Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Big MCU Actors You Didn't Know Were In Raya And The Last Dragon

Imagine a world where humans and dragons live together in harmony. So much so that when evil monsters threaten to destroy everything in their path, the dragons are willing to sacrifice themselves in order to save humanity. Welcome to Kumandra. There, 500 years later, a lone warrior named Raya sets out to track down the last dragon in existence, when the monsters return.

That's the premise behind Disney's latest original animated film, Raya and the Last Dragon, which will be released March 5, both theatrically and on Disney+ with Premier Access.

Through the film, which stars Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker) as Raya, Disney unveils its first Southeast Asian princess, with Tran being the first Southeast Asian actor to lead a Disney Animation movie. But Tran isn't the only high-profile actor associated with the film. During a recent press conference, the makers of the movie — including directors Don Hall and Carlos Lopez Estrada, producer Osnat Shurer, and writers Adele Lim and Qui Nguyen — revealed the actors who will be starring in Raya and the Last Dragon. And several of the cast have significant ties to Disney subsidiary Marvel Entertainment and its all-encompassing cinematic universe, having appeared in such films as Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel.

Here, Looper breaks down which Raya cast members also have ties to Marvel films.

Awkwafina, who voices the last dragon, will make her MCU debut in 2021

Awkwafina's star has been steadily rising since her 2018 breakout performances in Ocean's 8 and Crazy Rich Asians. And in 2021, she's sure to reach A-list status with the one-two punch of voicing Sisu, the last dragon, in Raya and the Last Dragon, as well as starring in Marvel's live-action film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which is scheduled for release on July 9, 2021.

In Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Awkwafina plays Katy, Shang-Chi's friend who gets sucked into the dangers of the martial artist's world when he becomes ensnared in the Ten Rings terrorist organization. (Awkwafina's Crazy Rich Asians co-stars Michelle Yeoh and Ronny Chieng will also appear in the film.)

Raya and the Last Dragon director, Don Hall, says this of working with Awkwafina: "Awkwafina as Sisu was incredible. We obviously knew that she could do both drama and comedy, but it was really special working with her — and her ability to improvise was like another world. We got so much material but could only keep a little bit of it in the film [...] Every recording session with Awkwafina was just a party," Hall continues. "It was just so much fun. She was having fun, and we were having fun. And, with what she brought to that character, I think Sisu is going to have a special place in the Disney pantheon of characters. I can't say enough good things about Awkwafina."

Daniel Dae Kim has appeared in two separate Marvel movies

Daniel Dae Kim may be one of the best known Asian American actors on the planet, having made a name for himself starring in such diverse, stereotype-breaking fare as Lost, 24, and the Hawaii Five-0 reboot. As for the Marvel side of things, Kim starred as Dr. Otto Octavius' scientist sidekick, Raymond, in 2004's Spider-Man 2, and had a bit part as a military aide in the 2003 Hulk film. So far, he technically hasn't joined the MCU proper.

As Raya's father, Benja, in Raya and the Last Dragon, Kim brings sincerity and thoughtfulness to the wise character that helps the young warrior with her journey.

Says Raya writer Adele Lim (who also co-wrote Crazy Rich Asians): "We really wanted somebody you could feel that warmth and compassion with, and yet that sense of authority. And Daniel Dae Kim, within our community of Asian Americans in the United States, has done so much in terms of really promoting visibility for people who are underrepresented. Just him as a human being with so much warmth — but, again, you feel that strife — it was just such a great piece of casting for us."

Benedict Wong is steeped in the MCU as Doctor Strange ally, Wong

After starring in Prometheus, Kick-Ass 2, and The Martian, Benedict Wong landed the role of Wong in 2016's Doctor Strange film — and the rest, as they say, is MCU history. Wong has gone on to appear in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, and he will reprise his role as Doctor Strange's magical ally in 2022 with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

In Raya and the Last Dragon, he plays the formidable giant Tong. "Benedict is such a force of nature and he's elemental in his power," says Hall. "Every recording session with Benedict was so much fun, especially watching him become the character and how he physicalizes his performance and never wears down, never gets tired, and gives you a different version with each take. In fact, we generally had to stop him or he would still be going."

Adds director Lopez Estrada: "I think he was our editors' worst nightmare because we would come back from recording sessions with, like, 50 possibilities for each single line, and they were all amazing."

Gemma Chan will make her second MCU appearance in 2021

Like Daniel Dae Kim, Gemma Chan, who previously worked with both Awkwafina and Lim on Crazy Rich Asians, has portrayed two separate Marvel characters — but both of hers exist in the MCU. She starred as antagonist Minn-Erva in 2019's Captain Marvel film, and she will play the empathetic Sersi in the upcoming 2021 film Eternals.

In Raya and the Last Dragon, Chan plays Raya's adversary Namaari. Says writer Nguyen of the character and Chan's performance: "When we were crafting this character, we knew she was going to be a bad guy that had to be Raya's equal in every way. But she also had to be a bad guy who is someone that you understand and have sympathy for. In a strange way, you want to see her turn [good]. And, with Gemma, she was able to work with that kind of nuance and subtlety to show the pain of what Namaari was going through. So, even though she was our bad guy, we always had, like, that feeling of "I wish they could get along." It was a hard tightrope to be on. But Gemma did it wonderfully."

Raya and the Last Dragon will be simultaneously released in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on March 5.