Simu Liu Doesn't Believe in Soulmates

The One True Loves star opens up about love, grand gestures, and dispelling Asian stereotypes.

Simu Liu is getting real about love. While the rom-coms he watched as a kid promised fairy-tale endings and over-the-top romance, the actor (and bona fide internet boyfriend) has come to realize that real-life love stories aren't always so picture-perfect.

"I was a big rom-com kid growing up. I know the fairy tales: the one that got away, having one true love," Liu tells InStyle. "We idolize these stories and we really put a lot of stock into just that one person. I think, sometimes, it manifests in not-great ways. I think it can be really hard for us to let go, when I think letting go, while always sad, it's a part of what it means to live life."

Liu stars in The Avenue's One True Loves, an adaption of Taylor Jenkins Reid's popular book of the same name, which questions the whole notion of soulmates and finding "the one." Liu says the book and film script resonated with his own personal view on relationships, which is part of why he signed onto the project. "It's this really ambitious story about love, and it asks a very interesting question of can we have more than one soulmate over the course of our lives? I think that's a very important question to ask."

Liu plays Sam, the childhood friend-turned-fiancé of Emma (played by Phillipa Soo) who finds a second chance at love after her husband Jesse goes missing in a helicopter crash and is presumed dead. When Jesse miraculously turns up years later, Emma is left to choose between her fiancé ... and her husband.

"I think sometimes we look back on the loves of before and we say, 'Oh, what if we were always meant to be with that person?' I think sometimes we forget that we ourselves are changing evolving beings, and sometimes people grow in different directions no matter how right for each other they were right at a specific moment in time," Liu says. "It doesn't mean that 10 years down the line, there won't be another person that is perfect for the person that you will become."

When he originally read the script, Liu connected most to Jesse's bravado and shout-it-from-the-rooftops approach to love, because he's admittedly been that guy in past relationships. But after digging deeper, he realized that Sam's quiet strength and unwavering support for Emma were commendable in their own way.

"The rom-coms that we all grew up watching, he's shouting, he's got the boombox on the side of the [house]," he laughs. "But where Sam's strength lies is not that it's not there, but that it's not immediately apparent because how strong do you have to be to risk losing the love of your life, but to need to give her the opportunity to figure something out for herself?"

'One True Loves' Simu Liu and Phillipa Soo

Courtesy of The Avenue

In fact, Liu ponders that the biggest and loudest gestures aren't always the truest ways to convey love. "We shouldn't want to be with someone just because they want to be with us so badly, just because they're willing to throw grand romantic gestures, flash mobs in the middle of the street, and jump in the middle of traffic. I mean, let's not condition ourselves to believe that that is the only expression of love. Sometimes, the best expression of love is listening. Sometimes the best expressions of love are quiet, stoic, subtle, and difficult."

He adds, "It is a strength that is completely predicated around what he feels like his partner needs, and that I feel like is an interesting new paradigm for male romantic leads is let's celebrate the ones who listen, not just the ones who fight."

The movie's other draw for Liu, besides being a fan of Reid and her work (which includes Daisy Jones and the Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo), was the fact that Soo was cast as the leading lady. Liu says he greatly admires her "extraordinary talent" ("loved her work on Hamilton"), but it also meant that there would be two AAPI leads in the adaptation of a book with originally non-Asian characters.

"I hope in some way it reminds audiences that we all, regardless of what our cultural background is, what we look like, we all struggle with human emotion," he says. "We all struggle with heartbreak, with anxiety, with the fear of losing the person that we love."

The Shang-Chi star also wants to see Asian men break out of the box they've historically been put in, especially in the film industry. And Liu, who is also starring in the summer's hottest film Barbie, hopes that being cast in these kinds of roles moves the needle of inclusion in Hollywood and changes how the world perceives Asian artists.

"I mean, for the longest period of time, I feel like when people saw an Asian man on screen, they assumed that it was, 'Oh, well, he clearly does martial arts or he's here to fight someone,'" Liu says. "I really hope that with every project that I do, including Shang-Chi, that dispel that notion that Asian men can only do martial arts on screen. I think as an artist, I really want to explore all of the facets of human emotionality and nuance and relationships and love. We should be able to do that regardless of what we look like."

It's especially important to have representation in love stories, because as Liu notes, it's an experience that every human being will have in their lifetime. With films like Everything Everywhere All At Once and stars including Liu, Stephanie Hsu, Ashley Park, and Michelle Yeoh, marginalized populations are finally beginning to see themselves and their stories reflected on the silver screen. While there's still a lot of work to be done in terms of diversity and inclusion in Hollywood, the actor says that even the smallest victories impact change.

"I think having just the little inches, the little wins, every time you see these stories and our faces on screen, I think it's just normalized a little bit more," he continues, "Somebody, I think hopefully somewhere watches and is like, 'Oh, now I know what's possible.'"

One True Loves is showing in select theaters on Apr. 7 and available on digital Apr. 14.

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