Michelle Yeoh Teases the 'Magical World' of 'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' (Exclusive)
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Michelle Yeoh on the ‘Magical World’ of ‘Shang-Chi’ (Exclusive)
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Hot Girl Summer is forever, but this year, specifically, it's Hot Michelle Yeoh Summer. The iconic (in the truest definition of the word) actress will first be seen in Gunpowder Milkshake, a shoot-'em-up action flick in which she stars alongside Angela Bassett and Carla Gugino as The Librarians. The deadly sisterhood is who Karen Gillan's hitwoman turns to when she finds herself pursued by a ruthless crime syndicate.
Shortly thereafter, Yeoh will make her return to Marvel's cinematic universe, albeit in a new role. (She previously popped up in the final moments of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.) She now assumes the role of Jiang Nan in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, a relative of Simu Liu's titular superhero. "We have been waiting for so long to have our own Asian superhero," she says. "And now we do."
ET's Ash Crossan sat down with Yeoh over Zoom to discuss both projects, the wild nights she had with her Gunpowder Milkshake castmates and the "magical world" brought to life in Shang-Chi.
We have to talk about this cast. We have Angela Bassett, you, Carlo Gugino, Karen Gillan, Lena Headey all on set at the same time. I would apologize for breathing your air. Was there a moment that you got on set and looked around and thought, "Wow, this is iconic." What was that day like?
Michael Yeoh: Breathtaking. It really was just awesome. But these ladies are so down to earth, so generous with their love and thoughtfulness that we just hung out like we've known each other for a long time. Angela, Lena, Karen, Carla, everybody has done such amazing work that I've been following and I've been watching and continue to have great respect and admiration for. To be in the same group and drinking wine and sharing moments and stories, it's so special. The only thing I wished at that time was the shoot was longer and we had more off days so we could actually spend more time being together.
That was my next question: Did you get any downtime to spend together? Because I need to hear all of those stories.
Unfortunately, not enough. We had really one extra night where we put our foot down. It's not enough that we are hanging out during the daytime -- and we loved hanging out, even between takes and things like that -- but we went out for dinner and the next thing we knew, we were all on the sofa, we were dancing down the corridors. It was unbelievable. You should've seen that. That was, like, the best Instagram video ever. All of us just crawling down the corridor in the hotel. We were like, "What're we thinking? We're having fun, girls!"
Oh my god, nothing but respect.
That's a good word. I have the deepest respect for these ladies. I just really watch them in awe and have learned so much from them.
It's amazing to watch you all onscreen. And look, you're no stranger to some great fight choreography. From a character perspective, did any of your past performances serve as inspiration for this character?
I try not to do that so that I walk into the character and give it the respect it deserves. Because it's been written by somebody else and the director is someone completely different from your previous work, and that is the only way I feel then I'll have a fresh character to work with. Then I'll be able to produce something that hopefully my fans have not seen before. And in this one, Navot [Papushado] had choreographed me using chains to fight with. In my 30-odd-year career, I've not used that weapon before. So, it was challenging, to say the least, because it was not an easy thing to wave around without hitting yourself. And then jumping off the balcony and thinking you're Mary Poppins. I was like, "Navot, I am not Mary Poppins, OK?" [Laughs] "She has the umbrella, I don't." The only thing that was constant was I had worked with Laurent [Demianoff], the stunt coordinator before, so I had great confidence in the kind of work that he would challenge me with, because he knew what I was capable of. And I wanted to make sure I was in good shape so that I could handle whatever he threw at me.
Well, you're a badass. I'm sure you hear that all the time. And after Gunpowder Milkshake, you have Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings coming up.
Is there anything you can tell us about playing a new character in the MCU?
Wow. That world, it just takes your breath away. Right? And we have been waiting for so long to have our own Chinese, Asian superhero. And now we do. I think all of us had so much fun busting our a**es to make sure that the superhero and the heroines around him will live a long and wonderful, adventurous life. It came at the most challenging of times, because it was right in the midst of the pandemic, and we actually had to stop production for a few months before we all headed back on to Sydney. As if making a movie like that was not challenging on its own, being in that bubble, everybody trying to stay safe, the producers had to work overtime to keep everyone safe, to ensure that we were in the best conditions to be working with.
The sets, the costumes, they were just, well, they were magical, because we were in a magical world -- especially the part that I was, what I was guarding with my whole village. We were a magical place, and it was very nice to bring the old -- what I call the older classics of the Chinese myths and legends -- into what is very contemporary. These kids, they came from New York City, so they stumble upon this magical kingdom and it's almost like you have gone back in time. So, it's lovely to see this contrast of them coming to terms and trying to understand this mythical, legendary world that they have to protect because they are family.
Gunpowder Milkshake is streaming on Netflix on July 14. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is in theaters Sept. 3, 2021.