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Simu Liu Interview: Shang-Chi, Old Spice, and Marvel's Future [EXCLUSIVE]

An interview with Simu Liu about joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, becoming Canada's first Old Spice ambassador, and dodging Shang-Chi questions.

Simu Liu in Kim's Convenience

Simu Liu may be well-known for his role in the popular Canadian television series Kim's Convenience, but he'll soon be known for so much more. Simu is the first Canadian ambassador for Old Spice (yes, those awesome ads) and more importantly, he's at the center of the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Liu, born in China and raised in Canada since he was 5, is the titular star of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The long-awaited Shang-Chi adaptation debuts in 2021 as part of Phase 4 of the MCU, and it's the first movie in a while to introduce a new solo character - and the first movie ever from Marvel to introduce an Asian lead. It begins production this month in Australia.

Related: Four MCU Movies A Year Is Part Of Marvel Plan Going Forward

A few weeks ago I hopped on the phone with Simu to talk about all happenings since stepping out on stage at Comic-Con International this summer where his presence felt worth enough for his character to replace Captain America. He couldn't quite speak to the topic of speaking Mandarin (although in previous interviews Simu did talk about practicing up on the language) in Shang-Chi, or the personality of the character, and he especially couldn't talk about the costume... but we did get some fun questions in.

First of all, thank you for taking the time. I know we're going to talk about Shang-Chi, but I wanted to ask you about the Old Spice thing. It's only recently that you became the first Canadian Old Spice ambassador. I wanted to ask you how that happened, and what it means to you going forward?

Simu Liu: Yeah, yeah. I think we signed an agreement in late April. Actually, it was interesting. I remember I had an audition for a pretty big project that I was really bummed about not getting, because I had made it pretty far. And literally on the same day, my commercial agent gives me a call. He's like, “Hey, Simu, I’ve got great news. It's a brand sponsorship, and you're going to really like it.”

At that point, I didn't know it was Old Spice. I was kind of like, “Oh, I don't know.” I had just lost out on this big part, and I don't really care about any commercial right now. But then they told me it was Old Spice, and I was like, “Oh!” I totally did a one-eighty because I know what the what the brand is all about, and I love their take on how they approach marketing. You know, just it's so refreshing, and it’s got such a distinct tone. Kind of ridiculous, but also kind of smart about it at the same time.

Even from the beginning, I knew that was going to be a really great partnership. A few weeks later, I was in Montreal, shooting a couple of digital spots that I thought were absolutely hilarious. Everything that we put out afterwards – first of all, not only is it funny, but it's something that I feel like I have ownership over, because they're very open to my feedback and my ideas as well. So really, you know, it’s the best possible kind of partnership.

That's awesome. Does taking on the MCU part affect what you’re able to do with that going forward? Or if there's another season of Kim's Convenience, do they interfere with each other at all?

Simu Liu: Our producers at Kim’s were very, very good about carving out some time so that I could do both. I can say for sure, if we go to a fifth season, I will definitely be back.

The show has meant a great deal to me. It's given me everything in terms of my immediate opportunities, and even just the experience and tools to be able to walk into that audition for Marvel with the confidence that I could execute the dramatic and the comedic feats.

Our producers on that show are fantastic. And, yeah, I'm very happy to be able to go back.

Simu Liu Shang-Chi Costume Concept Art by Rob Brunette
Simu Liu Shang-Chi Costume Concept Art by Rob Brunette

That's really cool. What you say kind of brings me to my next point. I was at San Diego Comic-Con with my team, and I was lucky enough that Disney gave me a special seat for the Hall H panel where you infamously came on stage and did an amazing introduction, the best of the show.

Simu Liu: Oh, thank you. Thank you.

Related: Simu Liu Will Be Back For Kim's Convenience If There's A Season 5

It really was. You said it yourself: you're the first next new title character. It means so much for the franchise, the character, and diversity which is so much needed and welcome right now. But I wanted to ask you about the humorous side of it, because you mentioned balancing drama and comedy. Your Twitter account has always been amazing, and you've been a lifelong fan of Marvel. When taking a role like this, are you hoping that your personality will shine through to the character of Shang-Chi or are you excited about playing a character who might be quite a bit different than you are in real life?

Simu Liu: You know, I probably can't speak to what the character will be like. But I know my director is fantastic, and I’m trusting him. If he wants me to go any which way, I will be ready and willing to follow him, and I'm confident that I'll have the skills to.

Totally. I don't know how early this begins, but are you already prepping for the when it comes to the physical martial arts side of it? Or practicing Mandarin, that kind of stuff?

Simu Liu: We're prepping in all ways up until the moment that we start shooting. It speaks to how seriously all of us, and most of all myself, take this opportunity. You know, it's not every day that you get to lead an MCU movie. It's something, of course, neither I nor anybody else in my position would take lightly at all.

What Marvel Movie is Simu Looking Forward to Watching Himself?

Yeah, I get it. You were a fan of this from the beginning, like me, reading comics and growing up loving superheroes. When you're on stage, you're amongst so many other iconic characters or characters-to-be. What are you personally most excited for from the other stuff that's coming?

Simu Liu: Oh, man. That’s so tough. I'm a big Taika fan, even before he did Ragnarok. You know, Hunt for the Wilderpeople was a great movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. I love his filmmaking style, and after having gotten the chance to meet him, I love his vibrant personality even more.

So, you know, just as a fan of his, I cannot wait to see Thor: Love and Thunder. And they're actually shooting back-to-back with us, in Sydney. They're moving into our studio space literally as soon as we finish, so that'll be really cool. Hopefully, we'll get to hang out a little bit.

I hope you get some free time to explore, because we visited the set of Ragnarok when Taika was doing that, and we've been to Wellington for a bunch of film stuff. It's such an amazing place; I can see why Mr. Hemsworth really wanted to make that movie right in his backyard.

Simu Liu: Yeah, totally. Totally.

I have some very quick, rapid fire questions from the team and some fans. First: can you sneak some Raptors gear into the movie?

Simu Liu: Oh, man. I would love to. I would love to. I'm not gonna say a hard no. I imagine it would be very, very difficult, but it won't be for lack of trying.

Will you sing in the movie?

Simu Liu: Ooh. Mmm… Again, I'm going to offer it. Whether they decide to keep it or not, that's a totally different story.

I don't know if you can say anything about this, but have you seen the costume?

Simu Liu: No comment.

For Fun: Why is Hawkeye the best Avenger?

Alright, last question. Why is Hawkeye the best Avenger?

Simu Liu: Hawkeye is the best Avenger because he does not rely on superpowers or extraordinary abilities. He is mortal, and he stares down death every single day that he works. In a way that Thor doesn't. Because Thor is immortal. You can't kill Thor; you can very easily kill Hawkeye.

So, just the fact that he has the courage to stand up in front of people like Thanos, like Ultron, like a Chitauri army – that takes balls. Especially for a totally regular human being who is basically shooting with 11 bullets at any given time.

You're speaking my language, Simu. This is what I wanted to hear from you. Congrats again; it’s such an awesome thing to see you to get this role.

Simu Liu: I appreciate that, thank you.

Update: Weeks after we spoke on the phone I randomly met up with Simu in-person at LAX airport where we were both flying home to Toronto. Small world!

Must-Read: What Star Wars Can Learn From The MCU

Key Release Dates
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) release date: Feb 12, 2021
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