As soon as Michelle Yeoh enters a room, there is a regal, yet kind-hearted presence that fills the space. From Supercop to Tomorrow Never Dies to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Memoirs of a Geisha to Star Trek: Discovery, Yeoh has been a trailblazing pioneer in film and television — but she does it without fanfare. Instead, she lets her talent and choices in projects speak about her forward-thinking brilliance  — and her role in Crazy Rich Asians continues to blaze that trail.

In the Warner Bros. blockbuster romantic comedy, Yeoh plays matriarch Eleanor Young, a character who can easily be portrayed as an icy, overbearing Tiger Mom. Instead, she plays her with layered grace and empathy, portraying a mother concerned with the well-being of her son and family instead of a villainess hellbent on taking down her future daughter-in-law.

Yeoh stopped by the New Hollywood Podcast to talk about the cultural importance of Crazy Rich Asians beyond the box office as well as her storied career. She walked us through her beginnings as a kick-ass martial arts star in Asia (which wasn’t common for women at the time), the obstacles she faced, and how she crossed over to American cinema.

Listen to the episode below.