It’s Michelle Yeoh’s world; we just live (and admire her) in it. She’s in the Witcher prequel. She’s—someday—in the Section 31 Star Trek series. She’s in the upcoming Everything Everywhere All at Once (pictured above). And now, she’s reteaming with director Destin Daniel Cretton (Shang-Chi) for Disney+’s American Born Chinese, an adaptation of Gene Luen Yang’s award-winning graphic novel.
As Deadline explains, Yeoh’s character, Guanyin, “is an unassuming auntie who helps her nephew Wei-Chen navigate the challenges of American high school while maintaining her secret identity as the all-powerful Buddhist bodhisattva of Compassion.”
American Born Chinese is a gorgeous book; it was a National Book Award finalist and won both an Eisner Award and the American Library Association’s Printz Award (which recognizes the year’s best book for teens). Yang, who received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2016, is an executive producer on the adaptation, which has Kelvin Yu (Bob’s Burgers) as showrunner. Cretton is directing; Kelvin Yu and author Charles Yu (Interior Chinatown) are writing the series.
Yeoh is the marquee name in the cast, but not the only reason to get excited. Daniel Wu (Into the Badlands) plays Sun Wukong, The Monkey King, a legendary character from the Chinese novel Journey to the West. The character’s storyline is one of three in Yuen’s book; the other two focus on Jin Wang (played by Ben Wang), an ordinary kid balancing home and school and coming of age, and Danny, who is embarrassed by his Chinese cousin. Discovering how these three narratives connect is one of the joys of reading the book, and it’ll be extremely interesting to see how they play out in the adaptation. Deadline’s summary says, “When [Jin] meets a new foreign student on the first day of the school year, even more worlds collide as Jin is unwittingly entangled in a battle of Chinese mythological gods. The action-packed coming-of-age adventure explores identity, culture, and family.”
The series has also cast Yeoh’s Everything Everywhere All at Once co-star Ke Huy Quan as Freddy Wong, a fictional character within the world of the series; Yeo Yann Yann (Havoc) as Jin’s mom, Christine; Chin Han (Mortal Kombat) as his father, Simon; Jim Liu as Jin’s friend Wei-Chen; and Sydney Taylor (Just Add Magic) as Amelia, a classmate of Jin’s.
American Born Chinese begins production this month, so we won’t have to wait terribly long for it to arrive on Disney+.