Michelle Yeoh has accomplished a lot in her long career that spans nearly 40 years. While promoting her upcoming Marvel Studios film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings as Ying Nan, the actress and martial artist spoke with the Guardian about her international success in Asia and the United States. Her stardom took a huge surge appearing in several high-profile projects recently like Star Trek: Discovery, Crazy Rich Asians (2018), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (her second MCU film), Gunpowder Milkshake (2021), and several more.
After an injury sidelined her career in ballet, Yeoh took her talents to acting and action, “I just needed to learn to transfer the energy, because a lot of times in dance it’s very inward and contained,” she said. “Action is more about how you deliver that energy, pushing it forward.” After making her debut in 1984’s The Owl vs. Bumbo, Yeoh made five more films before taking a break before making her comeback in 1992’s Supercop. Among one of her early skeptics was her co-star Jackie Chan. “He used to [believe women belonged in the kitchen] until I kicked his butt,” she recalled when trying to one-up each other on stuntwork on the action film, teaching him a lesson in feminism.
While many Asian actors have been typecast within the action realm, Yeoh has actually managed to take on more diverse dramatic roles that don’t rely on her martial arts like Crazy Rich Asians, Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Sunshine (2007), and GotG 2. She’s also not slowing down any time soon with her work on the upcoming Avatar sequels and a starring role in the upcoming spinoff The Witcher: Blood Origin for Netflix. Shang-Chi is in theaters on September 3. For more on Yeoh’s career, you can go to the Guardian