Actor Simu Liu has been on a roll since he starred in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in 2021. The Canadian actor of Asian origin has become one of the biggest stars in cinema since, with Greta Gerwig’s Barbie taking his iconic status to greater heights in 2023.
In Barbie, which is based on the world-famous doll of the same name by Mattel Inc., Liu plays one of the versions of Barbie’s boyfriend Ken. He is part of a large ensemble cast, which includes Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as the main Barbie and Ken characters, besides Dua Lipa, Nicola Coughlan, Emma Mackey, Alexandra Shipp, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ncuti Gatwa and John Cena, among others, playing versions of Barbie or Ken.
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But Liu is best known to worldwide audiences as Shang-Chi, the first Asian superhero to headline a Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film.
In the movie, Liu shares screen space with three Asian cinematic legends — Yuen Wah, Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Michelle Yeoh, who, in 2023, became the first Asian to win an Oscar for Best Actress for her role in Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022).
Liu was quite famous even before he landed the role of Shang-Chi. The star made a name for himself with the CBC sitcom Kim’s Convenience (2016–2021). He has also appeared in various series such as Nikita (2012), Warehouse 13 (2013), Blood and Water (2015), Taken (2016), and Fresh Off the Boat (2019).
He has appeared as a guest on the reality show Selling Sunset (2021) and voiced Lah Zhima in Star Wars: Visions (2021) and Adult Hubert Wong in The Simpsons (2022).
Since Shang-Chi, Liu has played prominent roles in movies such as One True Loves (2023) and Simulant (2023).
Things to know about Simu Liu
The actor ‘made’ Shang-Chi happen with his Twitter posts
In 2014, way before Marvel’s Shang-Chi was conceived, Simu Liu asked the studio about launching an Asian-American superhero.
When Marvel was thinking about translating Shang-Chi to screen, he persistently tweeted about it in 2018.
— Simu Liu (@SimuLiu) December 3, 2018
His tweets bore fruit on 20 July 2019 when Marvel announced him as the lead of Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings during their presentation at San Diego Comic-Con.
And once he was announced as the lead of the film, Liu hilariously posted another tweet with a “LOL” in his 2014 post, where he first asked Marvel to make a film with an Asian-American superhero.
— Simu Liu (@SimuLiu) July 21, 2019
He didn’t have much kung fu experience before Shang-Chi
In an interview with guest host Sean Hayes on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in August 2021, Simu Liu said that he had to practise several forms of martial arts for his Shang-Chi role as his experience with kung fu was only limited to performing backflips and a couple of stunt jobs in Toronto, Canada.
— Simu Liu (@SimuLiu) December 3, 2018
Later on, his transformation into a bona fide ‘ninja’ was out for the audience to see in Shang-Chi. He also shared a behind-the-scenes video of him practising martial arts for filming.
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He worked with Deloitte as an accountant
In a stint with Deloitte, the actor worked as an accountant before being sacked. That’s when Simu Liu decided to pursue acting and convinced his parents to let him follow his dreams. His parents, who are aeronautic engineers, initially gave in only to disagree later, but they realised that he was serious about a career in acting.
PLEASE STOP USING MY FACE FOR YOUR ACCOUNTING MATERIALS!!
I WAS AN ACCOUNTANT FOR 9 MONTHS I WAS AWFUL AT IT AND I HATED EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY AT WORK
(That’s not to say that accounting is not a perfectly valid pursuit for certain people!! Live yo best life!!) pic.twitter.com/lhqr7Y6YZ8
— Simu Liu (@SimuLiu) May 16, 2019
In an interview with PEOPLE in August 2021, he shared: “I think they knew that I was going through a lot with the loss of my job. But they became more and more panicked as they realised that I was actually serious. We had a lot of arguments about it. My parents felt like I was throwing my life away.”
In 2022, Liu wrote about how he celebrates every 12 April as the anniversary of leaving Deloitte.
“I was [led] into my managing partner’s office at Deloitte and told that they were terminating my employment effective immediately,” Liu wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post.
“A lady from HR and a security guard escorted me back onto the floor in front of the entire open concept office. It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Nobody moved, offered a whisper of encouragement or even looked in my direction. I fought back tears of humiliation, grabbed my things, and never looked back,” he added.
“Ten years ago I thought my life was over. I had wasted countless time and money that my family had invested in me. Years of schooling, gifted programs, trying to live up to my parents’ expectations. It all came crashing down in an instant,” he said.
The multi-faceted star dances and sings like a pro
Simu Liu displays his singing skills on Instagram for his followers and has collaborated with singer-songwriter AJ Rafael for his YouTube videos.
He can also play the guitar and the piano with ease. One has to only scroll through his Instagram feed to know how talented Liu is in the music department as well.
The first Asian lead of the MCU has also lent his voice to one of Shang-Chi’s soundtracks — “Hot Soup”.
In a candid chat with Entertainment Weekly, he revealed about LX4 — a band that he started with his friends in high school. The actor also went on to reminisce about the good old days when he was a part of the University of Western Ontario’s hip-hop dance team.
Simu Liu was a stock image model
This one made waves on social media, with even the actor sharing stock images, featuring himself, on social media platform Twitter along with some hilarious captions.
Me laughing at the people who thought we’d flop pic.twitter.com/7UoLqRXlCJ
— Simu Liu (@SimuLiu) September 6, 2021
Apart from performing stunts himself, he has been a stunt double
The well-choreographed and impeccably performed stunts by Simu Liu in Shang-Chi impressed many.
But doing stunts himself isn’t new to him as the Kim’s Convenience TV series actor was musician Pete Wentz’s stunt double for Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries” music video.
The hype train has left the station, so grab on and hang tight. Make history with us on September 3rd. pic.twitter.com/0q3jFY8IxH
— Simu Liu (@SimuLiu) August 31, 2021
The Marvel movie star is a writer and producer, too
Adding another feather to his hat, Liu co-wrote, executive produced and starred in the 2017 short film Meeting Mommy.
The Shang-Chi star Simu Liu also wrote an episode for a Canadian crime-drama series Blood and Water (2017). He was also a part of the show’s cast.
He has written a memoir
The multi-hyphenated star is the author of the book — We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story.
He collaborated with one of the world’s leading publishing houses, HarperCollins, for this memoir about his family’s struggles in China and when they immigrated to North America.
I wrote a book. pic.twitter.com/Xb4o7qFkpQ
— Simu Liu (@SimuLiu) June 10, 2021
“It was hard, and far from perfect… but it’s OUR story,” he has said about the book.
Simu Liu is a fan of basketball, crochet and anime
During a Reddit AMA session in September 2021, he was asked about the subreddits he checks out the most.
He wrote: “Still pretty much check r/nba on a daily basis to keep up with all things basketball. And occasionally take my talents to r/CrochetPatterns to drop a little knowledge.”
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Talking about his favourite anime shows and series, he wrote on Reddit that “Bleach and Dragonball Z but really Pokemon and Digimon” were among those he likes most.
Simu Liu is UNICEF’s Canada Ambassador
In October 2020, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) made him their Canada Ambassador.
The actor took to Instagram to share the news. He wrote: “Being a @UNICEFCanada ambassador means being able to shed a light on the plight of vulnerable children all over the world. It means fighting for each child’s right to bare necessities like food, water, shelter, education and immunisation. It means cutting through the misinformation, politicking and manufactured outrage to address real issues affecting children today. I’m incredibly honoured to be joining the UNICEF team and I can’t wait to do great and impactful things together!”
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Liu has also joined hands with California Milk Processing Board and No Kid Hungry for the Stay Strong Together campaign, which aims to combat child hunger during the pandemic.
He loves Asian snacks
In 2021, he told GQ that he was sometimes made fun of at school because he loved Asian snacks.
“So many Asian kids like myself, when we brought these snacks to school, we used to get made fun of because the kids didn’t know what they were,” Simu Liu said in a special video, following the release of Shang-Chi where he spoke about the things he can’t live without.
He is still a huge fan of Asian foods, such as shredded squid, Japanese rice crackers, White Rabbit candy and Pocky. His personal favourite is shrimp crackers.
In fact, Liu shared that he was having his favourite snack when the call for him to play Shang-Chi came.
“I had just woken up from a nap… I was eating some shrimp crackers at my desk. Then I got a call from an unknown number in Burbank, California…I had a feeling that this was gonna be the call. So, I picked up the call and Kevin Feige’s voice on the other end telling me that I was gonna be Shang-Chi and basically realised that my life would be changed forever,” he said.
Interestingly, a couple of days after he was announced as the star of the Shang-Chi movie, Liu had tweeted about eating shrimp when the call came.
“Hard to believe that a week ago I was just sitting at my desk in my underwear eating shrimp crackers and now… okay well I’m still doing that but I’m also a superhero,” he posted.
Hard to believe that a week ago I was just sitting at my desk in my underwear eating shrimp crackers and now… okay well I’m still doing that but I’m also a superhero
— Simu Liu (@SimuLiu) July 23, 2019
He was once a model at Abercrombie & Fitch
Before his accounting career, Simu Liu was a model for the clothing brand, Abercrombie & Fitch, in Canada. The brand is famous for having shirtless male models pose outside its stores. Some of Hollywood’s most famous names were part of the brand catalogue in their early careers and did not pose shirtless. Among them were Channing Tatum, Penn Badgley, Tom Welling, Heidi Klum and January Jones.
In a conversation with Narcity Toronto in October 2021, Liu shared that he badly wanted to be scouted as an Abercrombie & Fitch model and would visit their store hoping to be recruited.
“I never got scouted, but I did eventually [..] get fed up of waiting, I just walked in with a resume, and I point-blank asked if I could interview and ended up getting the chance to work for Abercrombie,” he said, adding, “It’s not really a manifestation to the same level as what you just described, but it’s a hilarious and slightly embarrassing life story that I’ve now shared with you.”
In November 2022, he spoke about the experience of modelling for the brand with E! News.
“This is modeling in the loosest definition, but I was an Abercrombie & Fitch model in Canada at one point. But models are what they called other people who worked at the store,” Liu said, without making clear if he was one of the shirtless models.
But Liu modelled shirtless for billionaire music legend Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Vol. 4 runway show and joked about the experience.
“I was very honored to be asked and, and I would like the record to show that I did not demand to be shirtless,” he said, adding “That was just the outfit that was presented to me, okay? I had no choice not to say yes.”
He wanted to keep a very rare Air Jordan shown in Shang-Chi
Speaking to Complex following the release of the movie in January 2022, Simu Liu said that his character, Shaun, in Shang-Chi wore a pair of “super super rare” Jordan 4 ‘Georgetown’ colourway sneakers towards the end of the movie.
“I begged the production to let me keep the shoes after. They were like, ‘No fricking way in hell.’ They basically had security watching me putting the shoes on and wearing the shoes back to my trailer. They’re just like, ‘Don’t you dare take that’,” he said.
According to Sotheby’s, the Air Jordan 4 ‘Georgetown,’ also known as Air Jordan 4 Retro ‘Georgetown,’ was produced by the Jordan Brand in 2019 as a homage to the Georgetown Hoyas basketball team. It comes in cement grey upper with navy interior lining. On each tongue is Georgetown’s logo.
The sneaker was part of a set of six different colourways, each dedicated to a college basketball team — the Universities of Michigan, Florida, North Carolina Chapel Hill, Oklahoma, Marquette and Georgetown. They were never released to the public and were exclusively meant for the players of the respective universities.
(Hero image: Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures/Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures – © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved./IMDb; Featured image: Courtesy of © 2021 – Marvel/Disney via IMDb)