Awkwafina on the importance of joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe with 'Shang-Chi': 'It's going to mean a lot for generations to come'

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

Avengers: Endgame may have wrapped up the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we’ve known it, but Marvel’s Phase 4 is about to introduce us to a whole new world. The powerhouse studio used the stage offered by San Diego Comic-Con to unveil their ambitious slate of feature film and streaming releases for the next two years, and it’ll include such diverse offerings as a solo Black Widow film, an immortal Eternals adventure and the debut of kung fu master Shang-Chi in the first-ever Hollywood-made superhero movie starring a predominantly Asian cast.

Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu will play the title role in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings, and he’ll be joined by Hong Kong superstar Tony Leung as the Marvel villain The Mandarin and Queens-born scene-stealer, Awkwafina, in a yet-to-be disclosed role that’ll likely give her the chance to flex some serious muscle. “I’m already dabbling in keto,” the actress and rapper jokes to Yahoo Entertainment. “By that, I just didn’t eat bread for one day!” (Watch our video interview above.)

Like Liu—who famously landed the role of Shang-Chi mere days after his first screen-test— Awkwafina’s casting happened relatively quickly. “I met with [director] Destin Daniel Cretton a couple weeks ago,” she reveals. “He has a really amazing vision.” And it’s a vision she thinks will inspire the next generation of Asian-American actors to dream big. “It feels incredible as an actress and also as an Asian-American kid who grew up in this country for us to have a hero in that way. I think it’s going to mean a lot for the generations to come.”

Awkwafina in her breakout role in 'Ocean's 8' (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection)

The changing face of the MCU is a reflection of the changing face of American culture. It’s no secret that the most successful comic book movies of the past few years—be it Black PantherAquaman or Captain Marvelhave been those that have embraced diversity. “When it comes to casting or representation in movies, we’re going to see faces continue to change onscreen,” notes Awkwafina, who appeared in last year’s blockbuster, Crazy Rich Asians. “The hullabaloo can continue making the hullabaloo or they can get onboard and realize that we are a nation of many, many people. We deserve to have our stories represented as well.”

Before she heads off to join a world populated by big-time superheroes, Awkwafina is logging plenty of air miles promoting her acclaimed new drama, The Farewell. And you’d better believe that she puts the same preparation into travel that she’ll bring to her kung fu training. In addition to carrying essentials like HDMI streaming cables, chargers and face wipes, Awkwafina never goes anywhere without booking a place to sleep ahead of time via HotelTonight.

Speaking of HotelTonight, Awkwafina is hosting a staycation pool party Sunday night at The Williamsburg Hotel in Brooklyn to celebrate some of HotelTonight’s bookers who booked the most Daily Drops over the past year. (Daily Drop is a feature that lets people book hotels up to 30% off the already great deals. You just have to book in 15 minutes once you swipe on the deal.) That’s a trip worth taking.

The Farewell is playing in theaters now. Check Fandango for showtime and ticket information.

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