Simu Liu SuccessStory
From switching careers to struggling finding roles, Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu has managed to turn life around with the help of hard work and perseverance. Today, Liu’s success story has never been more inspiring as he stars in Marvel Studios’ latest hit “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and will be one of the voices in the upcoming animated series “Star Wars: Visions”.
Childhood and Education
Simu Liu was born in Harbin in the province of Heilongjiang, China on April 19, 1989. He was raised by his grandparents before migrating to Canada with his parents at only five years old. The family eventually settled in Erin Mills which is a suburban district in Mississauga, Ontario.
After graduating high school at the University of Toronto Schools, Liu attended Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario. He finished with a finance and accounting degree in 2011.
Liu commenced his career as an accountant for professional services giant Deloitte. He was laid off after eight months while also realizing that working in the finance industry wasn’t a good fit. He eventually decided to go into acting which was one of his interests growing up.
Despite the dismay of his parents, Liu was convinced of forging a career as an actor. He landed his first role in the CW action series “Nikita”, portraying a desk officer in one episode. He then appeared in one-off episodes in several shows including the Syfy comedy “Warehouse 13”, CBS police drama “Beauty and the Beast”, and Nickelodeon musical comedy “Make it Pop!”. He was also an extra in the 2013 science-fiction blockbuster “Pacific Rim” directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, and Rinko Kikuchi.
In 2016, Liu made his television breakthrough in the CBS comedy “Kim’s Convenience”. He portrays Jung Kim, a charming salesman who is estranged from his father Sang-il Kim (portrayed by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) after committing theft and undergoing juvenile detention as a teenager. The show also stars Jean Yoon, Andrea Bang, Andrew Phung, and Nicole Power. Lee is also known for his role as Randy Ko in the popular Canadian soap opera “Train 48”.
Kim’s Convenience aired for five seasons between 2016 and 2021 and is recognized as one of the most successful shows in Canadian television history. From around 50 award nominations, it won 12 including Best Comedy Series in the 2017 and 2018 Canadian Screen Awards, Best Actor in a Comedy Series (Lee) in the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards, and Outstanding Female Performance (Yoon) in the 2017 Toronto ACTRA Awards. A spin-off show “Strays” starring Power who reprises her role as Shannon Ross will be premiering on September 2021.
Also in 2016, Liu co-starred in the action series “Taken” which is based on the film trilogy starring Liam Neeson. He portrays Faaron, a CIA personnel that assists lead character Brian Mills (Clive Standen). The show was canceled after two seasons.
In the next five years, Liu continued to play minor roles in numerous television shows including “Dark Matter”, “Orphan Black”, “Fresh off the Boat”, and “Awkwafina is Nora From Queens”. He also starred in the comedy “Yappie” and the crime drama “Blood and Water”. The latter was acclaimed by critics and earned multiple nominations in the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards including Best Dramatic Series and a Best Supporting Actor nod for Liu.
Joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe
In 2019, Liu scored his first-ever film role as he was announced to play Shang Chi in Disney and Marvel Studios’ “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”. The announcement was made during Marvel’s presentation at the San Diego Comic-Con. Liu had previously tweeted a year prior of being interesting in the role if ever Marvel showcased the character on the big screen, saying “OK #Marvel, are we gonna talk or what #ShangChi”. After meeting with the film’s director Destin Daniel Cretton and submitting an audition tape with scenes from “Good Will Hunting”, Liu eventually got the part.
Despite the Marvel movie being delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, “Shang Chi” was eventually released in September 2021. The film also stars iconic Hong Kong actor Tony Leung, multi-awarded Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh, and Liu’s former television co-star Awkwafina. Upon release, it became the biggest Labor Day opening ever ($71.4 million) and has received universal praise from both fans and critics.
Aside from the stunning visual effects and exhilarating martial arts scenes, the majority of the praise was also given to Liu and Leung’s performances with the latter starring in his first-ever Hollywood film. Since making a name in the Hong Kong film industry in the 1980s, Leung has won multiple international acting awards for his roles in “Lust, Caution”, “Chunking Express”, “People’s Hero”, and “In the Mood for Love”, among many others.
Liu penned a grateful note to the cast, crew, and fans after the film’s successful release and is hopeful that a sequel will be in the works in the future.
Liu will be appearing in another Disney project, voicing a character named Zhima in the upcoming Japanese anime anthology series “Star Wars: Visions”. The nine-episode show will premiere exclusively on Disney+ in September 2021.
The series is produced by LucasFilm Animation and six Japanese animation studios, Kamikaze Douga, Twin Engine, Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Production I.G., and Science SARU. This is the first time that Disney and LucasFilm are collaborating with Asian producers to create official Star Wars content.
Liu ventured into modeling during his early acting days wherein he was selected as a stock photo model. Recently, he became the first East Asian man since Jet Li to grace the cover of the popular magazine “Men’s Health”.
Proving that enough hard work will get you places, Simu Liu has worked his way tirelessly to get to where he is today. Shang Chi may be the actor’s defining role to date, but it appears there is more yet to come for the Chinese-Canadian actor.