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Jayden Zhang Gets Candid About Playing Young Shang-Chi - Exclusive Interview

"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" shows us several chapters of Shang-Chi's journey. Simu Liu portrays Shang-Chi for the bulk of it, but the first Shang-Chi we see onscreen is played by child actor Jayden Zhang. It's Zhang's first role, a stunning fact given that he's the emotional focal point for many critical scenes. Zhang, a Vancouver, BC native who we learned firsthand is a bright and enthusiastic kid, proved more than capable of doing that heavy lifting.

Looper spoke with Zhang via Zoom. (Lest you worry that he's missing out on any of his childhood, he was sitting in front of a stack of superhero toys that he recently acquired for his birthday.) He told us about Marvel's secretive audition process, working with Hong Kong acting legend Tony Leung, and how certain scenes made them feel like a family. Also, many of his friends don't know he's Shang-Chi and will find out on September 3 like most viewers.

Auditioning and favorite comics

When you auditioned, did you know it was going to be a Marvel movie?

No, not at all. We did a blind audition and we had no clue what we were doing. All they gave us were the scenes and to request that we knew how to speak Mandarin and that we had some previous martial arts experience.

So you do have some previous martial arts experience — what have you done?

Yes. I have taken multiple karate lessons.

So besides Shang-Chi, who's your favorite Marvel hero?

Oh, Iron Man definitely! Because he's just so cool and fun. And also he's really smart.

Oh, very, very good choice there. Do you read comic books yourself?

Yes. I am quite a big comic book fan. I read lots and lots and lots of comic books and sometimes I even try to make my own, but the idea always runs out of steam at the end.

What kind of comics do you like to make?

Well, it's just those silly little ones. There's lots of jokes in it, but with tiny little action scenes. It's kind of fun!

What are your favorite comics to read?

I like to read, just to be honest, I'm open to any kind of comics and I think I've read Captain Underpants, Dogman and some others. I really forgot the name though, because I haven't gone to the library in a long time.

Working with Tony Leung

You work with a lot of really good actors in this movie. And the biggest one is Tony Leung, who's a legend in Hong Kong. What's it like working with him?

It's just so surreal and crazy. I think he's just one of the best actors that I've ever seen. And really it's kind of scary a little bit how he can enter his character. He can be completely immersed inside of his character. And one time I even forgot, hey, is this a nice guy I met offset? Or is this super mean scary villain dad?

I loved all the little scenes when you were playing DDR together and everything like that. What were those scenes like to shoot, all those fun little short scenes of being a happy family?

They were probably some of the funnest scenes ever in the movie. Since this is my first movie project, I've no idea what it's like to do other things. But I haven't had more fun in a long time. Especially Tony, because as I said, he can completely immerse himself in the character and it's like he's really my dad.

So you mentioned this is your first project. I know it's your first movie. Have you done acting before outside of this?

I have done some acting in an acting camp and at school, but I haven't actually had any other projects, as you have said.

So you jumped right from acting camp into a Marvel movie?


The premiere and learning martial arts

Did you get a chance to meet any of the other cast? I think you were at the red carpet the other night, but have you met Simu Liu and any of them?

Yeah. Before, I think I met Simu. I met Florian. I met Awkwafina. I met Fala and Tony. I met quite a lot of cast members.

What are they like?

They're all super duper nice! And I think especially Simu because, I mean, we're both Canadian!

So where were your scenes shot?

Well, first they were in Australia and then for reshoots we went to LA.

You're from Vancouver. You flew to Australia and then you went to LA. So you've been all over the place, then. Which place is your favorite?

Definitely Australia because it's just so different from Vancouver. Here we have dark, moody stuff. Sometimes on the sunny days, it's really pretty. And in Australia everything's just so bright and lively.

Tell me about the martial arts in the movie. When you were punching the pole, what was that like?

Yeah. They use a softer material for the pole, so it didn't hurt at all when I was punching it, but I had to do quite a bit of training to get all my form right. Because of COVID we've stopped karate.

What was your favorite scene to shoot?

It probably was one scene where all four of the younger family members were together, and we had tons of fun shooting that. It was almost like a real family.

What his friends know

Do you have any new projects after this lined up?

No, not currently, but I'm always open for more auditions.

I'm guessing the pandemic has made it a little bit hard to find new work at this point.


So I think you said you stopped. What was it like stopping and then coming back to do more?

It wasn't that different because usually I do take breaks, I guess. But I think that it was a little harder to get back on, but when I was on, it was really smooth.

Do all your friends know you're in "Shang-Chi"?

Some of them. Some really, really close ones.

So a lot of your friends are going to find out when they go to see it in the theater, then?


Have any of your close friends seen the movie yet?

No, because it's not even out. I only saw it because I went to the premiere.

"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" debuts in theaters on September 3. Stay tuned to Looper for more exclusive coverage.