Archive | November, 2016

Michelle Yeoh goes where no Asian actor has gone before

24 Nov


Michelle Yeoh will play a prominent role as a starship captain in the upcoming series Star Trek: Discovery

I’ve known about this for weeks from a personal friend of Michelle Yeoh but swore to keep it a secret. Now that the news is finally public, we can finally talk about the significance of Malaysia-born actress Michelle Yeoh’s debut as a starship captain in the upcoming series Star Trek: Discovery.

First. Asian. Woman. In a major television and film franchise show like Star Trek! This breaks all kinds of barriers and it’s a major victory for Asian actors.

The world of scifi and fantasy has been under fire lately because of charges of “white-washing” of major roles that should have gone to Asian actors: Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange and Scarlett Johansson as the Major in Ghost In the Shell being among the most prominent.

Another recent controversy arose from the casting of Finn Jones as the lead for Marvel’s Iron Fist Netflix series. I defended this decision on two counts: first, the original comic book Iron Fist was always a white male, Danny Rand, and second, I didn’t believe that casting an Asian actor to play Iron Fist would have helped the diversity cause in any way. An Asian actor playing a kung fu / martial artist superhero doesn’t open up new opportunities for Asian talent. Asians playing lawyers, cops, next door neighbors, schoolteachers, love interests…that’s true diversity.

But now…an Asian starship captain? And a woman? That is a major step forward. For Asian actors Yeoh’s casting is, in many ways…the Final Frontier.