Malaysians, both young and old, are no stranger to the name Michelle Yeoh. Not only is she a prime example of “Malaysia boleh!” on the international entertainment stage, the versatile actress is also inarguably a trailblazer for Asian representation in Hollywood.
The Ipoh-born actress’ path to stardom began when she won the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant in 1983, and soon caught the eye of a film production company in Hong Kong after appearing in a commercial with then-fledgling action star Jackie Chan. She rose to fame in the ‘90s acting in numerous iconic action and martial arts films in Hong Kong, which led to her first Hollywood role as Bond girl Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies. The rest, as we know, is history.
The screen legend is showing no signs of stopping any time soon, as she is set to star in the upcoming six-part, live action limited series and prequel to The Witcher, The Witcher: Blood Origin as Scían, the very last of a nomadic tribe of sword-elves in the Continent. She will also be appearing in the book-to-screen adaptation of YA fantasy film The School for Good and Evil alongside Charlize Therton and Laurence Fishburne.
While the aforementioned titles are yet to come, you can catch Michelle Yeoh in these shows and movies in the meantime:
Warning: Possible mild spoilers ahead.
Michelle Yeoh takes on the final frontier in this Star Trek spin-off as Philippa Georgiou, captain of the USS Shenzhou and mentor to series lead Michael Burnham (played by Sonequa Martin-Green).
In a delightful Easter egg for Malaysian fans, Captain Georgiou is revealed to have grown up in Pulau Langkawi, on top of the actress incorporating her Malaysian accent into her performance. See if you can spot the wayang kulit puppet in the background of the captain’s ready room too!
Later on in the first season, Yeoh also plays a Mirror Universe counterpart of Georgiou, a ruthless Emperor of the Terran Empire.
Jackie Chan’s third foray into the Police Story franchise brings him to Malaysia, so having a future Malaysian icon in the movie is simply – *chef’s kiss* – poetic cinema.
In Police Story 3: Super Cop, Yeoh joins forces with the action movie star himself to take down a drug lord as Interpol officer and martial arts expert, Jessica Yang. Parts of the movie were even filmed in Kuala Lumpur, such as the famous scene where Jackie Chan flies around Kuala Lumpur while he hangs on for dear life from a helicopter. Keep your eyes peeled for the Sultan Abdul Samad building and the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station too!
Introduced in the Christmas special Marco Polo: One Hundred Eyes, Yeoh’s character – Lotus – is a pivotal character in Season 2 of the historical drama representing the last stand of Song loyalists at the tail end of the Mongol conquest of Song China.
Following the assassination of the Song Dynasty’s child emperor, Lotus travelled across China instigating terror and fanning the flames of an uprising against Kublai Khan, hoping to return the Song Dynasty to its former glory.
It is also revealed that she had a past with Hundred Eyes, a blind monk in the service of Kublai Khan. As for how that relationship turned out with both parties on opposing sides, you’ll have to watch the show to find out.
Yeoh reprises her role as accomplished businesswoman and kick-ass warrior Yu Shu Lien from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in this 2016 sequel.
Eighteen years after the events of the 2000 film, Shu Lien emerges from retirement and teams up with Donnie Yen’s Silent Wolf to protect the Green Destiny – a sword that used to belong to her former lover Li Mu Bai – when an evil warlord seeks to steal the sword as part of his plans to dominate the Martial World.
Together with a band of warriors, Shu Lien and Silent Wolf fight to fend off the warlord’s attempts to retrieve the sword and defend the honour of the Iron Way.
In contrast to their adversarial relationship in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Yeoh’s reunion with co-star Zhang Ziyi sees the former serving as a mentor to the latter’s Sayuri in this book-to-screen adaptation.
Yeoh plays Mameha, a kind but cunning geisha who takes Sayuri under her wing and guides her on how to navigate the complex terrain of geisha culture. Under Mameha’s tutelage, and despite instances of sabotage from chief rival Hatsumomo (Gong Li), Sayuri quickly rises through the ranks to become one of Japan’s most celebrated geishas.
Last but definitely not least, how can we forget her intimidating yet stylish stint as Eleanor Young in Crazy Rich Asians?
The literal embodiment of fear for future daughters-in-law, Yeoh plays the domineering mother to Henry Golding’s Nick Young and is the only person standing in the way of ‘happily ever after’ for her son and Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu), as she does not approve of Rachel’s “common” background.
100% would jump at the chance to play mahjong with her though. 😉
Catch up on the Malaysian screen legend’s films and TV shows on Netflix, and be sure to keep an eye out for her upcoming roles in The Witcher: Blood Origin and The School for Good and Evil too!