Asian actors have made a major impact in Hollywood blockbusters this year, playing heroic roles and destroying stereotypes along the way. They are taking the baton from pioneers such as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan and raising the status of Asian actors to the next level.

The protagonists in some of the year’s biggest films come from diverse career backgrounds, such as hair styling and architecture, before they were sucked into the acting vortex and emerged as globally recognised stars.

Simu Liu: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

The Chinese-Canadian actor made history as the first Asian actor to be cast in the lead superhero role in a Marvel movie. In Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, he plays the protagonist Shang-Chi, a skilled martial artist who was trained at a young age by his father to be an assassin. Released last month, the blockbuster became the highest grossing box office movie in the US for 2021, raking in US$400 million worldwide even without the massive China market, according to Screen Rant.

Liu was born in Harbin, China, in 1989 and immigrated to Canada at age five. He studied business at the University of Western Ontario and worked as an accountant for Deloitte before pursuing a career as an actor and stuntman. To support himself, he worked part-time jobs such as a stock image model, a substitute for stunt performers and even dressing-up as Spider-Man for children’s birthday parties, according to BuzzFeed.

In 2016, Liu made his TV breakthrough in CBS comedy series Kim’s Convenience as Jung Kim, one of the protagonists. Kim’s Convenience aired for five seasons between 2016 and 2021 and is recognised as one of the most successful shows in Canadian TV history.

His other outstanding works include Taken, where he starred alongside Liam Neeson, and series such as Blood and Water, Dark Matter, Orphan Black, Fresh off the Boat, and recently, another Disney project Star Wars: Visions, in which he voices the character Zhima in the Japanese anime anthology series.
He also auditioned for the role of Nick Young in Crazy Rich Asians, losing out to Henry Golding. But he told Digital Spy that he expressed an interest in the role of Carlton Bao, the troublesome half-brother of Rachel Chu who will be making an appearance in the sequel.

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