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

Awkwafina's Best Onscreen Roles To Date

Believe it or not, there was a time when it seemed like Awkwafina might not take off. Specifically, this was when she got fired from her day job after earning her first viral hit with the music video for "My Vag." "It was actually when I was working at an office company and my boss somehow figured out that I made a video called 'My Vag,' and she immediately fired me. So, that was pretty sad," Awkwafina explained to Galore Magazine. That's the kind of moment that could shatter an artist's hopes of ever making a living at what they love. But for Awkwafina, it was just another stepping stone on the path to embracing who she is.

After scoring a pair of breakout supporting roles in 2018's "Ocean's Eight" and "Crazy Rich Asians," Awkwafina went on to enjoy more prominent parts in films ranging from 2019's "The Farewell" to the lucrative 2021 blockbuster "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." She also dabbles in television, most prominently in "Awkwafina is Nora from Queens." One thing is clear across her many different roles: This is a performer of unique versatility and talent. In celebration, we're here to take a look at Awkwafina's best onscreen roles to date.

Katy in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

While Awkwafina has appeared in multiple high-profile movies, the role of Katy in "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" took her status to new heights. Katy serves as the titular superhero's best buddy. Despite being a departure in many ways from her prior work, Awkwafina's performance in "Shang-Chi" proved to be a hit with both moviegoers and critics.

"In the goofy exchanges between Simu Liu's Shaun ... and his best friend, defender, drinking buddy and fellow valet car-parker Katy (Awkwafina)," wrote Wendy Ide in The Guardian, "the film is already one of the freshest Marvel pictures in a long time." Similar sentiments were expressed by other critics, such as Nick Allen of RogerEbert.com: "Awkwafina in particular becomes a vital source of levity for the script," he praised, "and a welcoming audience surrogate as the film ramps up to a large battle. She helps the humor pop even more compared to the story's darker themes, making numerous passages of the movie not only thrilling but charming and funny." Rather than being a subpar distraction in "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," Awkwafina uses her comedic strengths to become one of the movie's greatest assets.

Constance in Ocean's 8

Released in June 2018, "Ocean's Eight" is an offshoot of Steven Soderbergh's "Ocean's Eleven" movies. This meant that the movie inevitably assembled a star-studded cast. Famous faces are all over the place in this production, including Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, and Rihanna. Awkwafina, who plays pickpocket Constance, was one of the film's lesser-known talents when it first hit theaters.

Even in a movie featuring so many Oscar-worthy legends, Awkwafina proves to be so enjoyable that USA Today dubbed her a "breakout star". Awkwafina has been open about there being more that attracted her to the role of Constance than her funny moments and the chance to be in the same room as Anne Hathaway, however. "What I liked about Constance and what drew me in is that she's not just a New Yorker, she's from Queens and her fiber is very much a product of that environment," Awkwafina told Fast Company. "Her hustle–dreaming of a better life and how to hustle your way into it — that is Awkwafina's story too, and it bled very well into my own life." That personal connection clearly informs Awkwafina's memorable performance, which became one of her earliest scene-stealing roles.

Goh Peik Lin in Crazy Rich Asians

While Awkwafina has appeared in several major productions over the years, the role that transformed her from a bit player into a notable onscreen presence is Goh Peik Lin from 2018's smash-hit "Crazy Rich Asians." In a movie full of memorable performances, Awkwafina's still sticks out as something special, due to her enormous amount of charm and wit. It's no surprise, really, that it made her into a can't-miss talent practically overnight.

In his review for The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney praised Awkwafina for being "hilariously unfiltered ... the scene-stealer of 'Ocean's 8' ... effortlessly repeats that feat with her irresistible insouciance here." Such praise was echoed by Rolling Stone: A feature spotlighting the actress declared her the "breakout star of 'Crazy Rich Asians.'" Meanwhile, Wenlei Ma of News.com.au included Awkwafina in her praise of the "incandescent" women of "Crazy Rich Asians." She also highlighted the chemistry between Awkwafina and the film's leading lady, Constance Wu, as especially impressive. With this kind of widely-lauded performance under her belt, Awkwafina made it clear that she was no longer just a memorable supporting player — she had truly arrived as a big-screen force to be reckoned with.

Nora in Awkwafina is Nora from Queens

While Awkwafina has played in the sandboxes of summer blockbusters and challenging indie fare in recent years, she's also gotten a chance to portray a casual, light-hearted version of herself in the Comedy Central sitcom "Awkwafina is Nora from Queens." Like so many past Comedy Central stars who inhabited larger-than-life roles, Awkwafina has scored widespread praise for this performance.

"Awkwafina's greatest strength as an actor is in physical comedy," observed Katie Rife for The A.V. Club. "Her funniest moments in 'Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens' see her using her whole body to create a heightened sense of comedic reality that evokes the great silent-movie masters. Even when the show's comedy relies more on its scripts ... Awkwafina's highly expressive face is still the star of every scene." Meanwhile, Melanie McFarland of Salon praised the program for working as an extension of its star. "Like Awkwafina herself, the show's charm and warm humor smoothly carry it," McFarland wrote, "and its star channels both of those qualities into every moment, whether she's being rowdy, dirty, or introspective." Playing to Awkwafina's strengths has turned "Awkwafina is Nora from Queens" into a perfect vehicle for her multifaceted talent.

Christine in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

The posters for 2016's "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" are all draped with the mugs of Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, and Zac Efron. Little did moviegoers in 2016 realize, a soon-to-be famous person was lurking in the supporting cast. Awkwafina plays Christine in the funny flick, one of the sorority girls who moves in next door to Rogen and Byrne's married couple. Though not a sizeable role, Awkwafina's performance did score some praise from critics, foreshadowing her then-upcoming rise to fame.

Carmen Wong of Borrowing Tape singled out Awkwafina as the highlight of the film's cast, and specifically praised her comedic line deliveries. It wasn't just critics who loved Awkwafina's role in "Neighbors 2," though. In a 2018 retrospective for Teen Vogue, Awkwafina herself referenced her part in "Neighbors 2" as a pivotal step toward more prominent work. Audiences may not have known it at the time, but "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" helped set the stage for some seriously huge performances from a major star.

Tracy in Future Man

Hulu's sci-fi comedy series "Future Man" garnered its fair share of praise from notable voices. "It's all over-the-top camp silliness, Alex McLevy of The A.V. Club remarked, "but like any number of intentionally dumb series, there are some good laughs buried among the juvenile obsessions with obscenity, bodily fluids, and self-consciously 'edgy' material on race, gender, and more." This sort of reception continued throughout the program's entire three-season run, as did its tendency to pick up some notable names for guest stars.

Among those names is Awkwafina, who makes a number of appearances throughout Season 1 of "Future Man." Given her ability to wring laughs out of any scenario, it shouldn't be a surprise that her sporadic "Future Man" role earned positive marks from critics. In an otherwise dismissive review of the show's inaugural episodes, Entertainment Weekly's Jessica Shaw gave "Future Man" "bonus points for Paul Scheer and Awkwafina, who play a couple of sarcastic video game store clerks." While she doesn't stick around for long, Awkwafina's "Future Man" guest spot reaffirms her as an absolute gem.

Charlotta in Weird City

YouTube's foray into original scripted programming didn't leave a massive footprint on the world of pop culture. The most popular show of this slate, "Cobra Kai," didn't even become a sensation until it found a new home on Netflix. But YouTube's efforts did produce a handful of shows originating from famous artists. Exhibit number one is "Weird City," an anthology sci-fi show co-created by Oscar-winning screenwriter Jordan Peele.

The fact that each episode of "Weird City" follows different occupants of the titular location allows for a plethora of famous faces to make special appearances. So it goes with Awkwafina, who appears as Charlotta in the show's finale, "Below." Ben Travers of IndieWire described this installment as "insanely meta," and praised Awkwafina's performance for "[fulfilling] the Chekhov's Gun concept with brutal nonchalance." As he further noted, "Most of the humor stems from breaking down expectations while acknowledging stereotypes, but it's also just goofy, off-the-wall, experimental TV." Given the type of humor this episode of "Weird City" aims for, Awkwafina's turn as Charlotta is a perfect fit.

Ming Fleetfoot in Jumanji: The Next Level

2019's "Jumanji: The Next Level," the follow-up to 2017's "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," isn't interested in relying on the stars of the film's predecessor to carry the day. Instead, it brings in Awkwafina as a new in-game character named Ming Fleetfoot, who ends up being controlled by "real-world" characters played by Alex Wolff and Danny DeVito.

Though a newbie to the franchise, Awkwafina ended up being a widely beloved part of "Jumanji: The Next Level," even for those who didn't care for the entire movie. "Outdoing all of the headliners, at least when it comes to capturing voices and body language, is a new character inside the game played by Awkwafina of 'Crazy Rich Asians,'" praised Kerry Lengel of AZ Central. "It's subtle, but there's something more authentic about her version of the shtick." Nell Minow of RogertEbert.com labeled Awkwafina "a terrific new addition," and praised her ability to portray more than one "real world "character. Rather than rehash her past roles, Awkwafina shows off her versatility in "Jumanji: The Next Level." As a result, she feels like a totally natural extension of the movie's elaborate world.

Billi Wang in The Farewell

Awkwafina has delivered plenty of memorable comedic performances throughout her career. However, her most beloved turn yet arrived in the 2019 A24 drama "The Farewell." This film tells the story of Billi Wang (Awkwafina), a young Chinese-American woman who travels to China with her family to deal with her grandmother's impending demise from lung cancer — a fate the grandmother herself has been kept ignorant of. Writer-director Lulu Wang's captivating feature grabbed some of the best reviews of 2019, with Awkwafina's lead performance earning especially glowing praise.

"It's thrilling to see her previously untapped, formidable dramatic abilities on display in a lead role," Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com said of Awkwafina's turn as Billi. "She's such a natural that she maintains that magnetic screen presence and appealing edge even within this more somber setting." Such sentiments were echoed by critics across the globe, including Clarisse Loughrey of The Independent. Loughrey praised Awkwafina for "[stripping] herself down emotionally in a way that feels startling. She's a woman lost at sea, about to lose the only thing that tethered her to the past." Awkwafina's performance proved so universally beloved, she scored a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, in addition to a slew of other awards.