Lucy Liu is making her comic book movie debut in “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” playing the villainous Kalypso alongside Helen Mirren and “West Side Story” breakout Rachel Zegler. The three actors play the daughters of Atlas, who come to our planet to reclaim the magic that fuels Zachary Levi’s Shazam. Liu was recently asked by The Cut about starring in a superhero movie for the first time at 54 years old.
“If it had happened earlier, it would have been miraculous,” Liu said. “It would have been a different story; my career would have been easier. There would have been more opportunity.”
Sizable comic book movie roles for Asian-Americans simply did not exist when Liu was coming up in the industry. She had her action breakthrough playing Alex Munday opposite Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore in 2000’s “Charlie’s Angels” and its 2003 sequel, “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.”
“That character, Alex, was important because of the composition of the three of us regardless of whether that movie did well or not,” Liu said. “It’s really the visual that can help propel the next thing. And I say visual because even if a film doesn’t do well, it starts to move the needle a little in toward the direction you want it to go. Not just for yourself, but for others.”
Roles such as Alex Munday in “Charlie’s Angels” and Kitty Baxter in “Chicago” were not scripted with an Asian-American actor in mind, but Liu said she always mandated her characters’ names not be changed when she got cast.
“For me, it was important to keep that character’s name but be able to embody it my way with my history and my culture, which is a mixed culture,” Liu said. “I think the main point was that in order to shatter the ceiling, you needed to do things that were conventionally significant. ‘Charlie’s Angels’ was such a big move because it was such a big piece of Americana. It was an important distinction to have Alex Munday instead of Alex Woo just to show the history.”
“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” opens in theaters March 17 from Warner Bros.