Robin Shou is the fourth child of a Shanghai tailor and homemaker. His family moved to the US in 1971. Their first home in Los Angeles was a 2 bedroom apartment near Olympic and Vermont, today known as Koreatown.
Shou didn’t start attending martial arts classes until he was 19. He took Kenpo (Karate) classes while attending California State University. He soon realized that Karate didn’t do anything for him so he decided to quit. A year and a half later he watched a demonstration by a group of Wu Shu practitioners from Beijing. He said “This is Chinese!” He was so inspired to train in this discipline that in year 1981, just before starting his senior year at California State University, he sold his car and used the money to spend a quarter studying Wu Shu in China. Robin’s parents didn’t know his real whereabouts until his aunt wrote his mother telling her that her son was in Nanjing.
He returned to California State University and obtained his B.S. in civil engineering. He spent a year and a half in this field and was convinced that he needed a different career, he found computer and electronics boring. He was always trying to follow the ideal; finishing school, getting a job, getting married etc. He wasn’t happy and the only thing that kept him going was martial arts. Soon he took off to Hong Kong, planning to vacation and think. Shortly after his arrival, however, he was offered a chance to appear in a movie as a stuntman. He was offered job after job, and for his first two years in Hong Kong he played small parts in action films. When Robin isn’t making films he takes ceramic classes, paints, welds, and does woodworking. He enjoys to do anything that involves working with his hands.
Shou’s first real dramatic role was in the film Forbidden Nights (1990), where he played opposite Melissa Gilbert. Though only a TV film, this was his first American debut and surely a huge step for Hollywood. Robin went back to Hong Kong and continued making movies there. By this time, he was more thorough about the roles he was offered. He wanted other roles and after nine years he was bored and didn’t want to continue acting.
He returned to Los Angeles in 1994 to start an import/export business. He got a call from his agent, ranting about a perfect role for him in a movie called Mortal Kombat (1995). Robin wasn’t interested, assuming he would be playing a villain who gets killed in the end. His agent begged him to audition and he did, along with other top contenders like: Jason Scott Lee, Russell Wong and Dustin Nguyen. Seven auditions later, he was Liu Kang in Mortal Kombat (1995). Shou also appears as a supporting role in another fighting video game adaption, DOA: Dead or Alive (2006), based on the Dead or Alive series.
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