Out Friday is “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” the first theater exclusive Marvel film released since 2020. Prior to the film’s release, the cast and creative team gathered to discuss the project, the first in the MCU to feature a predominantly Asian and Asian American cast.
On the panel was director Destin Daniel Cretton, producer and Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, Simu Liu (Shang-Chi), Awkwafina (Katy), Meng’er Zhang (Xialing) and Ben Kingsley (Trevor Slattery).
The cast of the film discussed the experience of working on a film from a big studio with iconic stars like Michelle Yeoh, Tony Leung and Ben Kingsley.
Simu Liu: I mean it was like imposter syndrome every single day. Truly it was such a treat and it was all I could do just not to mess it up, you know. When I was first cast, I did my final screen test with Nora [Awkwafina], and she did such like a wonderful job of putting me at ease. My nerves were sky high. I was an actor from Toronto, and I really had never allowed myself to imagine being a part of the MCU. I mean, it’s the craziest dream that someone can possibly dream. And Nora did such a great job of putting me at ease and just, you know, being in the moment with me and we had such a beautiful chemistry.
Awkwafina: I’d say this was slightly more physically demanding. … I was more like falling so it’s more like I was working as a team with gravity…. So, that’s where I’m at physically…. I actually went to a race track and like learned how to drift. Which is really f-fun, right? Probably not practical in any scenario that like in kind of traffic, right. And I learned how to shoot a bow and arrow.
The panel also discussed how making the film bilingual created more authenticity.
Destin Daniel Cretton: I can talk to the-the conversation behind which language should be speaking was always rooted in just the logic of the characters. And who would naturally be speaking what language. And so that conversation started in the writer’s room and then once our actors came in it was always a dialog what these bilingual, trilingual, quadrilingual characters who could speak whatever made sense at the time. So, we were constantly having the discussion of what made sense for the scene.
Liu: What I really loved is that moment where, I don’t think it’s a spoiler, but where, Awkwafina’s character is talking, and she’s like “oh, no, my Chinese isn’t good.” And you’re like “no worries, I speak ABC.” So, they called it out and ABC, of course, means American born Chinese, but it’s just the first time that you really see in a movie, someone just calling out, you know, a lived experience.
Finally, they discussed the personal and broader significance of creating a film in the MCU with an (almost) entirely Asian and Asian America cast.
Kevin Feige: We wanted to do it for both of those reasons. To bring this specific character into the MCU but just as importantly to bring representation of another kind to this film. And that was really what Destin brought in his pitch. Which was yeah, action, cool, Marvel, but it was really the story of this father and son that someday you should put that presentation out into the world actually that he put together.
Cretton: I really, personally connect with Shang-Chi’s journey. I love that this is a superhero that doesn’t get splashed with chemicals to get his superpower. That it is a journey of self-discovery, of growing up, of learning how to finally deal with pain that he’s been running away from his entire life. And that when he is finally able to look inside into his past and embrace good, bad, the joy, the pain, and accept it all as a part of himself, that’s when he finally steps into his big boy shoes, and I don’t know. I think that’s kind of what we’re all doing as humans in some way or another. So I really connect with that.
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is in theaters Friday, September 3.