Simu Liu poses for a portrait on November 22, 2021 in New York City. Liu was named one of the eight revolutionary artists of the year by the Associated Press. (Photo by Taylor Jewell / Invision / AP)

Taylor Jewel / Invision / AP

When little-known actor Simu Liu tweeted in 2014 asking Marvel for an Asian-American superhero, he wasn’t up for a job – he was speaking out in front of Hollywood’s status quo.

“I felt such frustration turning on the television and, as a struggling actor, too, I really saw the limits of what was possible for people like me,” said Liu, who has been appointed the one of the revolutionary artists of AP. of the year. “Fast forward five years, and here I am. “

Liu played the role of Shaun / Shang-Chi in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” the first Marvel movie to be directed by an Asian superhero. The hit film smashed records for Labor Day openings and releases during the pandemic era, en route to more than $ 430 million in ticket sales worldwide.

“My goal has always been to try to get out of Hollywood, and for a few years nothing happened,” said the Chinese-born Canadian actor. “Then in 2019 the craziest thing happened… I get all these amazing opportunities. More recently it was ‘SNL’, but it was also going to the Met Gala – so many different things. I had the opportunity to be on “Sesame Street”. I mean, it’s been such a joy and such a privilege to come through.

While Liu enjoys success, he always looked at the big picture. “Shang-Chi,” which is now available on Disney + and on Blu-ray / DVD, allowed audiences of all ages to see a wide range of Asian faces and characters – something they didn’t have – same.

Growing up, Liu admired global icon Will Smith; he recalls being astonished after learning that Smith, a black man, was at one point the highest-grossing actor in Hollywood.

“I found it so amazing because he was an actor of color. And even though he wasn’t Asian, I still felt like there was a part of me that was linked to him,” he said. Liu said.

And while Smith obviously deserves the admiration of any budding young actor, Liu’s ambitious choices were also limited.

“Growing up, in terms of people who look like me, there was really only Jackie Chan and Jet Li. And even though I think I enjoyed watching them, there was always a distance too because we came from there. “Very different backgrounds. And I think the characters they were forced to play were also very exaggerated versions of what Asians really are.

Liu, whose family immigrated to the Toronto area when he was 5 from China, was previously best known for “Kim’s Convenience,” a Canadian comedy about a Korean immigrant family who ran a convenience store. The show abruptly ended in controversy after the fifth season when the two co-creators inexplicably walked out despite gaining a cult following after Netflix picked it up. He has also appeared in “Blood and Water”, a Canadian crime drama with dialogue in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.

The next 32-year-old is “Arthur The King”, starring Mark Wahlberg, who tells the story of a captain of a Swedish adventure racing team who befriends an injured dog as he was running in the Ecuadorian jungle. He will also star in “One True Loves”, a romantic comedy starring Phillipa Soo and Luke Bracey.

“We have to show Asian Americans in all kinds of facets and in all kinds of lights. So that will be what the next steps in my career will focus on, ”Liu explained. “That, and I think creating opportunities for other creative people of color that come along. And step into a production role and be a self-generator, rather than just someone waiting for the opportunity to present itself. “

Back to this tweet: Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, told Liu that he was completely unaware of the social media post, so it had no influence on him to get the role. For Liu, this means a bigger lesson.

“I think there is something to be said about setting a goal or putting a pointer on the horizon and saying I’m going in that direction,” Liu said. “Give yourself permission to recognize your dreams and ambitions. Give yourself permission to vocalize it and broadcast it around the universe, then work really, really hard to make it happen.


To learn more about the 2021 class of AP’s Breakthrough Entertainers, please visit: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-breakthrough-entertainers