After what can only be described as a career year for Simu Liu, which saw the Chinese-born Ontario native play the leading role in the one of the biggest action movies of 2021, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, many are likely wondering what’s next for one of Canada’s brightest new stars. The answer is as predictable as it might be surprising.
Like many actors in the industry, Liu has been grinding for longer than you might think, beginning with bit parts in shows such as Nikita, where he played “Hong Kong Police Constable”, Canadian TV show Beauty and the Beast as “EMT”, and Mayday as “Narita Air Traffic Controller”…you get the idea. Only a few years in 2015, he landed his first major leading role in the first season of the TV series Blood and Water, which was targeted for a Chinese Canadian audience and put Liu’s fluency in Mandarin to good use.
From there, Liu largely did away with the generic bit part and began landing more notable roles, most notably in 2016, where he secured a leading role in the TV show that would serve as his breakout to Canadian audiences, Kim’s Convenience. Liu would remain a key cast member on the show until its inevitable conclusion last year, given that Liu’s casting as Shang-Chi had been known since 2019.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is Simu Liu’s first leading role in a feature and boy did he make the most of it, proving that he can balance comedy and drama, while doing many of his own stunts, which shows in the way the film’s blistering action sequences were shot. Given the film’s critical and commercial success, a sequel has unsurprisingly been announced, as Marvel likely have big plans for the MCU’s newest Avenger-to-be.
This is surely why Liu’s post-Shang-Chi schedule seems quite light at the moment, with only two upcoming projects as of writing. The first is One True Loves, now in post-production, which centres on a widow named Emma who supposedly loses her husband in a helicopter crash, eventually moving on and becoming engaged to her childhood friend Sam, played by Liu. However, when it turns out Emma’s husband is in fact alive, she must choose between the two men. A romantic drama might see like an odd choice for a follow-up to one of 2021’s biggest action movies, especially when Liu proved that he has all the chops to be Hollywood’s next big action star, but Liu himself has been outspoken in his desire to see more meaningful Asian representation in cinema that pushes back at stereotypes, noting in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that One True Loves does just that. Furthermore, the actor wants to prove his range as an actor, rather than be locked into a specific genre, saying in the same interview that “It’s always been important to constantly challenge people’s perceptions of myself”.
The second project, then is Arthur the King, which, before you jump to conclusions, is not another King Arthur adaptation, but rather a drama about an endurance racer who adopts a stray dog, which will see him starring alongside Mark Wahlberg and Game of Thrones alum Nathalie Emmanuel. The production is still shooting, but any production with the star power Mark Wahlberg can be considered a step in the right direction.
Aside from the Shang-Chi sequel, that is all that has been officially announced in Simu Liu’s filmography. It is also worth noting that he has maintained his presence on television throughout 2021, including voicework for anime show Star Wars: Visions, as well as becoming the fourth Chinese host ever on Saturday Night Live. News of his future projects are slow to develop, sure, and he is certainly making some interesting choices during his Marvel interim, but Simu Liu’s star will only continue to grow as this is one actor who is just getting started.
He is also modelling for brands. No more stock image shoots for him!