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Much of the time, whenever any new Marvel movies come out, you already know exactly who the cast is and who they are playing from previous installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, with the exception of Michelle Yeoh and Benedict Wong, most of the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings cast are making their MCU debuts, including Simu Liu and Awkwafina. There are plenty more actors from one of the most anticipated superhero movies of 2021 to introduce (or reintroduce) you to in the following breakdown of their most notable acting credits up to this point, starting with our title hero.
Simu Liu (Shang-Chi)
Bringing the marvelous martial arts master Shang-Chi to the big screen for the first time is the Chinese-born, Canadian-raised Simu Liu, who debuted in 2012 as “Desk Officer” in another story about a reformed assassin (The CW’s Nikita series) before playing Pete Wentz’s stunt double in Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries” music video in 2014. Being cast on the popular Canadian sitcom Kim’s Convenience led to further prominent roles such as Faaron on NBC’s Taken prequel series, guest spots on hit sci-fi TV shows Orphan Black and The Expanse, and an episode of Fresh Off the Boat Season 5. Following Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Liu has a voice role on Disney+’s anime anthology series Star Wars: Visions, he is currently filming Arthur the King with Mark Wahlberg, and the romance One True Loves (starring Hamilton cast’s Phillipa Soo) is in post-production.
Awkwafina (Katy Chen)
Playing Shang-Chi’s friend Katy, who is unaware of his past, is Awkwafina (née Nora Lum), who first broke out as a viral rapping sensation in 2012 before making her feature film debut in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising in 2016 and lending her voice to Storks the same year. She had a huge year in 2018 with Ocean’s Eight, Crazy Rich Asians, and becoming the second-ever female Asian-American Saturday Night Live host, and an even bigger year in 2019 with The Angry Birds Movie 2, Jumanji: The Next Level, and, her Golden Globe-winning role in The Farewell, especially. Earlier in 2021, she voiced the dragon in Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, the second season of her semi-autobiographical comedy Awkwafina is Nora from Queens premiered, and she plays Scuttle in Disney’s live action The Little Mermaid update, which is now in post-production.
Michelle Yeoh (Ying Nan)
Shang-Chi’s aunt, Ying Nan, is actually Michelle Yeoh’s second Marvel movie character following her Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 cameo and also marks her second time working with Awkwafina after Crazy Rich Asians and her umpteenth action movie role after the Supercop films with Jackie Chan, 1997’s James Bond flick Tomorrow Never Dies, the recent Gunpowder Milkshake and, of course, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and its 2016 sequel. The Malaysian actress has also done sci-fi with Sunshine and Star Trek: Discovery, fantasy with The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, period dramas with Memoirs of a Geisha, comedy with Last Christmas, and animation with Kung Fu Panda 2 and the upcoming Minions: The Rise of Gru. She also has a role in the upcoming Avatar sequels and Netflix’s upcoming The Witcher prequel miniseries The Witcher: Blood Origin.
Tony Leung (Xu Wenwu / The Mandarin)
For anyone still pissed about Iron Man 3’s Mandarin fake-out, Marvel is bringing in the real Mandarin - also Shang-Chi’s father and played by actor and singer Tony Leung - who debuted in 1978’s Game of Death, which featured post-humous archive footage of the inspiration for Shang-Chi, Bruce Lee. He also was directed by legendary action director John Woo in 1992’s Hard Boiled and shared the screen with another martial arts superstar, Jet Li, in Hero from 2002 - the same year he starred in Infernal Affairs (the Chinese film that inspired The Departed). Despite his international acclaim and ability to speak fluent English, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is Leung’s first Hollywood picture and has more Chinese productions next on his resume, including the 1980s period piece, Once Upon a Time in Hong Kong.
Yuen Wah (Master Guang Bo)
An actor who actually did share the screen with Bruce Lee in films like Fist of Fury, The Way of the Dragon, and Enter the Dragon (all of which he performed stunts in) is Yuen Wah, who appears in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings as Master Guang Bo. He also worked previously with Michelle Yeoh in the first Supercop movie (which is really the third Police Story movie) as a cartel member named Panther who teams up with Jackie Chan and Yeoh’s characters, but his best known role is probably the heroic “Landlord” in Kung Fu Hustle - co-writer, director, and star Stephen Chow’s brilliant 2004 action-comedy. Wah’s next film is I Dreamed a Dream, which sounds a lot like a more romantic and whimsical update of Inception from its plot description.
Fala Chen (Jiang Li)
As Xu Wenwu’s wife and Shang-Chi’s mother, Jiang Li, we have Fala Chen, who is also a popular singer and actor in her native China and kicked off her career in entertainment after becoming 1st runner up at the Miss Chinese International Pageant in 2005. She officially made her English-language acting debut in the Martin Scorsese-produced true crime drama Revenge of Green Dragons before voicing the Cantonese dub of Despicable Me 3 as Kristen Wiig’s character, Lucy Wilde, and appearing in two episodes of the Emmy-nominated miniseries The Undoing for HBO. The cable network will also be the home of an upcoming TV series adaptation of the 1996 French film Irma Vep, which Chen is set to appear in alongside star and executive producer Alicia Vikander.
Florian Munteanu (Razor Fist)
Among the film’s antagonists, Shang-Chi will be taking on a mercenary hired to kill him who gets the name Razor Fist for having steel blades as hands. Portraying the villain in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the German-Romanian born actor and model Florian Munteanu, who originally rose to fame as a heavyweight boxer, which would earn him the role of Ivan Drago’s son, Viktor, in Creed II - also his feature film debut. His third feature, a thriller called Violence of Action with Chris Pine, is expected to release late on the 2021 movie release schedule and he will play Krieg on the Borderlands cast for director Eli Roth’s adaptation of the popular video game franchise.
Ronny Chieng (Jon Jon)
Another friend of Katy and Shang-Chi named Jon Jon is played by Ronny Chieng, who also had a role on the Crazy Rich Asians cast after breaking out in America in 2015 as a correspondent for The Daily Show on Comedy Central, which also aired his semi-autobiographical sitcom Ronny Chieng: International Student in 2017. In 2019, he released his first Netflix stand-up special, Ronny Chieng: Asian Comedian Destroys America!, and appeared in the Amazon original sci-fi Bliss and the blockbuster monster movie Godzilla vs. Kong in 2021. Next, he will appear on Disney+’s upcoming series Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. (a gender-swapped, Hawaiian-set reboot of Doogie Howser, M.D.), he is filming the technophobic thriller M3GAN, and will voice the title role of Inspector Sun and the Curse of the Black Widow - which is not a Marvel movie despite how it sounds.
Zach Cherry (Klev)
Another comedian in the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings cast is Zach Cherry, apparently reprising his role as a previously unnamed street vendor who told Spider-Man to do a flip in Spider-Man: Homecoming and now catches Shang-Chi in the act and posts a video of him online in this film. The actor has also appeared on comedy series like Broad City and Search Party and dramas like Netflix’s You and Quibi’s Most Dangerous Game as well as funny movies like The Big Sick and thrillers like Unsane from Steven Soderbergh. He also voices Wolf, a major character on co-creator and star Amy Poehler’s animated show Duncanville, and has a starring role on upcoming TV drama Severance, alongside Academy Award winner Patricia Arquette.
Benedict Wong (Wong)
Another actor also reprising what is normally a large role in some of the best Marvel movies for a smaller appearance in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is Benedict Wong as an experienced sorcerer also named Wong. The British-Chinese actor actually made his feature film debut alongside Marvel’s Robert Downey Jr. in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, starred in Moon with Iron Man 2’s Sam Rockwell, appeared in Sunshine with Michelle Yeoh, was also in Annihilation and Prometheus with Thor: Ragnarok’s Tessa Thompson and Idris Elba respectively, and first worked with his Doctor Strange co-star Chiwetel Ejiofor in The Martian in 2015. Wong also starred in one of the best Black Mirror episodes (“Hated in the Nation”), voiced a character in Raya and the Last Dragon, and will appear as Wong again Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
You might have already seen in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings trailer that Wong appears in a cage match with Abomination (Tim Roth, reprising his The Incredible Hulk role). Not only that, but Ben Kingsley apparently reprises his controversial role in Iron Man 3 as Trevor Slattery. Look you may need to review all the Marvel movies in order before checking out this latest adventure.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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