tony's fine – I'm also doing OK, Mom. Thank you!' But that's all she wanted to know.

"She was absolutely gutted that Tony couldn't make it out to the premiere because she was, more than her own son having a movie premiere, she was looking forward to having a picture with Tony Leung.

"So I look forward to the day where I can finally fulfil my mother's wish, but until then, maybe not fully proud of me just yet."

And it's not just Liu's Mum who is seemingly star-struck by the veteran actor – Liu heaped praise on his co-star, calling him "magnetic and compelling"

"It's just such an honour to go to work with him every day," Liu said.

Wenwu (Tony Leung) in Marvel Studios' SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ..Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

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Liu said working with Tony Leung was an 'honour'. Pic: Marvel Studios

"I think about a movie star of his stature, right, with his body of work in Asia and just being as A-list as he is, he really just comes off as so down to earth, so grounded, approachable, very gentle, soft spoken guy, very friendly too and so there was a lot of great times hanging out off set and also in between takes.

"He's [got a] very, very incredible work ethic, he shows up to work, he never has his phone, he always is around set and never goes back to his trailer, is just so incredibly focussed on the work and, you know, I think lifted the rest of us up with him, so it was truly a joy to work with him every day."

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday.

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