See all the photos from Simu Liu's superheroic EW cover shoot
A New Hero Rises
In 2014, a then-unknown Simu Liu tweeted: "Hey @Marvel, great job with [Captain] America and Thor. Now how about an Asian American hero?" Seven years later, the actor is poised to hit theaters as the star of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first film with an Asian lead.
Appearing on the August 2021 cover of Entertainment Weekly ahead of the film's Sept. 3 release, Liu spoke about the groundbreaking role and how he's ready for everything that comes with it. Read the full cover story here and keep clicking through for more photos.
Four days after being offered the role, Liu, 32, was on stage at Marvel's massive Hall H panel during 2019's San Diego Comic-Con, announcing the film and appearing alongside stars of the MCU's Phase 4.
"I found myself on stage with some of the most famous people in the world, wearing my $20 Zara sweater and skinny jeans," Liu recalls. "It was insane."
In Shang-Chi, the titular character is the son of Wenwu (Tony Leung), who has ties to the mysterious Ten Rings organization. Years after abandoning his father's criminal enterprise and living a relatively normal existence in San Francisco, he's drawn back into the family business.
Screenwriter David Callaham and director Destin Daniel Cretton felt the weight of expectations while building Shang-Chi's world. "There's no single Asian American voice. So how do we create something that speaks to the wider Asian diaspora? How do we make something that will be exciting and entertaining, but also personal to all these people?" says Callaham. "What [Destin and I] landed on was the very simple reality of just putting this character on screen, at the level that Marvel does. Because when we turned on our televisions, neither of us were seeing Asian people. And we were excited to be able to change that."
While searching for Shang-Chi's lead, Cretton had actors read a monologue from 1997's Good Will Hunting. "The character of Will represents this mixture of masculinity and vulnerability," says Cretton, 42, drawing parallels between Shang-Chi and Matt Damon's Southie math genius. "He also has a secret and a superpower that he doesn't quite understand and has not stepped into."
The film, Liu says, is about "Shang-Chi learning that even though there is a prescribed destiny that his dad has bestowed on him, he can also carve out his own path. It's pretty Asian American."
Liu is ready to be the superhero he never got to see. But, he adds, "Just because there's one Asian American superhero in the MCU, it does not by any means imply that our fight is finished right there. When we don't have to celebrate every single win, I think we'll be a little bit closer to our goal, but until then, there's just so much left to do."
"I'm ready to be in a position where I can effect real change, amplify voices, and put people in positions to get stories told that wouldn't ordinarily get that opportunity," he tells EW. "So, yes, all of that stuff I'm ready for. It couldn't come fast enough, actually."
Awkwafina, Ronny Chieng, and Simu Liu in a scene from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Awkwafina stars as Shang-Chi's best pal, Katy. "We would instantly fall into this kind of bickering, like an old-married-couple kind of thing that was hilarious to us," she says.
Meng'er Zhang plays Xialing, Shang-Chi's estranged sister.
Florian Munteanu is seen here as nemesis Razor Fist.
Tony Leung's Wenwu oversees a young Shang-Chi's training. "It's probably the most personal origin story we've told," Feige says of the film.
Simu Liu on EW's August 2021 cover
To read more on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, order the August issue of Entertainment Weekly or find it on newsstands beginning July 16. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
- Watch the Jungle Cruise world premiere red carpet livestream with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt
- Outer Banks stars dive deep on season 2's romance and adventure
- Lady Gaga, Pinhead, and cute crushes pack Gottmik's 'gorge' Celebrity Must List
- The Sinner season 4 unravels another mind-bending mystery in exclusive first teaser