This weekend will be a legendary moment in cinematic history as Marvel introduces their first Asian lead superhero in "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." Shang-Chi is played by breakout star Simu Liu. His supporting cast includes Awkwafina, Meng'er Zhang, Sir Ben Kinsley, and many others. The men working behind-the-scenes who helped bring the legend from comics to live action include director Destin Daniel Cretton and President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige. In anticipation of the release, Disney held a virtual press conference. Take a look below at the Q&A with the cast and crew of "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." And be sure to check out the film in theaters this weekend.
'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' Q&A: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Meng'er Zhang, Sir Ben Kinsley, Destin Daniel Cretton & Kevin Feige
Q: What kind of social impact can there be with a project like this? And how does it impact the story telling?
Sir Ben Kinsley: Well, I think when you hear Destin you know that the motives behind telling this story are crystal clear, lucid, pure motives. They are motives that are life enhancing and they’re not patronizing because they do introduce in a beautiful way, memory, ancestry, loss, and families torn apart and reunited and reconfigured. All this is from Destin’s heart and Kevin’s heart and the writer’s heart. And if your motives are pure as a storyteller, the angels will come to assist you with that story. And to quote a great author, whom I admire greatly, "To tell a story is to heal." And I think that this story, because it’s so beautifully told, and so rich, will ultimately be healing because it’s not propaganda. It’s just a really beautiful story. We are actors together. We live on empathy and transformation. And this is our currency. All the rest is irrelevant. And if we can demonstrate that energy, I think it will ultimately be soothing and healing and people will forget. People will realize there’s very little difference in storytelling and very little difference in our hearts.
Q: What do you feel are the differences between stage acting and film acting for you personally?
Meng'er Zhang: Oh, it’s so different because this is my very first film experience and I am so lucky to work with all of them and Sir Ben. I asked him a lot of questions on set. And I asked him that question and he said, so beautifully, he said, so when we are on stage, we are landscape artists. And when we are in front of a camera, we are portrait artists. And I think that just gave me a very clear image and I just learned so much. I literally took notes every time when I talked to Sir Ben.
Q: What do you feel was more physically demanding, this movie or SpongeBob?
Awkwafina: Oh, well, you know, (there's) much to be said about voice acting. 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.
Q: Did you have to practice on bow and arrow a lot? How was it?
Awkwafina: I did, yeah...I actually went to a racetrack and learned how to drift… Probably not practical in my scenario...and then I learned how to shoot a bow and arrow.
Q: Lots of heavy hitters in this movie. How was it? Can you talk a little bit about being on set with these legends?
Simu Liu: It was like imposter syndrome every single day. It was truly 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 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...every day it was like waking up to a dream.
Q: I love the friendship between Shang-Chi and Katy. Were the characters played out as best friends, or did you have the characters kind of as potential love interests?
Destin Daniel Cretton: I mean, aren’t all friendships potential love interests? When one of our co-writers, Dave Callahan, and I were creating this relationship, we actually have a lot of friends who are not the same gender as us, and it is strictly platonic, but also very intimate, caring, and we haven’t seen a lot of that on screen. We’re really excited to create that relationship between Shang-Chi and Katy. It also just naturally felt like the only way to go with this movie because Shang-Chi is so deep in his own inner struggle. I don’t think there’s emotional space for anything else.
Awkwafina: I don’t think he has room in his life right (now)… I think he has much going on for just like a neurotic girlfriend.
Simu Liu: I just have a lot going on right now. I’m just not really emotionally available right now.
Q: What it was like to get to speak Mandarin in a Marvel film?
Simu Liu: What I really loved is that moment where, I don’t think it’s a spoiler, but where, you know, your character [talking to Ronny Chieng] is talking to Awkwafina’s character and she’s like, "Oh, no, my Chinese isn’t good." And you’re like, "No worries, I speak ABC."
Awkwafina: That was really a big moment. I think, culturally, you just never see that.
Simu Liu: So, they called it out and ABC, of course, means American born Chinese, but it’s just this is the first time that you really see in a movie someone just calling out, you know, a lived experience.
Q: At what point did the film become less about the franchise and more about the culture?
Kevin Feige: Well, it was always about both. My producing partner on this film, Jonathan Schwartz, has worked on this movie for a long time. 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.
Destin Daniel Cretton: And I think what is extra relevant to the culture is that this is a Marvel film. And if we were not putting Shang-Chi shoulder to shoulder with all the amazing other Marvel superheroes that we’ve come to love in the past, that would be, to me, a big disservice to the culture and the character. So, both, I think, are equally important.
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Jesse is a writer and content manager for Noovie. When he's not working, he's on the beach playing volleyball.