Michelle Yeoh is no stranger to Hollywood’s awards race. She played a pivotal role in 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which reached the Oscars stage — she even presented an award alongside costar Chow Yun-Fat — but, she tells EW, she felt “hurt” by the lack of recognition for the cast’s work.
“In Crouching Tiger, we as actors were not involved in the conversation,” Yeoh says. Though she nabbed a BAFTA nomination, she points out that the cast didn’t get nods in the States. The film was celebrated for technical achievements instead with director Ang Lee leading the charge, and though she chalked it up to the movie being a foreign film, she realized that couldn’t be the reason when she thought about how films like Life Is Beautiful and La Vie En Rose garnered nominations (and wins) for their foreign-language-speaking leads.
“It does hurt inside, because you feel you are not validated as an actor,” she explains. “Your peers did not think your acting should be considered, even though your movie is considered for all these things.”
Crazy Rich Asians‘ part in the awards conversation this year, however, “feels different.” “It feels like you’re being embraced,” Yeoh says. “I think [that] embrace is not just for us alone. It’s almost for all the Asian actors that came before us and pushed us forwards.”
Yeoh stopped by EW’s SiriusXM studios to reflect on Crazy Rich Asians‘ impact, not only on the awards race, but on conversations around inclusivity and diversity. In the interview — which you can listen to on demand or below — she dives into what her role as Eleanor Young meant to her, what she’s pursuing in the wake of Crazy Rich Asians, and her memories of fighting to be represented in Hollywood, including the time a director told her she could have a role, only if she were the lone minority actor in the cast.
EW’s conversation with Yeoh is featured in the first episode of Role Breakers, a new monthly hour-long series on EW Radio, which airs on SiriusXM’s Ch. 105, hosted by Piya Sinha-Roy that places the spotlight on diversity, inclusion, and representation issues in Hollywood and takes a closer look at whether what we watch reflects who we are through discussions with guests and creators changing the game.
Listen to the first episode below, and make sure to tune in next month for the second episode: