Michelle Yeoh on ‘American Born Chinese,’ ‘ninja-kicked’ glass ceiling



Co-stars Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan do seem to be “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” as they reunite for the Disney+ series “American Born Chinese.”

For the comedy series debuting spring 2023, the Golden Globe-winners are telling an Asian-American story with a primarily Asian cast, which shows continued progress for Asian actors, directors and producers. 

“I think we’ve broken that glass ceiling, we’ve ninja-kicked it to hell,” said Yeoh, speaking on a panel for the Television Critics Association Friday. “And hopefully it will never come back, broken like Humpty Dumpty pieces.”

Yeoh, 60, was born in Malaysia and was a major Hong Kong action movie star before moving to America to a vastly different Hollywood landscape.

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“There were no faces that looked like me, there were no roles out there that represented us,” said Yeoh. 

But the actress has helped blaze the trail, appearing in breakthrough films such as the 1997 Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies” alongside Pierce Brosnan, 2018’s hit comedy  “Crazy Rich Asians” and the landmark Marvel film “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.

Cretton, an executive producer on “American Born Chinese,” convinced Yeoh to join the cast. “He texted me saying, ‘Let’s play,'” Yeoh said.

“American Born Chinese,” based on the 2006 graphic novel of the same name by Gene Luen Yang, follows struggling student Jin Wang (Ben Wang) who meets a Chinese-born student at school who pulls him into a supernatural world that includes Yeoh as the undercover Goddess of Mercy and Daniel Wu as the Monkey King.

Quan, 51, who broke out as a child actor as Short Round in 1984’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and as Data in 1985’s “The Goonies,” said he eventually dropped out of acting because the roles were so scarce.

“It was very difficult to be an Asian actor, there just were not a lot of opportunities,” said Quan. “For two decades it didn’t work out, but the landscape has changed.”

Yeoh said she was also overwhelmed by the “outpouring of support” over her Golden Globes win for best actress. After accepting the award Tuesday night, she was thrilled to run into director Guillermo del Toro.

“He came over and hugged me and said, ‘I love your movie,'” said Yeoh. ” I said ‘My God, did you just tell me that?’ It was so emotional.”



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