Simu Liu and Sterling K. Brown join Jennifer Lopez in Atlas

Simu Liu, Sterling K. Brown, and Jennifer Lopez

Simu Liu, Sterling K. Brown, and Jennifer Lopez
Image: The AV Club, Photo: Amy Sussman/Dimitrios Kambouris/Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

First things first, as it would be simply disrespectful to discuss here without beginning here: congratulations to the indomitable Jennifer Lopez on her nuptials to one Ben Affleck (and in turn, presumably, her initiation into the most elite Dunkin’ Donuts membership club known to man). But the real reason we gather here today is to discuss Lopez’s career, which sees her gaining a few new colleagues: Simu Liu and Sterling K. Brown are both set to star with Lopez in the upcoming Netflix sci-fi thriller Atlas, Deadline reports.

Liu will join as the main antagonist to Lopez’s titular hero, an AI soldier who must work with another AI to defeat even more AI to end a mysterious war. The details may be murky, but it’s bad form to judge a pre-production film by its log line, so continuing forward with good faith: Liu and Brown (details of whose roles still have not been revealed) are also joined in the cast by The Great‘s Abraham Popoola. Brad Peyton is set to direct the feature, which has yet to receive a release date.

The role of mainstream sci-fi antagonist marks a moment of rapid career expansion for Liu, who burst onto the scene in 2021’s Shang Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings after getting his start as a stuntman and stock photo model. Since the breakout role, Liu has been confirmed to be a central hero in the next phase of the MCU. He’ll also flex his campier chops in Greta Gerwig’s highly-anticipated Barbie movie, a project that (much like Everything Everywhere All At Once) proves that “mainstream indie darling” isn’t an oxymoron, but an eventuality.

The Atlas casting also marks a shift in Brown’s career. The actor recently followed up an emotional six-season arc on This Is Us with a starring role in the Southern Baptist megachurch mockumentary Honk For Jesus, Save Your Soul, —he’s also getting into the production game. Brown will executive produce Hulu’s upcoming adventure period piece Washington Black.

In fact, however different the Internet’s favorite superhero, Mother’s favorite son and The Block’s favorite Jenny may be, the point in time they find themselves meeting feels fateful. Lopez, Liu, and Brown are all headed into new, more expansive eras in their lives and careers—if it plays onscreen, Atlas has the potential to become the not-so-little AI thriller that could.

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