"Ken, without fail, would bring me into his dressing room and ask me how I was doing."
Simu Liu recently opened up about the pressures of becoming the new face of Asian representation.
In an interview for Vanity Fair's 2022 Hollywood Issue, the "Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings" actor spoke to the publication about feeling like an "outsider" in Hollywood and the pressures of what it meant to become the first Asian MCU headliner.
Despite the higher stakes after the release of his Marvel movie, he told the publication that he had felt the weight of becoming a representative of the Asian diaspora with his work in "Kim's Convenience."
"We were already being bombarded with those questions from day one—what does it mean to represent your people, why is diversity important," he sighed and admitted, "Initially, it felt uncomfortable, like we were asked to speak on these broad issues that were outside of our scope. I was a failed accountant from business school who, before I got the 'Kim's' gig, was handing out dog-food samples on the side of the street. I was not an Asian-studies major. Nothing prepared me."
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The 32-year-old also got candid about an unexpected ally he found in Ken Jeong whose show of kindness made him feel welcome.
"When I first got to L.A. one of the first people who reached out to me was Ken Jeong." Liu said that he had connected with the actor on Twitter who was shooting the ABC sitcom “Dr. Ken" at the time. "He said, 'Look, I'm gonna give you a drive-on pass to the studio lot. You come whenever you want.' And I took him up on it. I would go to tapings, and Ken, without fail, would bring me into his dressing room and ask me how I was doing."
Liu confessed, "That was the first time I really felt the generosity of a community…. I'll never forget that kind of kindness."
Simu dived deeper into his dilemma of becoming one of the industry's most recognizable Asian faces and the pressure to meet the expectations of a vast and diverse demographic.
"What I wasn't prepared for was backlash from within, for people to say, 'He's not our representative,'" Liu reflected. "Even if there are only a couple of people saying it, it always hurts."
"I still feel very much like I'm an outsider in Hollywood...but I'm starting to realize I don't have to prove to anyone or myself that I deserve to be here," he concluded. "Taking up this space and being unapologetic—these things came a lot easier to me back in the day, when I didn't have a seat at the table. I was playing a very different game, but I think I'm slowly finding that courage again."
Simu will be releasing his memoir "We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story"this coming May.