PEN15 star Dallas Liu’s career continues to grow. Not only was he recently cast in Netflix’s upcoming adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender but he made his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Shang-Chi.
ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Dallas Liu about taking part in a Marvel Studios film, working with Awkwafina, and his upcoming roles.
Tyler Treese: It’s such an exciting time in your career. You’ve already done so many great shows like PEN15. Now you have Shang-Chi and you’re joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. How exciting are you to just join that? It’s the biggest thing in movies right now and in TV.
Dallas Liu: I’m still trying to like, let it all, I guess, soak in because it all is kind of happening really quickly. I mean, I haven’t had this many things going on in my acting career happen all at once. So, I mean, luckily I have a great support system with my friends and family to keep me going, but yeah, it’s, I’m still in shock. I’m still trying to let it soak in. I mean, obviously, I’m enjoying it and, sorry, hold on… I’m still trying to soak in everything that’s happening, but yeah.
So, for those that haven’t seen Shang-Chi, who are you playing?
My character in the MCU, I am playing Awkwafina’s younger brother. That’s all I can really tell you because that’s all I really know. I actually have no idea what this entire story is about because Marvel had never even sent me the full script. I only got my scenes and that’s all I really had to work with.
So, how was it working with Awkwafina? She’s so funny and so talented.
Working with Awkwafina was probably one of the most influential experiences that I’ve had in the industry. I got to spend time with her off-set as well, and she had given me a lot of great advice personally and for my career. So, she’s someone that I admire very much and she’s just a great person to be around. I mean, even on set, she’s such a hard worker and pays attention to the details and things like that. So, overall just a great person to be around.
This film is such a great showing of Asian representation. From a personal standpoint, what does it mean for you to be involved in this project?
I mean, I think it’s just an honor to be able to be part of I guess the first real Asian superhero that Marvel is making a feature about. I’m thankful, you know, to have such a supportive family and be in this industry. You know, I feel like just as far as Asian cultures, it’s not really looked upon to take the riskier route in life, you know? So, I’m happy to be able to represent my community in this industry.
Yeah, and it really speaks to how far representation has gone that we have Asian superheroes because we had great martial arts films, Jackie Chan doing comedies, and so on. But before that, it was Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles and very offensive roles. It’s just come so far to where you could be in any film cast as any character and it makes total sense and you’re not typecasted anymore. That has to be so refreshing as a young actor like yourself.
Yeah. And there’s definitely, been a lot more opportunities opening up even just for regular roles, not even like anything specific. Just a lot of roles that I started getting auditions for are just very all open ethnicity most of the time, you know? So it’s good to see with all the different media platforms that are releasing, new shows and movies constantly producing content. It’s opened it almost to everyone now.
I read that Power Rangers kind of inspired you to pick up martial arts. I need to know who was your favorite ranger?
I was big on S.P.D., and I would probably say a Blue Ranger. Blue Ranger in S.P.D. I need to look back on some of those. I used to like dress up in the costumes and knew fights. That’s kinda what inspired me to do martial arts actually, which is really funny, but, yeah, I used to like go to sleep with them, holding them in my hands, had like a whole collection and everything.
I know that martial arts got you into one of your first roles playing Jin Kazama in the Tekken movie. You were so young, do you have memories of that experience? And Tekken’s still a hugely popular fighting game. Are you much of a gamer or have you played the Tekken games?
I used to play it a lot when I was younger on the Xbox 360 with my brother. I actually didn’t really use Jin Kazama that much when I would play the game. I was really into the Panda, surprisingly.
But that experience for me, I guess sort of gave me a glimpse into a possible future career because at the time I was just heavily into martial arts, constantly working out every day, going to tournaments every weekend and things like that. So, I mean, as I got older, this was acting and this entertainment industry was something that I looked into because of a fellow martial artist that was in it.
Do you still train any martial arts?
I try to keep up with it. I’m not training competitively, I would say. I think martial arts is a great way to keep your mind and your body in great shape.
So we just had that huge Avatar casting news, which is so exciting. You’re playing, Zuko, the Crown Prince of the Fire Nation, such an iconic character. Just how exciting are you to get that role?
I was tearing up when I found out that I had gotten Zuko. I mean, obviously, I’m a fan of the show as well. Being given the opportunity to play him is such a huge honor. I mean, he’s by far my favorite character in the series, and I think he’s just a favorite for a lot of people. So, I’m really excited to take this on.
And Avatar is such a pivotal show in that it kind of has the anime style, but it was a Western production and it kind of was like a wake-up call. There had been a stigma with anime a bit from Western studios and that kind of showed, “Hey, this can be huge, this can be, you know, a huge series.” Are you a fan of anime any?
Oh, I love anime. I love anime. There was a point like where I wasn’t even watching TV. It was just like trying to get through like all the fillers and just like getting through like One Piece or like Naruto fillers.
Oh, I feel you there. I’m a fan of Detective Conan and that’s got over a thousand episodes, way too many. You mentioned One Piece. What are some of your favorite anime?
So Naruto is like, what really got me into anime. My favorite character from that is probably Itachi. But I watch Hunter x Hunter, Jujutsu Kaisen is amazing, I love that show. Let’s see, Tokyo Ghoul is, like, eh, it’s all right. I mean, dude I’d have to pull up a list because I can’t think of them at the top of my head, but like, Haikyuu, Demon Slayer of course… Yeah, I mean, I just, I love anime so much.
That’s awesome. PEN15 has been so hilarious and Shuji’s such a cool character. You’re the cool brother, you know, your quote, unquote little, sister’s embarrassing you some. How fun is it getting to play off Anna and Maya, I mean, they’re so hilarious.
Yeah. I mean, every take that we do on set, it kind of ends with a little improv or just us continuing on the scene just to see if we can get anything out of it. And I mean, I, I’ve enjoyed being on that set so much. It’s such a relaxed and comfortable environment, um, being there with them.
I heard that the last season was kind of wild. You had the wildfires that were switching the filming locations all around. How was that experience shooting that?
Extremely unpredictable. I mean, we were in the middle of shooting, um, some more of PEN15, and then COVID hit. And literally like in the middle of, uh, in the middle of filming one day, we were just kicked off because of COVID. So there was just a ton going on. Um, I feel like even in some people’s personal lives, so we’re kind of just taking it each day at a time, and being careful with each and every action that we made.
Is voice acting something you’re interested in?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I’m not the biggest fan of like dub animes, you know, I’m a major sub person. I believe that’s just the way to go, but if the opportunity to play a character in an anime and they wanted me to dub the voiceover, I’d totally do it, you know? Yeah, I mean, I think there’s an anime Tokyo Revengers that’s been like creating a lot of pull in the manga and anime universes so, yeah.
So there we go. Cast Dallas. You’d be great.
My last question here, you’ve taken such a wide variety of roles. Are there any other types of films or shows that you’d like to take part of and really show other sides of your acting ability?
I guess specifically, I’d like some, some drama. I feel like that could add a lot to my resume just because most of the stuff I had done before is comedy. So, yeah, I would like to be as well-rounded as possible. I mean, I’m still very early in my career, so I’m really just taking any opportunity that I can get right now to show what I’m capable of.