Meet the stars of this summer’s most talked about film.
Crazy Rich Asians is a rom-com based on the best-selling book by Kevin Kwan. The movie centers around New Yorker Rachel and her longtime boyfriend, Nick. When Nick takes Rachel to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore, Rachel is shocked to find out that Nick’s family is one of the wealthiest in the country and that he is a highly-coveted bachelor. Rachel instantly becomes a target of not only the socialites vying for his affection but also his overcritical mother.
Here’s what you need to know about the all-Asian cast of Crazy Rich Asians:
Constance Wu (Rachel Chu) – An outspoken advocate for Asian-American representation in Hollywood, Wu’s breakout role was as Jessica Huang on ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat. Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu rearranged the movie’s shooting schedule so Wu could play the female lead. “I tried to make Rachel’s story about identity,” Wu told The Hollywood Reporter. “What does this say about the experience of being Asian-American, how it shapes you differently than the experience of being Asian-Asian? People think it’s the same, but when you grow up without your face being a part of dominant culture, it changes things.”
Henry Golding (Nick Young) – Making his film debut, Young is a British-Malaysian actor, model and television host. He previously worked as a hairdresser and hosted BBC’s The Travel Show. “I was sleeping in the jungle and doing really weird things,” he says. “[Being in a film] is so different. Much more pampered. I’m not going to lie. It’s pretty nice.” Golding also stars alongside Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick in A Simple Favor, out September 14.
Michelle Yeoh (Eleanor Sung-Young) – The Malaysian-Chinese actress had her first taste of fame in the 1990s when she starred in a series of popular action movies in Hong Kong. She played James Bond’s ally in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies and was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Actress for her role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. At first, Yeoh was hesitant about playing Nick disapproving mother in Crazy Rich Asians. “I asked [the director], ‘Are you making a Hangover or are you making something more?'” she admits. “[But] After I’d read the book, I thought it was an amazing opportunity to show the rest of the world the heritage, the traditions of what it is to be in a Chinese family in Asia and also what it means to be an American-born Chinese.”
Gemma Chan (Astrid Leong-Teo) – Chan plays Nick’s cousin and closest family confidant. Already a fan of the book, the British actress felt extremely passionate about staying true to her character. “I spoke a lot with [director] Jon Chu about the Astrid storyline because I had read and loved the books, but that’s a book that’s several hundred pages long, and this is a movie that’s an hour and 45,” she said. “So things had to be streamlined, and I was happy with what they decided in the end.” Her next big role is playing Kree geneticist Minn-Erva in 2019’s Captain Marvel.
Awkwafina (Goh Peik Lin) – The Queens, New York native (real name: Nora Lum), plays Rachel’s Singaporean college best friend. While attending LaGuardia High School (the school Fame is based on), she played the trumpet and studied jazz music. “I was horrible,” she admits. At age 16 she took on her now-famous stage name and in 2012, she released the viral rap video “My Vag.” Her first solo album, Yellow Ranger, was released in February 2014. A big supporter of the #MeToo movement, her first major big screen role was in 2018’s female dominating heist flick, Ocean’s 8. For Crazy Rich Asians, Chu envisioned Awkwafina as Peik Lin since day one and let her run with the character. “The cool thing is that Peik Lin was literally born on-screen,” she says. “Jon was never trying to steer me. A lot of times you do improv and it just goes into the heavens, but a lot of it made it into the film, and that was really, really cool.”
Lisa Lu (Shang Su Yi) – An actress for more than six decades, Lu plays Nick’s grandmother and matriarch of the family. Over the span of her career, the Chinese-born star has won three Best Actress Golden Horse Awards – the Taiwanese equivalent of an Academy Award. She is best known by American audiences for her roles in 2012, The Last Emperor and The Joy Luck Club. In fact, there is a wink and a nudge to The Joy Luck Club in Crazy Rich Asians. In one scene, which is not in the book, Rachel and Elenor meet up for a game of mahjong – the same game that is the focus of the 1993 movie.
Ken Jeong (Goh Wye Mun) – Jeong first won over audiences as gangster Leslie Chow in The Hangover film franchise. He also starred as Ben Chang on NBC’s Community for six seasons. Before becoming a comedian, Jeong was a licensed physician in California. He used this experience as inspiration for his 2015-2017 ABC series, Dr. Ken. In Crazy Rich Asians, he plays Peik Lin’s wealthy father. “It was a party,” Jeong said about filming the movie with such strong Asian representation. “I felt like I was a butterfly on the wall of something incredibly special.”
Jon M. Chu – The director of the movie made his directorial debut in 2008’s Step Up 2: The Streets. Having a passion for music and dancing, he directed Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and the web series The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. He also directed the blockbusters G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Now You See Me 2. The Bay Area-native hopes Crazy Rich Asians creates opportunities for more films with primarily Asian-American casts. “It’s unfair for one movie to represent all these people,” he told Deadline. “One movie that represents [all] Asians — that’s just ridiculous. However, if this can crack the door a little bit so that other stories can be told, and it spawns a resurgence in these stories getting shown at the highest levels possible — I would love to have this.”