Film star Michelle Yeoh grand marshal of SF Chinese New Year parade

It’s just after 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Four Seasons Hotel on Market Street, and international film star Michelle Yeoh is halfway ready prepping for her newest role: Grand marshal of the Southwest Airlines San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade.

Sitting in her hotel room with the San Francisco Examiner just hours before she’s set to roll past Union Square, Yeoh said she didn’t hesitate when asked to participate in the parade, “I’m like, ‘yeah!’ This is supposed to be one of the best parades in the world.”

Yeoh will also be the first celebrity grand marshal of the parade in its more than 150-year history, said Harlan Wong, parade director. He said inviting Yeoh was “a no brainer.”

The star, known for her most recent role as Captain Philippa Georgiou in “Star Trek: Discovery” and death-defying martial arts in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” is now promoting her upcoming comedy and love story, “Crazy Rich Asians,” which premieres in August.

Yeoh plays Eleanor Young, the wealthy mother of one of the film’s protagonists, which also features an all-Asian cast and director, Jon Chu.

“In that way, we push forward, to be inclusive And represented in the right way,” she said. “It has to be a real character — a meaningful character.”

She was particularly proud of her roles in “Star Trek,” she said, where Yeoh plays both Captain Georgiou and the mirror-universe version of that character, Emperor Georgiou.

“I’m captain, became the emperor, and then became the grand marshal!” Yeoh said.

And representation is another reason to come to San Francisco, Yeoh added. The City is 35 percent Asian, according to the U.S. Census, and the annual Chinese New Year parade attracts more than 3 million spectators across KTVU and KTSF, according to the parade’s website.

Yeoh has never been to The City’s Chinese New Year parade, but said “I love San Francisco. I used to come here a lot more.”

When Yeoh arrived Friday, one of her first stops was the 48-year-old Los Altos restaurant Chef Chu’s, owned and operated by Lawrence Chu — the father of Jon, who directed “Crazy Rich Asians.”

“When you look at her she’s Asian, particularly Chinese, and if she can do it, we can do it,” Lawrence Chu said. “She opened the door for us.”

When she’s done lighting the ceremonial firecrackers and the parade has cleared Chinatown, Yeoh said she’ll spend time with friends and family in The City.

Until then, she said, she’s excited — and grateful.

“Thank you for being such a beautiful city, and always so welcoming.”

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez covers transportation for the San Francisco Examiner. He also writes the weekly political On Guard column. Reach him at Follow him on Twitter: @FitzTheReporter.

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Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

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