As part of the Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month collection, X1 Asian American Film & TV will highlight various Game Changers, influential Asian Americans across entertainment.
The following interview is with Simu Liu, a Canadian actor, writer, and stuntman. He is known for the role of Jung in the CBC Television sitcom “Kim’s Convenience,” which just concluded its third season (carried by Netflix worldwide). He was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for his work in “Blood and Water.”
Congratulations on completing the latest season of “Kim’s Convenience”! How does it feel to be a part of one of the most innovative and authentic portrayals of an Asian family in North America on mainstream television?
Simu Liu: It’s so funny that you use the word “innovative,” because all we really set out to do was give life to these characters! I suppose the show is “innovative” in that it does choose to portray real and authentic characters of a non-white family, but my personal hope is that in the near future, simply having complex characters of color on-screen will no longer be “innovative;” it will be expected.
Your show is a production of the CBC and broadcast first in Canada. How was the reception and fan reaction once the show dropped on Netflix?
SL: You know, I am beyond ecstatic that the show has blown up around the world – we are tweeted and mentioned by fans from every continent who are able to enjoy this heartfelt family comedy with their own fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and children. As I travel around the world, it’s always a pleasant surprise when I hear, “OMG, is that Jung?!” That being said, there will always be a special place in my heart for our Canadian fans who have stuck by us since day one – some have shown up to every single meet n’ greet event we have ever held without fail, waiting hours in lines just to give us a hug and some words of encouragement. I believe the show is quintessentially Canadian in how truly inclusive it is. There is no preaching, no heavy-handed commentary, no politicking; simply a city of people co-existing in relative harmony. That, I think, is the main reason the show has found such success at home and abroad.
What are your favorite films and/or filmmakers who have inspired you?
SL: Being a chronic daydreamer, I grew up loving movies that transported me to different worlds. I loved fantasizing about worlds where dinosaurs could be brought back from extinction, where mutants with superhuman abilities fought for their right to live, and where a simple farm boy could lead a galactic revolution. Thanks to these movies, I grew up believing that anything was possible – even seeing myself on-screen someday.
How does your Asian heritage influence your work?
SL: My heritage is everything, and influences every single project I step into. I feel like we have collectively had very complicated relationships with our cultural background, due in no small part to the harmful stereotypes that have been put on us by Western media. Growing up, many of us (myself included) saw our Asian-ness as something to be ashamed of, and actively tried to run from it. I’ve since rediscovered my cultural pride and hope to use my platform to help other Asian Canadians and Americans (Australians, Brits, anywhere!) to do the same. I think we as a community are in dire need of leaders in this present moment, because we traditionally have not been conditioned to be politically or socially outspoken. Many of our mothers and fathers encouraged us to put our heads down, study hard, and not cause too much trouble; what I’m saying is, now is the time for troublemakers and shit-disturbers. It’s time we owned our spotlight.
What is your outlook on the state of Asian Pacific American film and tv?
SL: Ask Sandra Oh, John Cho, Ken Jeong, Daniel Dae Kim or the cast of “Crazy Rich Asians,” and they will all tell you the same thing; we are in the midst of a truly marquee moment for our diaspora. The state of our TV and film reflects the state of our community – we are slowly coming into our own and realizing how powerful we are when we support one another. If we continue to lift each other up, nobody will be able to take this moment away from us.
Can you let us know what you’re working in the near future in addition to “Kim’s Convenience” Season 4?
SL: I’ve just wrapped on a feature that I shot in San Francisco called “Women Is Losers” that I’m really excited for the world to see; it’s an incredibly empowering story of a single Hispanic mother in the ‘70s (played by the incredible Lorenza Izzo) struggling to climb out of the trenches of poverty. This year my speaking career has really taken off, and I’ve been traveling to schools all over the US and Canada speaking about the importance of representation, of pursuing your dreams and of owning your greatness. There are a couple more projects on the horizon I can’t really talk about yet, but you’ll know soon enough. Finally, I’m currently working on developing a feature with a major network!
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