Simu Liu (/ˈsm ˈljuː/ SEE-moo LEE-yoo;[2] Chinese: 刘思慕; born 19 April 1989) is a Canadian actor. He is known for portraying Shang-Chi in the 2021 Marvel Cinematic Universe film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. He also played Jung Kim in the CBC Television sitcom Kim's Convenience[3] and a Ken in Barbie. He received nominations at the ACTRA Awards and Canadian Screen Awards for his work in Blood and Water.[4]

Simu Liu
Simu Liu speaking at the San Diego Comic-Con International in 2019
Liu in 2019
Born (1989-04-19) 19 April 1989 (age 34)
Harbin, Heilongjiang, China
Alma materUniversity of Western Ontario (HBA)
  • Actor
  • stuntman
  • author
Years active2012–present
AwardsFull list
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese劉思慕
Simplified Chinese刘思慕

In 2022, Liu authored the memoir We Were Dreamers,[5] and was named one of Time's 100 most influential people in the world, in the section "Artists."[6]

Early life edit

Liu was born in Harbin, China, on 19 April 1989, son of Zhenning and Zheng Liu. His parents met while attending university in Beijing, where they both studied engineering. His father, Zhenning, went to the United States to study for a PhD whilst his mother worked in Beijing, and Liu was raised until age 5 by his grandparents in Harbin, China, "in a small apartment, without running water for much of the day," in circumstances he recalled as "idyllic and happy."[7][8] His parents later emigrated with him to Canada, where they supplemented their scholarships with dish-washing jobs and eventually became successful aerospace engineers; Liu was raised in Mississauga, Ontario.[9][7]

In his memoir, We Were Dreamers, he wrote of the deprivation and trauma his parents had experienced growing up in China's Cultural Revolution,[7] and their subsequent "tiger parenting" style, saying he felt they "wanted to rid [his] life of joy or happiness", and recalling "the weight of what he describes as impossible expectations, 'to be the star child, the studious academic, the obedient son'", being "belittled and physically punished" for perceived failings.[10] Liu's parents "hothoused him in maths at the age of five and set 'homework' that included reading biographies of scientists and studying algebra".[7] He attended University of Toronto Schools and studied business administration at the Ivey Business School at the University of Western Ontario.[11]

Liu initially worked as an accountant at Deloitte but was laid off in April 2012 after nine months.[12] He began to explore other career options and decided to pursue a career as an actor and stuntman.[13][14] Liu became distant from his parents after losing his accounting job and entering acting, but after discussing the matter with his parents, the family reconciled and became closer as a result.[15]

Career edit

2012–2018: Early work and television roles edit

Liu got his start in acting working as an extra and stuntman, appearing in movies and music videos such as Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim[13] and Avicii's "I Could Be the One."[16] His other early onscreen credits include Nikita (2012) and Beauty and the Beast (2014). He appeared as a stuntman in Sick: Survive the Night (2012) and the TV miniseries Heroes Reborn.

In 2015, Liu was cast in his first significant recurring role, appearing as a series regular in seven episodes of the Omni Television crime drama series Blood and Water (2015–2016). He would later receive his first award nominations for this role at the ACTRA Awards and Canadian Screen Awards in 2017.[17]

Liu in 2016

Later in 2015, Liu was cast in his first main role as Jung Kim in the CBC Television sitcom Kim's Convenience,[18] a TV adaptation of the play of the same name. It remains his most notable television success to date, with the series being nominated for and winning multiple awards internationally, including Best Comedy Series at the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards and "Most Popular Foreign Drama" at the 2019 Seoul International Drama Awards. Liu starred in the series until its conclusion in 2021.

In 2016, Liu was cast in a recurring role as the ex-CIA analyst Faaron, loosely modeled on real-life ex-analyst Rodney Faraon, in the NBC prequel series Taken based on the film franchise starring Liam Neeson.[19]

Even as he was cast in main and recurring roles, Liu continued to appear as an extra on several television shows, appearing in an episode of the hit BBC-Space series Orphan Black as well as in the Canadian science fiction series Dark Matter.[citation needed]

In 2017, Liu appeared in the second season of Slasher as well as the CityTV miniseries Bad Blood, both as recurring characters.[20]

In 2018, he appeared in the science fiction television series The Expanse [21] [22]and Wong Fu Productions' YouTube series Yappie. [23]

2019–present: Recent work and Marvel Cinematic Universe edit

Liu on The Beaverton in 2019

In early 2019, Liu guest-starred in the 100th episode of ABC's Fresh Off the Boat as a noodle vendor named Willie.[24] He also guest-starred in an episode of the TV series Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens as Garbage Boy.[25]

At Comic-Con 2019, Disney announced that Liu would play the titular superhero Shang-Chi in the film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is Marvel's first film with an Asian-led cast.[26][27] Liu had asked about playing the role on Twitter in December 2018 when the movie was revealed to be in development.[28] After several production and release delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the film was released in theaters on 3 September 2021, garnering positive critical reception and achieving commercial success.[29][30] A sequel is planned.[31]

In September 2021, it was revealed that Liu will lead the English-language voice cast of Bright: Samurai Soul, a Netflix anime film which premiered on 12 October.[32] In February 2022, Liu joined the cast of Greta Gerwig's Barbie film for Warner Bros.[33] and thriller film Hello Stranger directed by April Mullen.[34]

Both Liu and NBA player Jeremy Lin had guest appearances as caricaturized versions of themselves in Malaysian comedian Ronny Chieng's Netflix short Ronny Chieng Takes Chinatown (2022).[35][36] In December 2022, Liu was a guest narrator at Disney's Candlelight Processional.[37]

On April 7, 2023, Liu released his debut single, titled Don't.[38][39]

Other work and public image edit

In 2014, Liu was paid $100 to model for a set of stock photos for FatCamera; the photos appeared in subway stations, advertisements, storefronts, pamphlets, and textbook covers. The photos received widespread media coverage upon Liu's mainstream acting breakthrough in 2021.[40][41]

Liu is also a filmmaker, producer, and writer. Liu's first work in this area was Open Gym, a short film he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in that debuted at the 2013 Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. He has directed, produced, and written several other shorts, including Crimson Defender vs. The Slightly Racist Family (2015). In 2016, Liu helped write Blood and Water, during which he helped break the story for the show and wrote an episode for its second season.[4] In 2017, Liu worked with Wong Fu Productions on their short Meeting Mommy (2017), which he wrote and produced with Tina Jung. It was released in February 2018 on the Wong Fu Productions YouTube channel.[42] In 2018, he founded his own film production company, 4:12 Entertainment, and began developing long-form film projects under it.[43][44]

In December 2017, Liu wrote for Maclean's magazine about his experiences growing up in an immigrant family. The article appeared in the January 2018 issue.[45] His memoir, We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story, was published by HarperCollins on 17 May 2022.[46] In March 2021, Liu published a column in Variety detailing the effects of Asian hate crimes and how "rhetoric like 'the China virus' encourages hate toward all Asian people—not just Chinese."[47]

Liu was included on Time magazine's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2022.[48] Liu was named one of Hello!'s 50 Most Beautiful Canadians and 25 Hottest Bachelors in 2017 and 2018.[49][50][51] In May 2021, Liu became the first East Asian man to cover Men's Health magazine in over a decade since Jet Li in 2010.[52] In November 2021, Liu became the fourth actor of Chinese descent to host Saturday Night Live.[53] He has previously hosted the Juno Awards of 2022 and the Juno Awards of 2023.[54][55]

In October 2020, Liu became a UNICEF Canada Ambassador[56] and has since appeared in every Youth Advocacy Summit hosted by UNICEF Canada. In 2023, Liu made an appearance despite having torn his Achilles tendon[57].

In 2023, Liu joined MìLà as its chief content officer. MìLà is a direct-to-consumer soup dumpling company that is based in Bellevue, WA.[58]

Accolades edit

Liu was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award and an ACTRA Award in 2017 for his work in Blood and Water.[4] He, along with his Kim's Convenience castmates, won the ACTRA Award for Outstanding Ensemble in 2017. Liu and his castmates were nominated for the same award in 2018 and 2019. Kim's Convenience also won the award for Best Comedy Series at the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards.[59]

On stage, Liu was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award in the Outstanding Ensemble category alongside his castmates in the 2016 Factory Theatre remount of the play Banana Boys.[60]

In January 2023, he was named the winner of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television's Radius Award at the 11th Canadian Screen Awards.[61] He also won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Host in a Live Entertainment Special for the 2022 Juno Awards.[62]

Filmography edit

Film edit

Denotes films that have not yet been released
Year Title Role Notes
2013 Pacific Rim Extra
2021 Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Shaun / Shang-Chi
Bright: Samurai Soul Izno (voice) English dub
Women Is Losers Gilbert
2023 One True Loves Sam
Simulant Casey [63]
Barbie Ken
2024 Arthur the King Liam Post-production
TBA Atlas TBA Post-production
Grand Death Lotto Louis Lewis Filming
Last Breath David Yuasa Filming

Television edit

Year Title Role Notes
2012 Nikita Hong Kong Police Constable Episode: "3.0"
2013 Warehouse 13 Bartender Episode: "Secret Services"
Played Gunman Episode: "Made – Daniel"
Mayday Narita Air Traffic Controller Episode: "The Final Push"
2014 Beauty and the Beast EMT Episode: "Both Sides Now"
2015 Blood and Water Paul Xie Main role
Make It Pop! Randy Episode: "Rumors and Roommates"
2016 Taken Faaron Recurring role; season 1
2016–2021 Kim's Convenience Jung Kim Main role
2017 Orphan Black Mr. Mitchell Episode: "Clutch of Greed"
Dark Matter Technician Episode: "Nowhere To Go"
Slasher: Guilty Party Luke 2 episodes
Bad Blood Guy 3 episodes
2018 The Expanse Lt. Paolo Mayer Episode: "Dandelion Sky"
Yappie Tom Main role
2019 Fresh Off the Boat Willie Episode: "Under the Taipei Sun"
2020 Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens Garbage Boy Episode: "Grandma & Chill"
2021 Corner Gas Animated Gerald Mesmerizer (voice) Episode: "The Fresh Prints of Bell Heir"
Star Wars: Visions Lah Zhima (voice) Episode: "The Ninth Jedi": English language dub[64]
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Himself (guest) Episode: 10 September 2021
Selling Sunset Himself (guest) Episode: “A House For A Hero”
Saturday Night Live Himself (host) Episode: "Simu Liu/Saweetie"[65]
2022 Celebrity Jeopardy! Himself (contestant) 2 episodes
The Simpsons Adult Hubert Wong (voice) Episode: "When Nelson Met Lisa"[66]
2023 The Other Two[67] Himself Episode: "Cary Gets His Ass Handed to Him"
2023 StoryBots: Answer Time Socradamus Episode: "Elements"
TBA Seven Wonders Dr. Nate Grady In Production

Music videos edit

Year Title Artist(s) Role Ref.
2012 "I Could Be The One" Avicii & Nicky Romero Office Worker [16]
2015 "The Filth" Dream Jefferson Gangster/Stunt Coordinator [68]
2021 "Run It" DJ Snake ft. Rick Ross & Rich Brian Himself [69]

Discography edit

Extended plays edit

List of EPs, with selected details
Title Details
  • Released: November 17, 2023
  • Label: Markham Valley
  • Format: Digital download, streaming

Singles edit

List of singles, showing year released and album name
Title Year Album
"Don't" 2023 Anxious-Avoidant
"If It's Time"

Awards and nominations edit

Year Nominated work Award Category Result Ref
2017 Blood and Water ACTRA Awards Outstanding Performance – Male Nominated [70]
Canadian Screen Award Best Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Program or Series Nominated [71]
Kim's Convenience ACTRA Awards 2017 Outstanding Performance – Ensemble Won [72]
2018 ACTRA Awards 2018 Outstanding Performance – Ensemble Nominated [73]
2021 Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings People's Choice Awards The Male Movie Star of 2021 Nominated [74]
The Action Movie Star of 2021 Won
Unforgettable Gala – Asian American Awards Breakout Actor on Film Won [75]
2022 Hollywood Critics Association Film Awards Game Changer Award Won [76]
Critics' Choice Super Awards Best Actor in a Superhero Movie Nominated [77]
Kim's Convenience Canadian Screen Award Best Lead Actor, Comedy Nominated [78]
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings MTV Movie & TV Awards Best Hero Nominated [79]
Saturn Awards Best Actor in a Film Nominated [80]
2023 Himself Canadian Screen Award Radius Award Honoured [61]
Juno Awards of 2023 (as host) Host, live entertainment special Won
Simu Liu, Luciano Casimiri, Leonard Chan, Julie Kim and Kristeen Von Hagen, Juno Awards of 2022 (as writer) Variety or sketch comedy Nominated

References edit

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External links edit