In just five years, American actress, rapper and comedian Awkwafina has become a popular name with her performances in films such as ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’, ‘Paradise Hills’, ‘The Farewell’, and now, she’s the newest entrant into the ever-growing Marvel universe with ‘Shang-Chi and The Legend Of The Ten Rings’.
And with inclusivity and diversity taking centrestage in Hollywood, she says it is a good time to be an actor.
Awkwafina, short for ‘Awkward Fina’, whose real name is Nora Lum, was speaking about ‘Shang-Chi’, which is being touted as Marvel’s first superhero film with an Asian lead.
She said: “I think it is a really good time to be an actor in Hollywood. You are right, there’s a lot of inclusivity and there are a lot of authentic stories that are being told behind the camera.”
The actress had won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical for the comedy drama, ‘The Farewell’, in 2019, thus becoming the first woman of Asian descent to be so honoured. She said there’s equitable representation now both in front and behind the camera.
The 33-year-old, who began rapping from the age of 13, became a YouTube sensation with her song ‘My Vag’. She released her debut album, ‘Yellow Ranger’, in 2014.
The George Clooney-starrer ‘Ocean’s 8’ (2018), was among her big breakthrough films.
When you’re giving an interview to an Indian journalist, the conversation has to turn to Bollywood.
A number of international celebrities, from Sylvester Stallone, Will Smith and Denise Richards to Ben Kingsley and Toby Stephens, among others, have appeared in Bollywood or crossover productions, in either full-fledged roles or as cameos.
Will Awkwafina also try her hand at Hindi cinema if she gets a role that interests her? “Yes, although I don’t think I can keep up. I think they are so good at what they do I will be out of breath at some point, but yes, if they just need me to sprint drinks around, I will be fine,” Awkwafina said.
In ‘Shang-Chi’, Awkwafina plays Katy Bashir, a close friend of the title character. The film is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.
The film stars Canadian actor Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, who must confront the past he thought he had left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organisation.
Awkwafina reveals why superhero films are so popular across all age groups. “Movies offer an escape and I think that just magic does not happen every day,” she said.
“I think the beauty of these movies is that they make the world feel a lot bigger than maybe it is and it gives you that time to go to a theatre and get taken away,” Awkwafina said.
The star added: “It’s an adventure and I also feel that people also want to see a little bit of themselves in superheroes too. Yeah! You are right, they are popular universally.”
Awkwafina, incidentally, was the first actor to be cast for ‘Shang-Chi’. Remembering the casting call, she said, “Oh man! When I first got the call, obviously it was very exciting, but there wasn’t much information on what the movie was about! I met with the amazing director Destin and he broke down on where he wanted to take this character, where he saw it, and the mood it would have and who Katy was.”
“Instantly, I was like, not just loved the story but loved his passion and the way he was executing it. So, to be at the MCU (Marvel Comics Universe) and with the movie that you love is a gift.”
The film, which releases this Friday, also stars Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Benedict Wong, Yuen Wah, Ronny Chieng, Zach Cherry, Dallas Liu, along with Malaysian action star Michelle Yeoh and internationally celebrated Hong Kong actor Tony Leung.
–By Durga Chakravarty