Set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an upcoming live-action superhero film. Playing the Master of Kung Fu is Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, the film will be the first Marvel film to feature a leading Asian superhero.

Shang-Chi is a Kung Fu expert who uses various unarmed and weapon-based styles that include using the gùn (a long Chinese martial art staff), nunchaku (traditional Okinawan martial arts weapon) and jian (double-edged Chinese straight sword). In the comics, the character later develops the power to create countless duplicates of himself before joining the Avengers.

The cast

Awkwafina and Tony Leung join the cast of Marvel's Shang-Chi, with Leung playing The Mandarin.
via Awkwafina's Instagram (@awkwafina), and
Awkwafina and Tony Leung join the cast of Marvel’s Shang-Chi, with Leung playing The Mandarin.
via Awkwafina’s Instagram (@awkwafina), and

Joining Liu in the movie cast are fellow Chinese-American actress/rapper Awkwafina and Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai. There is no news yet on the role Awkwafina will be portraying. As for Leung, he will be making his Hollywood debut as the powerful and mysterious leader of the Ten Rings, The Mandarin.

A dream come true

For years, Liu has been tweeting at Marvel with posts dating back to 2014 about his dream to play an Asian American hero.

Here’s another in 2018:

Even though it was just for jokes, Liu’s relentless pursuit to become the first Asian film superhero has now finally come true. As Liu put it at San Diego Comic Con, “This is just the craziest dream.”

But it’s not without proving he can walk the walk after all that talk.

Simu Liu to play Shang-Chi, the first Marvel Asian superhero lead.
via Simu Liu's Instagram (@simuliu)
Simu Liu to play Shang-Chi, the first Marvel Asian superhero lead.
via Simu Liu’s Instagram (@simuliu)

Marvel film producer Kevin Feige told ET Canada: “First of all, he did an amazing series of auditions. He did amazing. We don’t mess around. You know, with our casting director Sarah Finn meets with hundreds of people, we look at dozens. It came down to a handful.”

“He was just great. He kept being great. He was always great for the screen test… We did a pretty complex screen test in New York on Sunday, looked at it together as a group back at Marvel on Monday and called him on the phone and said, go on a plane, you’re coming to San Diego,” Feige said with a grin.

Is Liu a martial artist like Shang-Chi?

So far, the reactions to Liu picking up the role of Shang-Chi have all been generally positive. Though there is one reservation: Liu isn’t a martial artist like the superhero. That worries me a little too.

Shot by Tina Jung
via Simu Liu’s Instagram (@simuliu)

For a character that’s super skilled in Kung Fu, you’d expect the role to be played by an actor who can portray that ability believably on screen. According to South China Morning Post, Liu is a martial arts fans but that only means he’s not a practitioner.

However, he’s no stranger to stunt work as he was part of NBC’s Heroes Reborn stunt team. I tried searching for his stunt videos online but there’s none available. Hopefully, we get to see snippets of him showing off some skills soon!

And judging from the tremendous vote of confidence from Feign and the rest of the Marvel team, seems like Liu is born to play the role of Shang-Chi. Plus, the CBC sitcom Kim’s Convenience star has the looks, charisma and sense of humour that will make him a likable and possibly iconic Asian superhero.

Mark your calendar: the film comes out on 12 February 2021.