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Shang-Chi’s Simu Liu Explains Why He Downplayed His Martial Arts Talents During His Marvel Audition

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings tapped into various forms of martial arts for its epic battle sequences, and leading man Simu Liu got to show off his skills throughout the film. Of course, like many MCU stars, Liu had to audition for the title role, and given that it was action-heavy, you would expect the actor to go all out to impress Marvel, especially after Liu's reaction to joining the MCU. But it was quite the opposite for the Shang-Chi star, as he explained why downplayed his martial arts talents during his Marvel audition.

The MCU star revealed the secret while speaking with Kevin Hart on his Peacock talk show Hart to Heart. Hart asked Simu Liu if the story of him not knowing martial arts before taking on the Marvel role was true. In a vulnerable moment, Liu decided to be honest about his background in combat practice. The actor spilled how he downplayed his martial arts background to combat Hollywood stereotypes about Asian performers. As he put it:

I purposefully downplayed how much martial arts I knew because I am afraid of that narrative of the martial arts guy to do martial arts. he's Asian, of course. I want to challenge people to see me as an artist.

Liu’s frame of mind wasn’t wrong considering how multiple Asian performers have been pigeonholed into doing action roles only, and the Barbie star didn’t want that to happen too early in his career. Given his background as a stunt performer, it seemed hard for him to downplay his marital arts skills, but Simu Liu wanted to be seen as an artist in the same vein as his Barbie co-star Ryan Gosling and not just another Asian action star. Liu continued:

In the same way that Ryan Gosling picked up jazz piano for La La Land, that's the way that I picked up martial arts for this movie [Shang-Chi]. It's not because martial arts is all I do. It's not because martial arts is all Asian people do and that's what they're good for and when you see an Asian person on screen, they better be doing martial arts, it's not that but this was a character.

At least the 33-year-old actor was aware enough to know Hollywood wouldn’t view him in the same light as Ryan Gosling if he came out showcasing all his skills at one time. He wanted to fight against the box the film industry tends to put Asian actors in. So Simu Liu wanted the same opportunities as other actors without any prejudice or preconceived notions. It was sad to know he had to lessen one personal aspect to preserve his acting career.

Despite Simu Liu downplaying his talents, he still felt his various skillsets were an asset to him. Liu admitted as a struggling actor he not only practiced martial arts, but took gymnastics and parkour classes in his quest to get his big break in the entertainment industry.

In the end, everything worked out, as Shang-Chi became a big enough hit to warrant a sequel, prompting a reaction from Liu following the Marvel sequel news. Following the Marvel movie's release, Simu Liu has multiple other projects lined up, including Arthur the King with Mark Wahlberg, as seen in a shirtless set photo. He will be seen next in Barbie on July 21, 2023, and he waxed for that movie to match Ken’s hairless appearance. In the meantime, you can watch Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings by subscribing to Disney+.

Adreon Patterson
News Writer

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).