Actor, Writer & Producer
Simu Liu is an actor, writer and producer best known for his role as Jung on the hit CBC comedy Kim's Convenience. He is an ACTRA Award Winner as well as a Canadian Screen Award and Dora Award Nominee. His past credits include major roles on NBC's Taken, OMNI's Blood and Water and most recently the digital series YAPPIE created by Wong Fu Productions. Simu develops many of his own projects through his production company 4:12 Entertainment, named after the day he was laid off from his job as an accountant.
Advice to someone just starting out?
This is a confusing industry for actors; if we're not careful, we could easily get lost in the bustle of the business. Set your roots and make yourself visible. Show up to networking events, make friends with people who are in the same boat as you, and learn the lay of the land. What classes are the best? What are good programs for actors to apply to, like the CFC? What constituencies or incubators can help further my skills? You need to have your finger on the pulse of this industry. Refuse to just sit around and wait for your next audition; that's a cop-out and it's lazy. There's so, so much that you could be doing at all times.
Who impacted your career the most?
I owe a large part of my career to my friend and mentor Diane Boehme, showrunner of Blood and Water. She championed me time and time again, first in casting me in my first regular role for Blood and Water and again in inviting me into the writing room for its second season. Diane saw something in me and gave me the means to gain the knowledge that I so deeply craved.
Was it luck or strategy that helped you find success?
I think it was a bit of both. I can't deny that I've been tremendously lucky in this industry but I also strongly believe that I have a winning mentality. I was blessed in that I came from a business school background, so I approached acting in the same way as starting a business. I never thought of myself as an artist, because I believe that self-identifying as an artist allows you to cop-out on certain things. Artists are driven purely by feeling and inspiration; professionals get up and work whether they are feeling inspired or not. I wanted to be a professional. So more than just training my acting muscles I worked on understanding the inner workings of the industry and then identifying many different ways that I could potentially make a living. I was a strong gymnast and martial artist, so I could go into stunts. I was an eloquent writer so perhaps I could write the parts I couldn't yet be cast in. I had an accounting background so maybe I could produce, too. All of these skills would assist me in achieving my goal, which was ultimately to be an onscreen performer.
Did you ever give up hope that you’d not make it?
No, and I think that statement is in itself a bit of a fallacy; because I honestly believed I was always 'making it'. From the moment I first set foot on the set of a movie to the moments of intense frustration after losing a part I really wanted; from making $11.50/hr as an extra to booking my first series Blood and Water, there has never been a moment where I felt like I wasn't doing exactly what I was put on Earth to do. I wasn't always sure where I would land in show business, whether it be as an actor, writer, producer or a stuntman, but I knew that if I just hung around for long enough I would end up somewhere. I may be more established now, more financially stable with more tools at my disposal, but my mentality hasn't changed. I'll always be looking for the next step, the next project.
I hope everyone can view success not as a point that they haven't yet reached, but a mentality that they live by every day. I was never going to be the type of actor who waited by the phone for their agent; I was going to do everything in my power to find my own opportunities, even if it meant I was going to write them myself.
What was your worst experience in this business?
Feeling lost in a sea of misinformation, uncertainty, gatekeepers and middlemen; like I was the last man on my agent's roster, and half of the casting directors in the city didn't know I existed. In other words - powerless, invisible and alone.
What was your best experience in this business?
I had a summer where I was shooting two shows (Kim's Convenience and Taken) at the same time, getting shuttled from one set to the other and barely sleeping. Any time I thought I would collapse from exhaustion a little voice inside my head kept saying, "This is what you wanted. This is what it's like to be here." I kept going.