Simu Liu’s rise from Bay Street accountant to Marvel’s kung fu super hero

Torontonian will play the first Asian superhero to lead a Marvel film

Simu Liu speaks during the “Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings” portion of the Marvel Studios panel on day three of Comic-Con International on July 20, 2019, in San Diego. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Chris Pizzello-Invision)

Once upon a time, Simu Liu was a Toronto accountant.

But he secretly dreamt of being an actor, and just a few years after leaving Bay Street, Liu is on the brink of movie stardom thanks to being cast as the first Asian superhero to lead a Marvel film.

Marvel Studios announced the news to thousands of fans at San Diego Comic-Con over the weekend, when Liu took the stage to introduce himself as the kung-fu master in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”

“This is just the craziest, craziest dream,” Liu says in video taken at the event, which also revealed roles for Hong Kong actor Tony Leung and “Crazy Rich Asians” star Awkwafina.

Chatter around the cast has exploded online, with much of the focus on the relatively unknown Canadian. Marvel promises that Liu will soon become a household name, but until then, here’s a primer on Canada’s rising star.

WHO IS SIMU LIU?

Liu was born in northern China where he was raised by his grandparents while his parents attended Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., he told The Canadian Press back in 2015.

His father returned to China to bring him to Canada when he was five years old: “I remember meeting my father for the first time, and then my mother after I landed at Toronto.”

From there, the family bounced around the Greater Toronto Area, spending time in communities including Etobicoke and Mississauga, Ont.

When he grew older, Liu says his parents pushed him to attend the Ivey School of Business at Western University, even though he really wanted to pursue the arts.

After graduating, Liu got a job on Bay Street but was laid off in 2012 at age 23. He took that as an opportunity to switch gears: “That kind of spiralled into a bunch of happy accidents that allowed me to have opportunities to be an actor.”

READ MORE: Avengers: Endgame becomes highest grossing film of all time

WHERE HAVE I SEEN LIU BEFORE?

Liu plays the athletic and charismatic son Jung in CBC-TV’s hit sitcom “Kim’s Convenience,” which is also available on Netflix in the United States.

His Korean-Canadian character works at a car-rental company but harbours a rebellious past, and because of that he doesn’t get along with his father, Appa.

Liu’s first major role was in the half-hour OMNI drama “Blood and Water,” a unique noir that featured an all-Chinese ensemble with dialogue in English, Mandarin and Cantonese.

Back when the show premiered in November 2015, he touted the project for putting Asian talent in the spotlight.

“As an Asian Canadian I find it’s really hard to find content in the media that is relatable,” said Liu, whose role included lines in both Mandarin and English.

Before that, Liu logged bit parts in several TV series including “Nikita,” “Warehouse 13,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Taken.”

LIU HAS CHAMPIONED ASIAN ROLES

Liu has also produced and directed a short film, and worked as a writer on the second season of “Blood and Water.”

“In order for this whole diversity thing to fly, we not only need diverse performers but we do need those writers as well,” he said back in 2015.

And when the Singapore-set feature “Crazy Rich Asians” came out last summer, Liu urged his Twitter followers to join him at a weekend screening to support the romantic comedy.

“It’s the first movie with an all-Asian cast in 25 years and that means something,” said Liu, who did not appear in the film but believed a strong box-office would push Hollywood to make more films with Asian talent.

“I can’t overstate the importance of us showing up as a community, as a crowd.”

Just as Marvel’s “Black Panther” furthered conversations about diversity in big-budget filmmaking, Liu said he believed “Crazy Rich Asians” could highlight the demand and power of Asian audiences.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is set to hit theatres Feb. 12, 2021.

— With files from Victoria Ahearn

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

134 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday

First day over 100 cases since July 31

RCMP Major Crimes Unit lay Manslaughter charge against youth

The RCMP Major Crimes Unit have laid a manslaughter charge against a 13-year-old boy from Maskwacis.

City of Wetaskiwin back to zero active cases

The City of Wetaskiwin currently has zero active cases once again.

1 in 7 Albertans have been tested for COVID-19

56 additional cases Thursday, 1,107 active cases remain in the province

Sylvan Lake man’s documentary getting limited run in Alberta theatres

Scott McDermott’s documentary will be in 14 theatres, including Sylvan Lake and Wetaskiwin

Protestors for Indigenous Lives Matter gather in Wetaskiwin

Protestors for Indigenous Lives Matter gathered in Wetaskiwin, Alta. Tuesday August 4,… Continue reading

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

13-year-old charged in death of boy, 10 in Maskwacis

The RCMP Major Crimes Unit have laid a manslaughter charge against a 13-year-old boy from Maskwacis.

‘Caught up in the frenzy:’ Oilers 50/50 draw breaking ticket sale records

Previous record was held by Toronto Raptors fans when a 50/50 raffle reached $2 million

Alberta jury trials to resume next month at offsite locations due to COVID-19

About 12 locations across Alberta may host the trials in halls, hotels and community centres

Alberta school curriculum to focus on basics, keep out political bias: minister

NDP education critic says the kindergarten to Grade 4 changes should have been implemented a year ago

Statistics Canada says country gained 419,000 jobs in July

National unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from the 12.3 per cent recorded in June

Canada plans $3.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. in aluminium dispute

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Walmart to make face masks mandatory for customers across Canada

Requirement goes into effect on Wednesday, Aug. 12 across Canada

Most Read