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Fate was going to make sure Lewis Tan kicked some a** this summer, one way or another. As it turns out, the actor booked Mortal Kombat, the latest big screen adaptation of the iconic video game, shortly after losing out on another role: playing the titular superhero in Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
In recalling the "crazy" moment he got the call that he would be starring in Mortal Kombat, Tan told ET's Ash Crossan, "I just lost a crazy job -- a really, really high-caliber level job -- and I heard that news on a plane to Japan and I was, like, devastated."
The job, he confirms, "was for the role of Shang-Chi in the Marvel film." Best known for Netflix's Into the Badlands and an appearance as Shatterstar in Deadpool 2, Tan was a fan-casting favorite for Marvel's Master of Kung Fu. (He is, technically speaking, part of the MCU already, playing Zhou Cheng in one episode of Iron Fist.) Then he got the call that he didn't get it.
"I did this mediation course, and I came back and then I was on my way to Nashville, Tennessee, to race cars at NASCAR -- I was like, 'Maybe I'm the first Asian person to ever be in this place before!' -- and all of a sudden I get a phone call saying I got the role in [Mortal Kombat]," he says. "I was supposed to drive a car that day and I ended up not doing it because I was like, 'Uh oh! I need to be safe now because I've got an opportunity here.'"
As for Shang-Chi, "A friend of mine, Simu, got that part," Tan says. "And I think he's going to do a fantastic job with the material."
Simu Liu's casting was announced at Comic-Con in 2019, and Tan tweeted him congrats: "Looking forward to seeing what you do with the role and bigger than us, a step as we continue to break down walls and build a world where young Asian kids will see themselves on screen as a hero, feel empowered and have hope." It's a sentiment he echoes now, with both films set to open in theaters this year.
"Everything happens at the right time [for] the right reason and looking back on everything that played out, I wouldn't change it for an instant," Tan says. "I'm very grateful for the opportunity, and I'm very grateful that just diverse people are leading these amazing films. To see our faces that are usually looked over and looked past and to have that opportunity to be part of that change that I didn't get to see when I was growing up, I'm honored to do that and I'm happy for everybody else."
Mortal Kombat is in theaters and streaming on HBO Max on April 23.