With THE WORLD-WIDE release of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the Marvel Cinematic Universe gets another superhero. While Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu plays the titular character, a new face — Meng’er Zhang — makes her debut in the production. There’s little information available about the Chinese actress, but her Instagram account is slowly heating up with pictures from publicity shoots. Meng’er is part of this historic movie which, for the first time, gives the Asian community its very own Marvel hero.
With the movie, Shang-Chi’s origin story is being set up before he is inducted into the big league. The narrative follows Shaun, an Asian-American working-class professional and his journey to becoming the superhero. The role of his character’s sister Xialing, who runs an underground fight club, is portrayed by Meng’er. The actress delivers an impactful performance as the complex Xialing who is an equally capable martial artist like her brother. “Xialing is someone you don’t want to mess with. Although she has an unapproachable exterior, she also has a vulnerable part deep down inside of her. I felt connected to her since the beginning of my journey,” explains Meng’er in our Zoom interview.
Bagging this role was sheer serendipity for Meng’er. An audition call message on a WhatsApp group conveyed the requirement for a girl who could speak in Chinese and English. Out of curiosity the actress sent her tapes. “I didn’t know I was auditioning for a Marvel film. Only when they called me for a screen test with Simu, I realised I was auditioning for Shang-Chi. I was very excited! After five days, I got a really long message from my lawyer. I didn’t read through it, I just scrolled down to the bottom, and saw: Welcome to the Marvel Universe,’ I was like ‘wow!” she enthuses.
The movie features a predominantly East Asian cast and has names like Michelle Yeoh, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Awkwafina and Fela Chen in pivotal roles. Sir Ben Kingsley plays a hilarious role and adds his golden touch to this highly entertaining movie. For a newcomer, there couldn’t have been a better film set to be on, and Meng’er says she learnt something new from all of them. “It was like a masterclass every day. Tony’s work ethic is amazing. And Sir Ben, I literally took notes every time I spoke with him,” says the actress.
With this movie, the Asian community is in the spotlight. “Asian representation is very important and I take it as a serious responsibility. Asian kids who grow up in Western countries now have a superhero who they can look up to and say, ‘He looks like me.’ It’s amazing,” she says.
The movie is all the more special for Meng’er because when she started shooting, little did she know that she would find the love of her life. The actress got married to one of the movie’s action designers. “I met my husband Yung Lee on this movie. Yeah, it just happened. We didn’t plan anything for our wedding but the production team threw a really big party for us.”
In theatres now.
Debutante Meng’er Zhang on being part of the first-ever Asian superhero Marvel movie, meeting her husband Yung Lee on set, and working with seasoned actors like Sir Ben Kingsley and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai