HomeBad Ass AsiansGemma Chan:From Fashion Icon to Marvel Superhero

Gemma Chan:From Fashion Icon to Marvel Superhero

Gemma Chan in Captain Marvel

By Ed Diokno, Views from the Edge

I’m going to go out on the limb and predict that this will be a big year for rising actress Gemma Chan.

That’s supposed to be read as an understatement.

Gemma Chan, who starred in BBC’s Humans, was not widely known outside of sci-fi nerdom. Hollywood really began to notice her with her breakout role in Crazy Rich Asians as the rich and stunning, (but nice), cousin of Nick Young, the male romantic lead.

The first role she took on after playing the beautiful Astrid Teo, who was always perfectly coiffed, wore the most expensive (but, tasteful) jewelry and always looked like she stepped out of the pages of a fashion magazine, will be in a spandex suit in her next big film … and she’ll be blue. I mean, really: her skin is blue.

Chan is taking on the role of Minn-Erva in Captain Marvel, which debutted this weekend.

“It’s not great for your skin,” Chan said to Radio Times. “My skin was starting to react towards the end of the shoot. Your skin’s just not meant to be under four layers of airbrush paint and the prosthetics. And yeah, you do start to react to it. It’s not ideal.”

Minn-Erva is a Kree, just like Guardians of the Galaxy’s Ronan the Accuser (played by Lee Pace, who is reprising his role in the movie). She is an extremely bright geneticist who, in the comics, ends up with Captain Marvel-like powers after she comes to Earth and disguises herself as “Doctor Minerva” and proceeds to mess around with Captain Mar-Vell’s genes in a lab. She thinks his genetic code might unlock new potentials for the diminishing Kree race.

“I had just under three months to prepare for the role,” she told Screenrant. “So I started training straight away and I started doing some kickboxing and boxing. So you have to do the fight scenes and did the choreography. And I went to sniper school and learn how to use various different weapons and did lots of drills and then I have to crawl whilst holding a rifle and all of that kind of thing. And it was good. It was really, it’s always a bonus I think we can get to learn a new skill as part of your job. It’s, you know, something you wouldn’t normally do in your everyday life.”


 “Astrid is a very refined, sophisticated character, so it was fun to play a character that was a bit less nice,” Chan tells Popsugar, adding that she practiced kickboxing exercises in preparation for the highly physical role of Minn-Erva. “There are some great action sequences in (Captain Marvel). The character “is a badass. She’s a sniper and a warrior. She doesn’t suffer any fools. She was really good fun to play.”


Fans will probably be clamoring for more of Minn-Erva in future Marvel productions after being introduced to this complex character.

When she’s not busy saving the world from aliens, you can probably find Chan on red carpets and magazine covers. A former model, she is gaining quite a reputation as a fashion maven and she always looks striking. On the press tours and the awards shows circuit, her fashion choices have been killing it.

On her worldwide press tour for CRA, Chan’s dazzling outfits by Jason Wu, Prabal Gurung, Simone Rocha, Altuzarra, Oscar de la Renta and others instantly transformed her into a fashion icon.


She personified Hollywood glamor with her her gowns at the SAG, Critics’ Choice, Golden Globes and the Oscars. “This is Valentino,” Chan said of the dress, complete with pockets. “Dresses with pockets, eh?”

Flipping through the fashion mags, one wonders, does she ever wear the same dress twice?

Gemma Chan
ABC Photo from Oscars 2019

“The looks I wore did get a lot of coverage. I really enjoyed putting them together with my stylist Rebecca Corbin-Murray. We put an emphasis on Asian creativity,” she told the New York Post.

In the meantime, you can also catch the busy actress in the most unlikeliest of genre’s (even more unlikely than her blue appearance in a Marvel blockbuster?) – British period films. She plays Bess of Hardwick, the closest female confidante of Elizabeth I (played by Margot Robbie) in the historical drama film Mary Queen of Scots.

She is also starring in Mr. Malcolm’s List. Set in early 1800s England, a young lady (Chan) engages in courtship with a mysterious wealthy suitor, Mr. Malcolm, unaware of his unattainable list of demands for his future wife. 

A short film (watch below) was posted on Refinery29.com in February. It will be expanded to a full length feature which will also star Chan along with Frida Pinto.

The 36-year old actress finally scored her first starring movie role in Intrigo: Dear Agnes, due out later this year. She plays a woman who sets up the murder of her husband in the adaption of a Swedish crime novel directed by Daniel Alfredson, who made two of the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo films.


And then there’s China Rich Girlfriend, the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians, which is scheduled to start filming in China in 2020. The story, based on the second book of the Kevin Kwan trilogy, will focus on Astrid’s pursuit of happiness and her true love.

CRA fans will remember towards the end of the movie, mid-credits, which features a look between Astrid and a handsome mystery gentleman. Readers of the books will know who he is, but I won’t spoil things for you except that Astrid’s story will be more prominent.

Gemma Chan with Harry Shum Jr in Crazy Rich Asians

Hollywood is changing for Asian actors and the cast of CRA is one of the reasons. And the way the movie industry is embracing the Asian Brit spells out a bright future. “You know, I don’t feel that different,” Chan tells the NY Post. “But other people are treating me differently. The response was beyond what any of us would have hoped. I’m glad the door’s been kicked open for more Asian stories — I hope it’s not a passing trend.”

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