simu liu introduction

Marvel is making history with its upcoming comic book film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which will feature the studio’s first-ever Asian superhero. Shang-Chi, a character created by Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart in the early 1970s in the midst of global martial arts mania, has some odds stacked against him. He’s a character steeped in the stereotypes of the time, and he’s a little-known superhero outside of diehard Marvel Comics fans. But Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu, who was announced as the star of the highly anticipated Marvel movie at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend, is more than worthy of rising up to the task of bringing Shang-Chi into the modern era.

Simu Liu may not be a household name Stateside, but the actor is a rising star in his home country of Canada and a beloved figure in the Asian diaspora community thanks to his role in the hit sitcom Kim’s Convenience. Here’s what you need to know.

Who is Simu Liu?

Born in China and raised in Canada, Simu Liu may not be known in the U.S., but he has been modestly making a name for himself on the other side of the border. Liu began acting in 2012 after a short-lived career in finance and accounting, getting extra work in the CW series Nikita and Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim before working as a stunt performer on NBC’s Heroes Reborn. He landed his first major role in the Canadian crime drama Blood and Water (and even landed a few TV award nominations for it), but it wasn’t until Liu was cast as a co-lead in the sitcom Kim’s Convenience that he really hit it big.

As the estranged son of the titular Mr. Kim in Kim’s Convenience, Liu gets to be more than the meathead hunk of the sitcom about an immigrant family running a convenience store in the Moss Park neighborhood of Toronto. Liu is effortlessly funny and frequently shirtless, sure, but his character’s strained relationship with his father (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) is the central dynamic of the sitcom and offers a little more depth to a series about the family’s workplace shenanigans. Liu’s Jung Kim is a struggling 20-something who works as an assistant manager at a rental car company, and gradually reconnects with his father throughout the series, aided by his mother and sister. But Liu gets to stretch his chops in the romance department as well (though it’s uncertain whether Shang-Chi will be dabbling in romance at all), with a sweet will-they-won’t-they plotline with his coworker.

In Kim’s Convenience, Liu is a charismatic and oh-so-dreamy leading man in the making, and his comedy roots will likely aid him immensely as a Marvel superhero.

A Convenient Choice for Shang-Chi

Kim’s Convenience is a major hit in Canada, the success of which spread to the Asian-American community once the series made its international debut on Netflix in 2018. It became a minor sensation among the Asian-American community — I’ve lost count of the number of relatives and friends who have asked me whether I’ve watched Kim’s Convenience. Because of that, Liu has a pretty good standing among millennial Asian-Americans, which has been aided by his work with the popular Asian-American digital company Wong Fu Productions.

With Liu’s casting, Marvel continues its practice of turning comedy actors into superhero heartthrobs — just look at Chris Pratt as Star Lord, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, and in the supporting character realm, Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill. It’s paid off in spades for both Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, as both franchises have a funny streak running through them. For Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, it’s uncertain whether director Destin Daniel Cretton will draw on Liu’s comedy roots, but since it’s a Marvel movie, we can assume it will have its tongue firmly planted in its cheek.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: