Singapore actor Chin Han ‘saved my life’ in LA, says American Born Chinese co-star Yeo Yann Yann, Latest TV News - The New Paper

Singapore actor Chin Han ‘saved my life’ in LA, says American Born Chinese co-star Yeo Yann Yann

LOS ANGELES – When Malaysian actress Yeo Yann Yann arrived in Los Angeles in 2022 for her first big Hollywood role, she was alone and did not really know how to navigate the sprawling American city.

But her new co-star, Singapore-born Hollywood actor Chin Han, took her under his wing and dispensed essential advice on how to stay safe and where to score good Chinese food.

“Chin Han saved my life,” says the 46-year-old Singapore-based Yeo, who won Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards for Singaporean films Wet Season (2019) and Ilo Ilo (2013) respectively.

She and Chin Han sat down for a Zoom chat with The Straits Times ahead of the new coming-of-age fantasy action-comedy American Born Chinese, which premieres on Disney+ on May 24.

They play Simon and Christine Wang, the Chinese immigrant parents of Jin (Ben Wang), a boy trying to fit in at an American high school where people still mispronounce his name.

(From left) Yeo Yann Yann, Chin Han and Ben Wang in American Born Chinese. PHOTO: DISNEY+


The eight-episode series was filmed in 2022 in Los Angeles, and Yeo says she would have felt lost if not for Chin Han’s generosity and guidance.

“I was here alone working and I didn’t know where to eat. And Chin Han was basically helping me the whole way, from the first day until the last day.

“He was so kind to me and I really appreciate that. The whole time, he was really taking care of me,” Yeo says.

Chin Han was especially concerned for her safety, she recalls.

“He said, ‘Don’t walk by yourself when it’s dark. When the sun goes down, do not walk on the street.’

“Because I don’t drive, I was basically walking around the city, and he gave me this really stern advice,” says Yeo, who is married to Hong Kong action choreographer and director Ma Yuk Sing, 61, and has a 10-year-old daughter.

Chin Han, whose full name is Ng Chin Han, has lived in Los Angeles since moving to the United States for his first big Hollywood role, in the Batman movie The Dark Knight (2008).

Yeo Yann Yann (left) and Chin Han at the New York premiere of American Born Chinese on May 7. PHOTOS: AFP


As Singapore’s biggest Hollywood export, the 53-year-old bachelor has since appeared in numerous high-profile projects, including the action blockbusters Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), as well as hit crime series The Blacklist (2013 to present).

But although he has a wealth of industry experience, Chin Han says Yeo had no need for his help when it came to acting.

“There’s nothing I can teach Yann Yann, really – she’s such an accomplished actor. All I could do was direct her to hiking trails and good Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles.

“And at some point, I’m going to teach her how to drive on a US freeway, because that is very stressful for anybody.”

Yeo will not require any tips from him even if she decides to pursue more projects in Hollywood, he adds.

“She’s such an intuitive actor, I think she will thrive in any environment.

“She’s worked in Europe, the US and Asia, and I think for her, it’s a question of just getting used to the working structures in Hollywood – the way we have meal times and personal assistants and costumers taking care of so many things – which then allows us to really do what we need to do for the scenes.

“But ultimately, it is the craft that’s most important, and there, I really have nothing to teach her.”

Chin Han in American Born Chinese. PHOTO: DISNEY+
Yeo Yann Yann in American Born Chinese. PHOTO: DISNEY+


The pair enjoyed working together on the many scenes they share in American Born Chinese, which develops their characters separately.

And they quickly bonded because of their Singapore-Malaysia connection, adds Chin Han.

“We share so many things – culturally, traditionally – that even though we hadn’t worked together before, there’s a kind of shorthand when we deal with a scene, even with respect to the language.

“In the show, we speak almost 90 per cent in Mandarin, and just trying to get the nuances of that right and express ourselves authentically and correctly, we spent many hours together.”

And Yeo was always “a joy to work with and incredible to bounce off”, he adds.

American Born Chinese premieres on Disney+ on May 24.