In Hollywood blockbusters this year, Asian actors have had a significant impact, playing heroic characters and shattering preconceptions in the process. By continuing the work of pioneers like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, they are elevating Asian actors' status to a new level.
The main characters in some of the year's most popular movies have a variety of professional backgrounds, like hair styling and architecture, before they were drawn into the performing vortex and became well-known figures throughout the world.
But who are they specifically? Here, we examine five successful Asian performers in Hollywood.
1. Simu Liu of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
As the first Asian actor to be chosen for the main superhero role in a Marvel film, the Chinese-Canadian actor made history. He portrays Shang-Chi, a talented martial artist who was raised by his father to be an assassin, as the lead character in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. According to Screen Rant, the blockbuster, which was released last month, broke records at the box office by earning $400 million globally, even without the significant Chinese market.
Liu, who arrived in Canada at the age of five, was born in 1989 in Harbin, China. Prior to pursing a career as an actor and stuntman, he worked as an accountant for Deloitte and completed his business studies at the University of Western Ontario. He held part-time gigs as a stock photo model, a stand-in for stunt performers, and even dressed as Spider-Man for kids' birthday parties in order to support himself, according to BuzzFeed.
Liu made his television debut in 2016 as one of the main characters, Jung Kim, in the CBS comedy series Kim's Convenience. One of the best-performing shows in Canadian TV history, Kim's Convenience, ran for five seasons between 2016 and 2021.
Aside from Fresh off the Boat and Orphan Black, some of his other notable projects include Taken, in which he co-starred with Liam Neeson; Blood and Water; Dark Matter; and Star Wars: Visions, in which he provides the voice of Zhima in the Japanese anime anthology series.
Additionally, Henry Golding won his audition for the Crazy Rich Asians character of Nick Young. However, he revealed to Digital Spy that he had indicated interest in playing Carlton Bao, Rachel Chu's troubled half-brother, who will return in the sequel.
2. Henry Golding: Snake Eyes
The newest installment of Hasbro's wildly popular toy, comic, and media franchise, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, stars the Crazy Rich Asians actor as Snake Eyes, a lone fighter with a shadowy past.
The British-Malaysian actor, 34, never imagined he would pursue an acting career despite displaying an early talent for hairstyling. He quit school at age 16 to follow his love and began working in a barbershop in London, according to Page Six. He relocated to Kuala Lumpur at age 21 to pursue a career in front of the camera, where he gained some notoriety as a host of sports programs and the BBC's The Travel Show.
According to Filmy One, he first turned down his legendary role in Crazy Rich Asians because he didn't believe he had the expertise necessary to advance to playing in major motion pictures. However, the rookie found immediate success when he made his acting debut as the wealthy, attractive, and charming Nick Young.
Before obtaining the Snake Eyes character, a number of new roles followed, including those of the ghost Tom in Last Christmas and a mobster by the name of Dry Eye in The Gentlemen. Additionally, he will be seen in the Assassin Club spy movie and the upcoming Netflix drama Persuasion, which is based on the Jane Austen novel of the same name.
3. Lewis Tan: Mortal Kombat
In Mortal Kombat, a relaunch of the movie series based on the well-liked video game noted for its bloody, intense battles, Lewis Tan makes his debut as a studio lead. Tan plays Cole Young in the movie, a fighter who endures multiple knockdowns in the MMA octagon before developing into one of the planet's finest champion fighters. According to Screen Rant, it is the most successful movie launch for the HBO Max streaming platform. It made more than $83.6 million globally against a US$55 million budget.
Tan, who was born in 1987, is descended from Philip Tan, a well-known stuntman, actor, and Singapore martial arts choreographer. Joanne Tan, a former model, is his British mother. When his father was hired to coordinate the combat scenes for Tim Burton's 1989 movie Batman, the family relocated to Los Angeles. According to Men's Health, he describes himself as a global citizen because he grew up in LA and later lived abroad due to his father's business in France, Thailand, Spain, and China.
Tan, a martial artist like his father, began his cinematic career as a stuntman and choreographer. According to Men's Variety, he has received training in kung fu, taekwondo, wushu, MMA, boxing, and more. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Olympus Has Fallen, and The Hangover Part III are just a few of the blockbusters he performed stunts for.
Gaius Chau in the AMC series Into the Badlands was his first significant role. He also portrayed the title character in the Netflix series Iron Fist as Zhou Cheng, Lu Xin Lee in the Wu Assassins series, and Shatterstar in Deadpool 2. He will play the same character in the upcoming Wu Assassins: Fistful of Vengeance Netflix movie and in a romantic comedy.
4. Daniel Wu: Reminiscence
In the action sci-fi thriller Reminiscence from Warner Bros., the veteran actor, 47, co-stars with Hugh Jackman as Nick Bannister as the alluring villain Saint Joe.
According to PeoplePill, Wu's parents, who are both from Shanghai, China, first met in New York before relocating to California, where he was born. As a result of watching Jet Li in The Shaolin Temple and Donnie Yen in Iron Monkey, the Tomb Raider actress developed a passion for martial arts and started learning wushu at the age of 11. He then took cinema courses in addition to architecture classes because he enjoyed watching movies. He didn't want to be an actor, even after visiting Hong Kong in 1997 and working as a model there.
But Wu has subsequently distinguished himself both in Hollywood and in the world of Chinese-language film. He has appeared in more than 60 movies since his acting debut in 1998 and has earned the nickname "the young Donnie Yen" thanks to his dual-role performances in Gen-X Cops, Tomb Raider, One Nite in Mongkok, New Police Story, Shinjuku Incident, and AMC's martial arts drama series Into the Badlands, for which he also served as executive producer. He has also acted in movies directed by Jackie Chan, who was his childhood hero and now regards him like a son, according to PeoplePill.
5. Chang Chen: Dune
Chang Chen plays Dr. Wellington Yueh in the science fiction epic Dune, which is based on the 1965 novel of the same name by American author Frank Herbert. Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) is a young heir who is charged with looking after the galaxy's most priceless possession. He has appeared in films with A-list stars including Jason Momoa, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, and Rebecca Ferguson.
Acting runs in Chen's family; both his father Chang Kuo-chu and his brother Chang Han are actors. Chen was born in Taiwan in 1976. He made his acting debut at the age of 14 in the four-hour film A Brighter Summer Day, which took home the special jury medal at the Tokyo International Film Festival, together with his father and brother.
He became well-known for playing Dark Cloud in the 2000 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon movie. He later gained notoriety by portraying well-known roles in Asia's three biggest film markets, China, South Korea, and Japan, including master Wu Qingyan in The Go Master, a mute prisoner in Kim Ki-Breath, duk's, and a mysterious bajiquan master known only as The Razor in the kung fu epic The Grandmaster with veteran Hong Kong actor Tony Leung. He received three Golden Horse Award nominations, as well as numerous other nominations for best actor at the Berlinale and Cannes Film Festivals. His portrayal of The Go Master earned him the title of "outstanding actor" at the third Osaka Asia Film Festival.
He recently appeared in The Assassin, directed by seasoned Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien, which won the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015. He will appear in the upcoming Netflix Korean series Suriname alongside Squid Game star Park Hae-soo.
Actors of Chinese descent are gradually taking a firm foothold in Hollywood and making their mark on Hollywood blockbusters. One would suspect that it wouldn’t be too long before they became major leading men in Hollywood.