In this excerpt from his memoir We Were Dreamers, actor Simi Liu shares how he ditched a gig at Deloitte for a highly successful acting career.
Whether to hit the red carpet for Brad Pitt’s premiere bullet trainlive by licking frozen maggots Run Wild with Bear Gryllsor teasing fans with hints about the future of his wildly popular Shang-Chi character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sim Liu is one of the most newsworthy Canadian celebrities alive. his recent memoir, we were dreamers, tells a poignant tale of the experience of Asian immigrants in Canada, especially the generational tensions, beneath a lighthearted and often highly entertaining superficial narrative. What Liu was asking of himself was that he would act and see himself and other Asian actors as the main characters in his stories. What his parents wanted and expected was something light-years away from a very precarious livelihood, practically anything. It was one thing, but by March 2012, seven months after graduating, I had landed an accounting job at Deloitte with my parents’ approval. —Brian Bethune
When I was in a downward spiral, every once in a while I would see a post or two from someone I knew in the cheating community, and I would be overwhelmed with envy. Many of the people who used to train in the same Spring Floor gym as me years ago have become professional stuntmen who have worked in the film industry for years. , I imagined myself working on an actual Hollywood movie set. If you had asked me at the time, I would have firmly said in your presence that my dream is to be an Asian who gets shot after saying a line. They were living their best lives, but I was stuck in a job I despised, watching the seconds of my life tick by.
I admired Chris Mark more than anyone else. Chris Mark was a prodigious young martial artist and gymnast who channeled his talents into films such as:
hunger game, Suicide Squad, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Almost every action movie or TV show shot in Toronto. A god whose career was beyond the reach of a mortal like me and didn’t even require me to try. I imagined being blown away by an explosion.
Wanting to get a taste of show business, but lacking even the slightest clue how to navigate it, I started browsing the advertising section of Craigslist.
Now I know what you’re thinking Yes, there were a lot of cursory posts about “talent”. Today, especially if you’re a woman, I wouldn’t recommend touching her Craigslist with a 20-foot pole. One day, sandwiched between a busty adult film actress casting her call and (no kidding) semi-nude mad model for her wrestling photo shoot, I really knew what I was looking for. DID NOT: FOR ASIAN EXTRAS NEEDED HOLLYWOOD MOVIES.
Oh my God,I thought. it’s me! i am asian!!
what did i have to lose? I replied with a shirtless photo (guys, I tried to put my best foot forward) and almost immediately got a reply from a woman at Extracasting Toronto.I was in a movie with a code name Still Seeds.
The urge I felt when I opened this email was the most intense I have ever experienced in my academic and professional life. I couldn’t believe it. I’m going to be in a movie! After cross-referencing the casting agency’s name and email online, everything seemed legit.For safety’s sake, I was convinced [my friend] Jason came along too, and it’s only fitting that seven years later he’s the first to call after learning I’ve booked the role of Shang-Chi.
“There’s only one thing,” the agent told me over the phone. “Your shooting day is on a weekday. If you have a regular job, we need to make arrangements. Is that okay?”
“Thank you for the chance, but I have to decline.”
I replied. “I have a full-time job in a field that I am deeply passionate about and would not want to miss the chance to be on a real movie set.”
Ha. just kidding. I told her no problem and I will fake her illness.
When Jason and I arrived on set for the first day of shooting, it was 4 in the morning and my eyes were blurry, so I quickly realized: Still Seeds was actually pacific rim, a massive Guillermo del Toro blockbuster in which giant human-piloted robots called Jaegers battled equally gigantic monsters known as kaiju. In our scene, a monster has just exploded over Hong Kong, covering the area with blue blood. So I had to spray paint it from head to toe with layers of blue and black for dirt.
Toronto was freezing cold in March. I distinctly remember the ice-cold paint being sprayed on my nipples, shivering in my tent.
The film crew built an entire Hong Kong street façade that had been ravaged by a monster attack, contained within a hangar-sized soundstage. I have taken my place among the Smurfs. My eyes swallowed every detail of the scenery. The level of detail was amazing, from the authentic Hong Kong storefronts to the blood drips on individual debris on the ground. Looking around, what I would later learn were people with vibrant energy and purpose: grips, lighting, camera assistants, assistant directors, sound engineers. Everyone was so into what they were doing, as if they actually wanted to be there. No matter where the camera was, we shot many times and tried our best to sneak into the shot and make it into the film.
Until that day, I didn’t understand what it meant to do what you love and never work a day in your life. The minimum wage for our job was less than half my hourly wage at Deloitte. Of course it didn’t matter. After his grueling 14-hour day, still covered in spray paint, Jason and I boarded the bus, eager for the next shoot day, as if he hadn’t done a single second of work. I waited for
excerpt from We Were Dreamers: The Origin Story of an Immigrant Superhero Shim Liu ©2022. Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. all rights reserved.
Simi Liu talks about the origins of acting
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