Michelle Yeoh Revisits Her Most Iconic Roles, from Bond Girl to 'Crazy Rich Asians' and 'Shang-Chi'

The Oscar nominee opens up to PEOPLE in this week's issue about some of the most iconic roles she has played over her decades-long career

Michelle Yeoh is looking back on some of her most memorable roles.

In an exclusive conversation with PEOPLE for this week's issue, the first-time Academy Award nominee reflects on various projects over the course of her decades-long acting career.

"My first movie when I came out to America was Tomorrow Never Dies — a Bond movie," says the Everything Everywhere All at Once actress, 60. "To be part of the Bond legacy."

And while she says James Bond (played in 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies by Pierce Brosnan) was still known as a "very macho" character at the time, Yeoh adds, "The producers of the Bond series also realized the legacy needs to evolve with the world, and what is demanded from the audiences, as well."

Yeoh next starred in 2000's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, her first acting role since Tomorrow Never Dies. "I could not agree with the stereotypical roles that were put forward," the Malaysia-born actress says of why she waited so long between projects.

"So it does take time ... change in anything always takes time because we are comfort animals, right?" Yeoh continues. "And you can't do that. Life is about being chaotic; life is about taking risks. Life is about making changes — and, given, we have to be mindful [of] how to change, and what are the changes for?"

Michelle Yeoh Revisits Her Most Iconic Roles, from Bond Girl to Crazy Rich Asians and Star Trek
Michelle Yeoh's iconic roles. CBS, Sanja Bucko/Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock, Shutterstock

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The Golden Globe and SAG Award winner — who also appeared on television as Captain Philippa Georgiou in Star Trek: Discovery — goes on to remember working on Sunshine (2007) and Crazy Rich Asians (2018), the latter of which she says "lit a fire, and that fire grew bigger and bigger."

"I remember doing the press, and young reporters would come in and say, 'My parents are so excited I'm interviewing you.' And it strikes you," Yeoh tells PEOPLE with a laugh, reflecting on the decades that have passed since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Tomorrow Never Dies. "Now I have to think, what is a very innovative way to [connect] with my young audience?"

"With Crazy Rich Asians, I started to break open this thing so the young people could look at me and go, 'Oh, she's a scary mom, but she's kinda cool,' you know?" the actress adds. "And then, of course, the very iconic line, thanks to Jon [M.] Chu ... 'You'll never be enough.' "

Michelle Yeoh Rollout
Yu Tsai

Then, Yeoh says the cast and crew of 2021's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings "ninja-kicked that glass ceiling to smithereens," calling the film "a huge leap forward" for representation.

"We said, 'We are here to stay,' and that's what we need to do now is to keep pushing forwards — not to look back and say, 'Oh, we weren't given [the opportunities],' " she continues. "How do we make the opportunities now that we know the audience does want to see what we have to offer?"

Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Michelle Yeoh below

Yeoh says she never had a "dream" of becoming an actress during her childhood. It's something that obviously changed later, but back then, she was content taking in "the magic of cinema" as a spectator.

"I loved being transported, whether [through] Ben-Hur or The Sound of Music," she explains. "That magical feeling of being not where you are but somewhere else, and [to] be taken to all these incredible places and meet all these amazing people."

For more from Michelle Yeoh, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

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