TV & Movies

Gemma Chan's Best Movie & TV Roles Include An Unlikely Period Drama

The Eternals star’s career spans genres.

'Eternals' star Gemma Chan posing in a black and silver glittery gown with a cutout and belt on a re...
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Is there anything Gemma Chan can’t do — onscreen and off? The former model unfailingly dazzles at red carpets, has a law degree from Oxford University, and contributes to relief efforts for COVID-19 workers with her partner, Dominic Cooper. Her work onscreen is equally impressive. While many probably know Chan as the glamorous Astrid Leong-Teo from the mega-hit Crazy Rich Asians, her resume extends far beyond the Kevin Kwan-novel adaptation, as she’s starred in several British TV shows and movies.

The British actor didn’t always think many roles were accessible and believed some to be off-limits to her as an Asian woman. But her career-long crusade toward a more inclusive Hollywood led to several barrier-breaking projects, including voicing a character in Disney’s first-ever Southeast Asian-inspired animation and being part of an Elizabethan historical drama.

These days, she can be seen playing complicated and powerful women. On Nov. 5, she returns to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Sersi in Eternals, her second Marvel role. She’s also starring in the highly-anticipated Olivia Wilde-directed thriller Don’t Worry Darling alongside Florence Pugh and Harry Styles. Whether she’s playing a blue-skinned alien or a latex-wearing call girl, Chan is always magnetic. Ahead, 10 of Gemma Chan’s best movie and TV roles if you can’t get enough of the Eternals star.

Crazy Rich Asians

When Nick Young (Henry Golding) whisks girlfriend Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) away to Singapore for a wedding, he also introduces her to a side of him he kept hidden: his in-demand bachelor status and his extremely wealthy — and extremely disapproving — kin. As Nick’s mega-rich yet kind-hearted socialite cousin, Chan’s Astrid befriends Rachel while navigating her own marital troubles. The entire movie may have been perfectly cast, but it’s Chan’s impeccably dressed and poised character who continues to captivate.

“When I was asked if I was interested in being in the film, I was like, yeah, I want to play Astrid,” Chan previously told Bustle, adding that Astrid was her “favorite” character from the books, one she found “very compelling.” Should a sequel push through, fans will likely see more of Astrid with a new romantic interest.

Raya and the Last Dragon

Chan rejoins her Crazy Rich Asians co-star Awkwafina in another barrier-breaking film for Asians, this time the Disney animation Raya and the Last Dragon, the first of its kind to highlight Southeast Asian cultures. In the land of Kumandra, evil spirits called Druun petrify entire villages, and it’s up to warrior Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) and newly-awakened dragon Sisu (Awkwafina) to piece together a powerful gem to defeat them. Unfortunately, their efforts are constantly thwarted by Chan’s Namaari, a warrior princess and Raya’s nemesis, who wants the stone for her own people.

Mary Queen Of Scots

In the juicy period drama Mary Queen of Scots, cousins Mary (Saoirse Ronan) and Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie) rule their kingdoms in peace until their friendship turns into a deadly rivalry where even the faintest murmurs of treason mean war. There’s intrigue, there’s envy, and there’s Chan, who plays the Elizabethan aristocrat Bess of Hardwick, confidante to Robbie’s Elizabeth.

Clapping back at haters who chided her casting as the historically white personality, Chan told Allure, “Why are actors of color, who have fewer opportunities anyway, only allowed to play their own race? And sometimes they’re not even allowed to play their own race.” She added, “If John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, I can play Bess of Hardwick.”

Transformers: The Last Knight

Beside the Autobots’ leader Optimus Prime, Chan’s Quintessa may look like a teeny robotic fairy, but her role in Transformers: The Last Knight is pivotal to the fifth installment — and the entire Transformers franchise. Also known as The Great Deceiver, Quintessa is revealed to be the creator of Optimus Prime and his transforming pals and eventually commands him to destroy Earth. In a cliffhanger, she later appears as herself, disguised as a human likely ready to wreak havoc should there be a sequel.

Captain Marvel

There’s a lot of powerful women in Captain Marvel (2019), including the titular hero played by Brie Larson, whose character also goes by Vers and Carol Danvers, Lashana Lynch’s Marie, and Chan’s blue-skinned Minn-Erva. Part of Kree’s killer Starforce fleet, Minn-Erva initially fights alongside the brainwashed Carol before Carol gains control of her memories and powers and goes up against the Krees. This was Chan’s first romp in the MCU before being cast to play a different character in Eternals.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Before Marvel and Transformers, Chan joined another mega-franchise: the magical world of Harry Potter in the 2016 spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Though her appearance in the film is brief, only interrogating Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander in one scene, Chan’s soft-spoken but commanding Madam Ya Zhou, a witch delegate with an ornate headdress, is worth noting.

Let Them All Talk

Meryl Streep plays Alice Hughes, a best-selling author working on a sequel in the Steven Soderbergh-directed dramedy Let Them All Talk. Chan, meanwhile, plays Karen, Alice’s literary agent who suggests she take a cruise with estranged friends Roberta (Candice Bergen) and Susan (Dianne Wiest) as fodder for her next book.

The cast is electric, but the one-on-one scenes where a squirmish Karen cajoles the headstrong and tight-lipped Alice into revealing details about her forthcoming novel are especially delectable for viewers to watch. Chan, however, was apparently “petrified” of shooting the scene. She told Elle, “There I am, with possibly the greatest actress of all time, and... ‘Action!’” adding, “It was a dream project.”

Secret Diary Of A Call Girl

Billie Piper plays legal secretary Hannah by day and high-class escort Belle by night in the ITV2 British dramedy Secret Diary Of A Call Girl. Chan joined the cast as a series regular in the fourth and final season as the bossy sex worker Charlotte. Bedecked in latex outfits, Chan plays a no-nonsense dominatrix who extends her disdain in the bedroom to her real life, especially to Billie, her arch-rival.


In a world where anthropomorphized robots called synths replace humans as companions and servers, Chan plays Mia — later programmed to answer to Anita — a robo-babysitter. The acclaimed Channel 4 British sci-fi series Humans (2014), based on the Swedish show Real Humans, is where Chan got her first break as the lead. By the third season, she’s front and center and leads her fellow synths to a revolution.

Doctor Who

In the 2009 Doctor Who TV special titled The Waters of Mars, Chan plays geologist Mia Bennett. While working on a rocket ship on Mars, her colleagues get infected by the Flood — the disease plaguing Mars that turns humans into zombie-like conduits of water. In this decades-long British sci-fi series on BBC One, it’s the Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant, who saves her from the virus and brings her to Earth, only for confusion to take over.