"When you are the most vulnerable, that's when you discover how strong you can be"
Michelle Yeoh has discussed her character Eleanor Young in Crazy Rich Asians.
Crazy Rich Asians has been out for just under a week but has already exceeded expectations. The all-Asian cast film topped the US box office on its opening weekend and is even drawing immigrant parents to the theatre.
Eleanor is the film’s antagonist but is yet incredibly relatable as a protective Tiger Mom who puts family first.
In the interview, Yeoh emphasised the importance of “meaningful representation”.
“Don’t speak about diversity and just have us there because you want to make it look like it’s diverse,” Yeoh said. “Meaningful representation, that’s what it’s all about, where the characters have real hopes and dreams and lives and it’s very sincere to the culture.”
Yeoh said that her character was much more that just being a cruel antagonist. “The balance is not about meanness or Eleanor just being nasty, and saying, “You are not good enough for my son.”” Yeoh explained. “It comes from love, it comes from her being a mother who is like a dragon mom, where they nurture and they protect their treasure.”
“That is what Nicholas Young is. He is a gem, a pearl from the Orient that needs all the protection, and he has great responsibilities. He is supposed to take over the family business.”
The Malaysian actress praised Eleanor for having a strong personality without having a loud voice. “For me, Eleanor was very strong, and she’s very self-sacrificing, but not a pushover,” Yeoh said. “She stood her ground when it needs to be. She has very high standards, and when she’s around, everybody knows, “Okay, if we don’t meet the standards, we’re gonna get a little” [motions slapping]. And I love the way we made her such that she doesn’t have to raise her voice.”
Yeoh revealed she initially feared the film would focus too much on its comedic side and even asked director Jon M Chu if it was “going to be a Hangover kind of film?”
“It can read off like that, with all the stag parties and the hen parties, and all that running around,” Yeoh continued. “There’s nothing wrong with that because commercially it can be a huge success, but I would have felt it’s such a lost opportunity not to really show what family is to the Asians, what it means to us. I think family really resonates, right?”
For the 56-year-old actress, highlighting the importance of family in Asian culture was incredibly important.
“In Asian culture, you always put your family first. But when we look at someone who is born [in the U.S.], you go, “Well, because society dictates that you’re more American, you put yourself first.”” She said. “You have to learn to be independent and do your thing. When you are so independent, we recognize the fact that that’s how you have been brought up.
“That’s why when Nick says to the mom, “I brought home a Chinese girl, you should be happy.” But the first instinct you hear is, “Ah, she’s American-born Chinese.” And that is like, “Nick, I know you need someone who needs to put you first.””
Crazy Rich Asian is now in theatres. Click here to read Resonate writer Joie Ha’s review of the film.
In related news, Yeoh recently revealed that said “strong business women in film” provided her first action role.