She is an ex-Hong Kong soap star who trained at Julliard.
Marvel revealed the full cast of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on Thursday. It will be the studio’s first movie with an Asian superhero lead.
Anticipation was already building last year when Marvel announced that Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu would play the titular character, a kung fu master based loosely on Bruce Lee.
Now, Marvel has revealed the full cast, which includes mostly Asian and Asian-American actors.
Tony Leung stars alongside Liu as Shang-Chi’s nemesis and Awkwafina as Shang-Chi’s friend. She’ll be reunited with her Crazy Rich Asians co-stars Michelle Yeoh and Ronny Chieng, who also have roles.
Rounding out the cast are newcomers Meng’er Zhang and Florian Munteanu.
(Read more: Who is Simu Liu, the star of ‘Shang-Chi’?)
But in Hong Kong, people are buzzing about the addition of Fala Chen, who was one of the city’s most celebrated actors before she left at the height of her popularity.
She was a Hong Kong soap star
Chen began her acting career at the Hong Kong broadcaster TVB in 2005. She starred in a couple of well-known dramas, including Heart of Greed, The Family Link, and Steps.
Her performance as a feisty competitive ballroom dancer in Steps earned her an acting award at the 2007 TVB Anniversary Awards.
From there, she became one of Hong Kong’s busiest actresses. In 2010 alone, she appeared in five dramas.
But she quit to go back to school
After her contract with TVB ended in 2013, Chen decided to go back to acting school.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, she described hitting a rut in her career even though she was at the height of her popularity.
“After doing TV for seven to eight years, I felt like I hit a bottleneck,” she said. “I decided it was time to get back to a training program.”
She enrolled in the prestigious Juilliard School in New York and graduated in 2018.
She grew up in the U.S.
Chen was born in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province in southwestern China, but moved with her family to Georgia when she was 14.
She told the South China Morning Post that she was “pretty much the only Asian kid in the class.”
“Being in a new environment was difficult for me, but I had enough new stimuli in my life,” she said, “so I wasn’t bored.”
(Read more: Meet ‘Mulan’ heartthrob Yoson An)
She speaks multiple languages
Chen can speak English, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese.
For one of her most famous roles, she also learned sign language to portray a mute girl.
That performance in the Hong Kong drama Moonlight Resonance won her another acting nomination at the TVB awards.
She’s worked with Nicole Kidman
Shortly after graduating Julliard, Chen made her Hollywood debut in the HBO miniseries The Undoing, where she shares a scene with Nicole Kidman as a member of a moms’ club.
Chen has also appeared in a handful of stage plays, including a Chinese adaptation of Skylight, which was so popular that the run was extended for 11 shows.
She was a beauty pageant queen
During her first summer in college, Chen competed in her first beauty pageant.
“It was solely for monetary reasons because winners were to get scholarships,” she told the South China Morning Post. “I didn’t expect to win.”
But she did win and went on to compete in the Miss Chinese International pageant in Hong Kong, where she placed second and caught the attention of TVB.
The rest is history, and now, Chen can add superhero movie to her long résumé as Shang-Chi prepares for its release in July next year.