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dallas liu

Dallas Liu’s first love was martial arts, but soon after discovering that joy, it paved the way for another passion: acting. Reflecting on his younger years, it is not lost on the actor that martial arts prepared him for the many roles he would take on as an adolescent and young adult. “Martial arts felt similar to acting in the way that there are so many different styles. In both, there are many different techniques that you can use in different situations,” he continues, “In martial arts, no defense move or offensive move will look the same. In the same way that each person sort of has their own way of either portraying a character or an emotion.”

Dallas Liu is photographed by Anthony Giovanni, Fashion by Edwin J Ortega, Grooming by Aika Danica Flores, Words by Kayla Curtis-Evans, Cinematography by Aramis Duran


Dallas wears SANDRO


Dallas wears AMI, shoes ERNEST W BAKER


Dallas wears SAINT LAURENT, shirt SANDRO


Liu has always been a massive fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, echoing his coworker and close friend Ian Ousley’s sentiments that the show is probably what spurred his curiosity for martial arts in the first place. “Avatar: The Last Airbender was such a major show for me. It was definitely one of the reasons that I had gotten so invested in martial arts. I would pretend that I was bending fire over the stove or with candles in the house.” Now that he spends most of his days filming on sets or memorizing lines, he has found a path that he truly wants to commit to and continue to evolve in — starting with his first lead role in a series, playing Prince Zuko in a live-action adaptation of the show that shaped his childhood. 


During our conversation, Liu looked back on memories of watching the show as a kid. “I would definitely be in the Fire Nation because it’s so well developed. And I'm not huge on cold weather either. And all of the Air nomads have to shave their heads. I like having hair, personally.” Spending a lot of time launching fake fireballs and practicing for battles as a kid only made getting to bring all of this to life that much more fulfilling for the actor. “Honestly, one of my favorite parts of all of it was getting to do something from my childhood and mixing it with my passion. I was able to contribute creatively to the martial arts aspect of our show, working with the showrunner, producers, and the directors of our show on what certain scenes with Zuko would look like,” he adds.


Liu even proved that securing this role may have been written in the stars, as he recalls naturally gravitating toward Zuko’s character even back then. “Zuko was definitely the character I imagined myself as. Not because of any childhood trauma, but because of his passion to capture the Avatar. I think when I was younger, there were things that I really wanted to work for, but that I then realized may not be possible, like becoming an NBA player [laughs].”


Liu and Zuko undoubtedly share that strong sense of determination, something that has guided the young actor through all of his other projects. With roles in PEN15, Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, CSI, and more — he has committed to portraying characters that run the gamut from comedy to drama to fantasy — but each actor faced the challenge, this time around, of molding into characters that were previously debuted to audiences in animated form. 


Liu unpacked this experience, explaining, “For my role Rui in Shang-Chi, there wasn't a whole lot of backstory for the character. There wasn't anything that had existed previously up to that point. So for Zuko, there was obviously a ton of watching YouTube videos, dissecting his character, and rewatching the original over and over — but also trying to find ways to separate a bit from the character that Dante Bosco created.” While on set, the environment was described as familial, as each cast member brought their own spin to their character, but collectively, the crew and actors acted as a tight family unit. 

“We spent so much time bonding and talking about our day shooting and that's what really brought us all so close together. Ian and I lived together, so it was a really fun experience being able to hang out after work, debrief, and just talk about how our day was. Then Gordon and Kiawentiio, they're so young, but they're quite professional,” he shares, “Those kids are so important to me and I just want to be an older sibling that they can always look to and lean on.”


Dallas wears VERSACE



When we are first introduced to Prince Zuko in the animated show, he doesn’t exactly project that protective, caring older brother energy that Liu seems to share with his castmates off-screen. Throughout the show’s plot, we actually see one of the biggest arcs of character development occur within Zuko. He starts off as a cold, bitter warrior who will stop at nothing to capture his target, but over time, viewers are let into his gentler, more emotional sides. To truly encapsulate this multifaceted character, Liu had to tap into different sides of himself. “I think Zuko expresses his emotions a lot more than I would. So that was something that I had to get used to before we even started filming — expressing my emotions when I felt them at certain times to get into his mindset. Zuko didn't really hold back on any of his emotions in the animated series. That's such a huge part of his character and he's always determined,” he continues, “In a way, in real life, everyone sort of has these different sides that they show to people. Like with your family, for example, you're one person, but then to your friends, you're another person.” 


But one thing that Liu definitely does share with Zuko, something that he effortlessly carried into his on-screen portrayal, is a sense of relentless dedication when it comes to his goals. “I'd say. Just like the same way that Zuko wants to capture the Avatar, I want to work with Quentin Tarantino!” he excitedly added.



With this project now under his belt, Liu is ready to continue trailblazing his own path and building up his acting skills. When asked about his future goals, he cited Robert Pattinson as a sort of Hollywood role model. Pattinson has proven his capability to portray convincing versions of diverse characters, from the brooding Edward Cullen to his more acclaimed role as the mysterious and dark Batman. “He did Twilight, a big franchise, and he was like, 'I'm sick of it, so I'm gonna go do a bunch of really cool independent films and then just work my way back up again.' And I was like, yeah. That's so epic,” Liu exclaimed, “I'd love to work with Matt Reeves on some sort of character, whether it's a villain or a hero. I would just love to be a part of that franchise. And as much as I love getting to mix martial arts in with my passion, my number one priority is always and will be acting. So with the roles that come in the future, I'm hoping for more dramatic and serious films.” 


Before we concluded our conversation, Liu enthusiastically asked if I had checked out the show yet, which was released on Netflix on February 22nd. I had watched the first two episodes — “Oh, 5, 6, 7, and 8 are my favorite episodes. That’s where we really get into the action,” he cited. 

Netflix’s highly-anticipated series, Avatar: The Last Airbender is now streaming and has been renewed for two more seasons, so you can get into the action too.

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