'American Born Chinese' star on working with Michelle Yeoh and Yeo Yann Yann

  • TV
  • Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Michelle Yeoh stars as Guan Yin, the Goddess Of Mercy, who guides Wei-Chen (Jim Liu) on his quest. — Photos: Disney Hotstar

The new American Born Chinese television series on Disney+ Hotstar may be set in the United States, but Malaysians will be thrilled to know that not one, but two of our own are actually in it.

While it is already well known that newly minted Best Actress Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh is playing the role of Guan Yin, the Goddess Of Mercy, another of our award-winning actresses, Yeo Yann Yann, also stars in the show as Christine, the mother of lead character Jin Wang (played by American actor Ben Wang).

During a virtual interview with Wang, he described the two Malaysian actresses as ‘wonderful’, ‘incredible’, and ‘generous’ (among other superlatives). He was especially effusive about filming alongside Yeo.

“Yann Yann is one of the most incredible actresses I've ever worked with. Our relationship in the beginning was very organic. We had great chemistry in real life from the very start,” he recalled.

“As an actor, she was very free with her choices, and generous with her acting. Being scene partners with her felt easy ... we get to show up on set and feel like we’re living a moment. She is a really hard working person and she did a ton of research as well,” he said.

Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann plays Christine, Jin Wang's mother, in 'American Born Chinese'.Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann plays Christine, Jin Wang's mother, in 'American Born Chinese'.

Based on Gene Luen Yang’s groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name, American Born Chinese chronicles the trials and tribulations of a regular American teenager whose life is forever changed when he befriends the son of a mythological god.

In the series, Wang stars as the lead character Jin Wang, a high school student trying his best to fit in, but finds his efforts undermined when he is forced to chaperon a new transfer student from China, Wei-Chen (Jim Liu). But little does he know that Wei-Chen is actually the son of the legendary Monkey King (Daniel Wu), and has come to Earth on an important mission that could help save Heaven from an uprising by the Bull Demon King (Leonard Wu).

The series also stars Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan as Freddy Wong, a former actor who once played a racially stereotypical role in a once beloved sitcom.

Sydney Taylor (left) and Ben Wang star in 'American Born Chinese'.Sydney Taylor (left) and Ben Wang star in 'American Born Chinese'.

Working with Yeoh and Ke was also “as awesome as you’d think it would be”, according to Wang and his co-star Sydney Taylor, who stars as Amelia, a friendly "All-American" girl who is Jin Wang’s classmate and crush.

“They’re really really wonderful people, and they’re not putting on an act at all,” he said. ““They are the most talented and wonderful people to work with, and excellent role models as well.”

Calling them ‘oddly nice’, Taylor said that she didn’t think Ke would even know her name at first.

“Th first time he met me, he gave me the biggest hug! I didn't think he was going to know who I was or what my name is, but he did! He is so sweet,” she recalled.

Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan plays Freddie Wong in 'American Born Chinese'.Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan plays Freddie Wong in 'American Born Chinese'.

Wang and Sydney said that because they get along so well in real life, they almost ruined their scenes together.

“In real life, we’re pretty chaotic people. Having us together in a room is a mess, and we feel bad for everyone else for having to deal with us!” Wang said. “It was good synergy for the scenes, but we were told to tone it down!”

“Someone actually once told us to not get along so well because we’re not as close in the show as we are in real life,” Taylor said. “They said we were ruining it because we look like we know each other too well!”

Wang, 23, has appeared in shows like MacGyver and The Last O.G., and will next star in original feature film Sight starring Greg Kinnear and Terry Chen, and also Disney+ original film Chang Can Dunk.

Taylor, 20, will next star in 2024 film Marked Men, which is the first of a six-part series adapted from the popular books by author Jay Crownover.

American Born Chinese is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar

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