WATCH — Simu Liu’s new superhero role is a big deal for young Asian-Canadians

CBC Kids News • Published 2019-08-05 07:00

Kids feel empowered by Marvel Studio's upcoming film

A new superhero is breaking, kicking and nunchucking his way through the Avengers universe — and he's resonating with Asian-Canadian kids.

Marvel Studios recently announced it's going to make a new movie called Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Scheduled for release in 2021, the film marks the first time the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has ever centred one of its movies around an Asian superhero.

What's more, he's going to be played by Canada's own Simu Liu.

Liu is perhaps best known for playing Jung Kim on CBC's Kim's Convenience.

Simu Liu stars as Jung Kim in the CBC sitcom Kim's Convenience. (CBC)

"This really hits home," said Sean Tran, a 15-year-old YouTuber from Mississauga, Ont.

"I look up to Simu," he said. "I watch Kim's Convenience and the fact that the whole cast is Asian, and now an actor from that show is a lead in a Marvel film, it makes me feel like I can chase my dreams too."

Sean Tran, 15, says Simu Liu's casting in the new Marvel film inspired him to think that he, too, can make his dreams come true. (Submitted by Sean Tran)

It's not common for an Asian actor to have the chance to star in a leading role in Hollywood. It's even more rare for an Asian-Canadian to land the part.

Liu was ecstatic when he found out he got the job.

"It felt like a Cinderella moment, the totally ordinary guy was just plucked out of his life and dropped into the biggest stage in the world," he said in an interview with CBC's The National.

Marvel recently announced Canadian actor Simu Liu was cast as the legendary kung fu master superhero Shang-Chi. (Marvel Comics)

Nicole Wong, 15, another of Liu's fans, said she feels the casting is a step in the right direction.

"As a Chinese-Canadian, I feel a type of pride when I see an Asian character in a starring role of a film," said Nicole, who lives in Richmond Hill, Ont.,"You really don't see that in Hollywood."

Nicole Wong, right, and her sister Julia Wong, left, met Canadian actor Simu Liu at Markham, Ont.'s annual Night It Up! festival. (Submitted by Nicole Wong)

Liu, who is also of Chinese descent, believes this movie could be a game changer.

"I hope with this movie there will be a generation of kids, hopefully millions and millions of kids, that will see themselves represented quite frankly like they haven't before," he said.

MCU and diversity

The decision to make Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the latest effort by Marvel to redefine what superheroes look like.

First with Black Panther, then Captain Marvel.

MCU's Black Panther was a big blockbuster hit. (Marvel Studios)

The studio recently announced a diverse range of new faces for its Phase 4, the string of movies and TV shows that will be in production heading into 2021.

This includes Natalie Portman taking over for Chris Hemsworth as the mighty Thor and Mahershala Ali assuming the role of the daywalking vampire hunter Blade.

Twitter fan @asherxloren recently tweeted the new faces of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Twitter)

Diverse storylines create a sense of inclusion

Liu believes that with more Hollywood films like Crazy Rich Asians, which was a blockbuster hit, and now Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, things will start to change.

"Something that I struggled with a lot as a kid growing up ... we were constantly made fun of for the things that made us different. We were always made to feel like being Asian was something to be ashamed of," Liu said.

Nicole says she can relate.

"It's not as prevalent in my generation but it's still kind of like more of a silent type of discrimination," she said.

"I'd come to school and I would know I was different from everyone else. I was made fun of, similar to Simu, about how I looked. Being Chinese, I always felt the stigma of being afraid to show my culture and who I really am and that I had to be immersed in Western culture to fit in."

Twelve-year-old Cooper Nam thinks shows like Kim's Convenience and films like Crazy Rich Asians are important because they are contemporary portrayals of the Western Asian experience.

"I am excited [about Shang-Chi], but I was kind of wishing for something else because there are so many movies with Asian characters that are kung fu-oriented," he said.

Cooper Nam, 12, would prefer to see more Asian-led films that are not about kung fu. (Submitted by Joanna Lee)

But for Lui, being cast as Shang-Chi is a milestone in more ways than one.

"For me, my journey in this industry has always been about fighting for representation, identity and the right to belong. With this MCU superhero role, I really feel like it's a decisive victory."

Marvel Studios will begin filming Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings in January, 2020.

With Files from CBC's The National

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