Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings is Marvel‘s latest film release and it is the first film for its director, Destin Daniel Cretton, since 2019’s Just Mercy.

Shadow and Act recently interviewed Cretton (and the Simu Liu-led cast) and the director talked about the significance on taking on this film, coming at a time of increased racism against Asian Americans, and the parallels it has to the release of Just Mercy and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“When as a filmmaker, and maybe as any storyteller, you chase stories that are speaking to you personally,” he told us. “And it’s really nice when you start getting confirmation that this is the right thing you should be working on, because movies take so long to make. And in the middle of Just Mercy, that’s when the community around us started dealing with so many of the issues that we were trying to put on-screen. And it just felt like, ‘Okay, this is worth it. Everything we’re going through is worth it.'”

While Shang-Chi is a very Marvel movie, there are a lot of themes that connect to things we are going through now.

“We felt that same feeling while we were shooting this movie. Yes, this movie is fun. It’s super entertaining [and] action-packed, and we hope people come into the theater and have a little break from all the craziness we’ve been dealing with. But the themes that we’re exploring are also very intertwined with the very real reality that is happening in the world right now. And we hope that this movie is also a conversation starter for people to potentially talk about some of the issues that we really need to talk about.”

Cretton also talked to us about the experience of directing a Marvel film, as Marvel has begun to pick a lot of directors who have a ton of experience with indies, such as Cretton and Chloe Zhao who is the director of The Eternals.

“Specifically, Indie to Marvel is an interesting jump. People said this to me, and I didn’t understand what they meant, but they said, ‘Marvel Studios weirdly operates like an indie studio.’ And I didn’t know what they meant until I got this job and realized that Kevin Feige and Victoria [Alonso] and Lou[is D’Esposito], who are the heads of the entire studio, are just right down the hall. There is no red tape to get to them when you talk to them all the time. Even if you have just a little concern or a little idea that something that might be out of the box, you can just talk to them. And typically they’ll say, ‘Oh, that sounds cool or weird,’ or, ‘We haven’t done that before. Try it.’ And surprisingly, it’s a small operation for the types of movies that they do.”

He was also assured of his experience heading in by seeing what two other filmmakers, Ryan Coogler and Taika Watiti, had done with their projects and how it connected to their prior work.

“It eased my mind knowing Ryan Coogler’s work and seeing that he clearly made Black Panther. His voice is clearly connected to that. Knowing Taika Waititi’s work before doing [Thor] Ragnarok, and then watching Ragnarok and clearly seeing Taika’s voice woven throughout that….it was clear that Marvel is hiring these filmmakers because they love these filmmakers and they want their voices to be connected to this world.”

Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings is in theaters now. Watch the full interview below featuring Cretton, Liu and more: