Michelle Yeoh on Taking Over the Captain’s Chair for Star Trek: Discovery
September 15, 2017
She kept up with James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies, and this fall Michelle Yeoh, 55, takes over the captain’s chair on the new series Star Trek: Discovery, premiering September 24 on CBS and continuing on the network’s All Access online streaming service. The Malaysian-born actress helms the Shenzhou, the Discovery’s sister ship, as both are tasked with the mission of exploring space, the final frontier.
Discovery is set a decade prior to the original series. Is the ideology going to be the same?
Yes. The spirit very much upholds the value of interdependence.
What’s it like to sit in the captain’s chair?
Everybody circles around that chair when they walk on the bridge. Every time I turn my back, one of my officers is trying to get into it. But at the end of the day, you just have to make it your own. And when you’re in that chair, you really feel like it’s a place of power. That’s where all the orders come from. It’s very alluring in many ways. It was very daunting to start off with.
What can you say about your ship the Shenzhou?
Discovery is a very enviable ship, but my ship has been around for some time. It’s full of glorious tales.
Is Captain Georgiou a powerful woman?
She’s a war veteran, but she is still filled with humanity. She has great hope for not just humankind, but for all the different species. She’s an explorer, but she does it with great compassion, so she’s a great leader. It’s been very empowering to play someone like that, who inspires other people.
And Klingons will definitely make an appearance, right?
What I love about this is that you will not just see the Klingons as the bad Klingons. I think it’s very important that you see what goes on in the Klingon world.
Have you heard from William Shatner, Kate Mulgrew or any of the other starship captains?
No, but I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Jonathan Frakes [from Star Trek: The Next Generation], and he’s fabulous. I think it’s important to forge your own way, but I hope very soon I will meet the other captains.
You work in multiple countries. Was it Crouching Tiger that made that possible or was it the James Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies?
I think it was a combination of both. With the James Bond movie, I was known instantaneously in so many countries around the world. And I waited two years to do Crouching Tiger.
Your next project is the comedy Crazy Rich Asians. What can you share?
I play the very dominating, domineering, scary Eleanor Young. She is the woman that everybody fears but has great respect for. We just wrapped in Malaysia and Singapore a couple of weeks ago, and Jon Chu, the director is absolutely fabulous. We had a great time.
This film has an all-Chinese cast.
It’s been a long time. Crouching Tiger wasn’t shot in English. The last time I did something with a lot of Asians in the cast was Memoirs of a Geisha, but that was written in English. This one was written in English by a Singaporean New Yorker Kevin Kwan, who lived there [in Singapore]. It’s all his childhood memories of a time and place.
When you were younger, you studied ballet. Did you plan to go from ballet to acting?
No, I didn’t. I had all my dreams wrapped up in having my own ballet school, being the little ballerina, the ballet teacher and those kinds of things. I went to the movies a lot with my mom, but when I was kid looking at the silver screen I never imagined that one day I would be up there.