Steven Yeun is best known for playing Glenn on The Walking Dead. Since leaving his most famous role, Yeun has turned in solid dramatic performances in films like Burning. The 35 year-old South Korean actor isn’t getting any younger, but Yeun could certainly bring the dramatic gravitas required for the role.
Born in Singapore but raised in Virginia, Butler, 29, would be a great choice for the role, especially if Marvel is looking to cast young. Moreover, his small but important role in Shazam! as the adult version of Eugene Choi proves that he’s familiar with superhero films. In addition, his television roles in 13 Reasons Why, Riverdale & Teen Wolf solidify that he would provide the acting chops necessary to sell Shang Chi’s journey. Butler certainly has the physique for the role, though his ability to pull off the martial arts aspects remains a question mark.
Since his big screen debut in the leading role of last year’s Crazy Rich Asians, Henry Golding’s Hollywood stock has been quickly on the rise. Golding only has a few acting credits on his resume, so he also hasn’t really turned in a bad performance yet. The British-Malaysian actor could certainly bring the qualities of a traditional leading man to the role. However, his lack of martial arts expertise and his inexperience with action make him less likely.
Ludi Lin is a Chinese-Canadian actor best known for portraying Zack Taylor in 2017’s Power Rangers. In addition to having experienced blockbuster filmmaking with a small role in Aquaman, Lin also has a healthy resume. Physically speaking, Lin seems tailor-made for the role, and he’s proficient in martial arts: Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu and Olympic style wrestling. Lin also is fluent in both Mandarin and Cantonese. The fact that he checks so many boxes immediately makes him a serious contender for Shang-Chi.
Chris Pang is an Australian actor and producer of Chinese descent who is a distant relative of Bruce Lee. Pang is also the son of Wing Chun instructors, as well as being fluent in Mandarin and Chinese. Which of course helped him to secure supporting roles in Marco Polo and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny. Another Crazy Rich Asians alumnus, Pang’s stock is on the rise with an undisclosed role in the 2019 reboot of Charlie’s Angels. Even though Pang’s physical attributes are a good match for the character, his charisma and screen presence have yet to be seriously tested.
Lewis Tan is perhaps best known for television roles in Iron Fist and the AMC drama Into The Badlands. However, it’s his small cameo as Shatterstar in Deadpool 2 that has made the biggest impact on fans. Regardless, the British- born Chinese actor has slowly compiled a healthy body of work throughout the last decade. He's a second-generation stunt performer – his father Phillip worked on 1989’s Batman – though he has yet to prove his merits as a leading man. Despite this, he could be a solid choice for Shang-Chi.
Ki Hong Lee is a Korean-American actor known for his roles in The Maze Runner franchise and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. As a huge advocate for the progression of Asian leads in prominent Hollywood roles, Lee would be a nice symbolic fit for the character. In addition, Lee would certainly bring great charisma to Shang-Chi. He could easily make the role his own, especially considering his action experience in the past. But can he be a Master of Kung Fu?
Mike Moh is an American actor who has been a relatively unknown quantity at this point. However, that’s all about to change with his role as Bruce Lee in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. As a 5th-degree black belt in American Taekwondo, Moh absolutely wields the physical presence for the role. He has managed to amass some decent television credits including, interestingly, Marvel's adaptation of Inhumans. How this bodes for Moh’s prospects as Shang-Chi remain to be seen. But he’s a dark horse choice nonetheless.
Tony Jaa is an independent Thai actor, stuntman, director, and action choreographer. Jaa is best known for his work in the Ong Bak franchise, in addition to his notable martial arts resume. In many ways, Jaa is the modern-day equivalent of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, or Jet Li in their prime. Despite his relative anonymity in the United States, American audiences might recognize the actor from his appearances in Furious 7 and XXX: Return of Xander Cage. Unfortunately, Jaa’s age – along with his lack of true Hollywood experience as a leading man – make him an unlikely, yet interesting, fit for the role.
Harry Shum Jr. is an American actor, dancer and choreographer of Chinese descent who is a Costa Rican native. Shum Jr. got his start in dance movies such as You Got Served, Stomp The Yard, and the Step Up sequels. However, he’s transitioned into action-oriented roles recently, culminating in an impressive performance in the aforementioned Sword of Destiny. Shum Jr. is set to have a significant role in 2020’s sequel to Crazy Rich Asians. Based on this, it’s safe to say that he’s a viable choice for the role on potential star power alone. His fairly extensive filmography, coupled with his physicality and the fact that he speaks Cantonese and Spanish, ultimately gives Shum Jr. a decent edge.