Gemma Chan
Chan in 2018
Born (1982-11-29) 29 November 1982 (age 40)
London, England
  • Actress
  • model
Years active2006–present
PartnerDominic Cooper (2018-present)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese陳靜
Simplified Chinese陈静

Gemma Chan (born 29 November 1982)[1] is an English actress.[2] Born and raised in London, Chan attended the Newstead Wood School for Girls and studied law at Worcester College, Oxford before choosing to pursue a career in acting instead, enrolling at the Drama Centre London. Chan's early work include supporting roles on television such as Doctor Who (2009), Sherlock (2010), Secret Diary of a Call Girl (2011), and Bedlam (2012) as well as minor parts in independent films such as Exam (2009), Submarine (2010) and Belles Familles (2015). Chan starred in the National Theatre's production of David Henry Hwang's play Yellow Face (2013) and in the West End's revival of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming (2015).

Chan had minor roles in blockbuster films Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) and Transformers: The Last Knight (2017). Chan gained recognition for her roles in Crazy Rich Asians (2018) and Disney's animated film Raya and the Last Dragon (2021). In the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Chan portrayed Minn-Erva in Captain Marvel (2019) before headlining Eternals (2021) as Sersi. In television, she starred in the AMC science fiction series Humans (2015–2018).

Early life and education

Gemma Chan was born at Guy's Hospital in London, England.[3] Her father was an engineer who grew up in Hong Kong and her mother was a pharmacist and raised in Greenock, Scotland, after her parents emigrated from Hong Kong.[3][4]

Raised in Locksbottom in the London Borough of Bromley,[5] Chan attended Newstead Wood School for Girls in Orpington, London and went on to study law at Worcester College, Oxford.[6] Following graduation, Chan gained a training contract offer as a graduate at the law firm Slaughter and May,[7][6] but turned it down to study at the Drama Centre London and pursue an acting career.[3]


2006–2013: Early career

Chan in 2013

Chan made her professional debut in Horror Channel's 2006 miniseries When Evil Calls.[8][9] She was a competitor on the first series of the reality series Project Catwalk.[10] Chan made her stage debut in the British premiere of Bertolt Brecht's last play, Turandot, at the Hampstead Theatre, London, in 2008.[11] Chan appeared in the autumn 2009 special of the BBC's Doctor Who, titled "The Waters of Mars", playing geologist Mia Bennett.[12] The episode later won a Hugo Award.[13][14] In the same year, Chan starred in Exam (2009) which premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival to mixed reviews.[15][16] The following year, Chan appeared in two episodes in Channel 4's The IT Crowd. In Season 4, Episode 2 "The Final Countdown", she portrays "Ivana", a sexy girl in a club with whom Moss had slept with previously. The episode also stars fellow Marvel actor Benedict Wong as "Prime". She appears again in Season 4, Episode 6 "Reynholm vs Reynholm", a Star Trek parody as "female Sulu".[17][18]

Also in 2010, she got one of her first breakout roles,[19] as a heavily accented Chinese immigrant appearing in The Blind Banker, a first series episode of BBC's Sherlock. The episode was criticized partly because of its orientalist clichés.[19] Chan's next releases, Pimp, (2010) and Shanghai (2010), were panned by critics, while Submarine premiered at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival to positive reviews.[20][21] Chan was cast as a series regular in the final series of Secret Diary of a Call Girl, as the rival of Billie Piper's character.[22] The series aired on ITV2 in 2011.[23]

Later that year, she appeared in Channel 4's Fresh Meat.[24] A supporter of human rights, she made a film for Amnesty International to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[6] In 2012, Chan was a regular in series two of Sky Living's supernatural drama Bedlam[25] where she portrayed Kiera, an "impulsive" and "free spirited" woman.[26] She appeared in True Love, a five-part semi-improvised television series produced by Working Title for BBC One.[27] Chan met her co-stars on set, and had free rein to "flesh out" her character during the written scenarios.[3] In June 2013, Chan performed in the British premiere of Yellow Face by American playwright David Henry Hwang at The Park Theatre, London, and returned for its 2014 revival at the Royal National Theatre.[28] While promoting the play, Chan spoke about her struggles to get cast in non Chinese-related productions and period dramas due to her ethnicity.[29]

Chan at the 2013 BAFTA Awards

In November 2013, Chan performed in the world premiere of Our Ajax by Timberlake Wertenbaker at the Southwark Playhouse, London. Wertenbaker chose her to play the war goddess Athena after she saw her performance in Yellow Face.[30] Michael Billington of The Guardian described her performance as "beautifully svelte omniscience".[31] Later that year, she starred in BBC One crime drama Shetland, playing young archaeologist Hattie James.[32][33] Chan guest-starred in the BBC's Death in Paradise. She was a cast member of Channel 4 romantic drama Dates.[34] On 6 August 2013, Chan appeared as a guest on the "Cultural Exchange" feature of the BBC Radio 4 series Front Row, where she nominated the film The Princess Bride as a film she loves.[35] Chan appeared in The Double (2013), which premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival to critical success.[36][37]

2014–2019: Breakthrough

Chan appeared in the action-thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014), which met mixed reception and financial success.[38][39] In 2015 she portrayed Ruth in the West End revival of Harold Pinter's domestic drama The Homecoming directed by Jamie Lloyd. She received rave reviews with Michael Billington of The Guardian writing, that "Chan shows, with great skill...a coolly inscrutable Ruth".[40] The Evening Standard described Chan's performance as "cool" and "elegant".[41] Chan said of the experience "There is a lot of ambiguity with [my] character and in [Pinter's] text, but as you work on it you have to make choices and decide what your truth is... A lot of people think she's controversial and ask why she behaves the way she behaves, and it's been really interesting trying to work that out."[42]

That same year she portrayed the protagonist's girlfriend, Chen-Lin, in French comedy-drama Belles Familles (2015), which was released at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.[43] Chan portrayed American witch Madame Ya Zhou in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), which was nominated for five BAFTAs.[44] [45] She lent her voice to BBC's animated miniseries Watership Down in 2018.[46] Chan starred as the anthropomorphic robot Anita/Mia in Humans, an AMC/Channel 4 science-fiction drama, from 2015 to 2018.[47][48] The A.V. Club wrote that Chan "anchors the series", with her performance "awakening in ways both subtle and overt ... to reflect every new emotion."[49] Chan voiced robot Quintessa in Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), which was panned by critics.[50] Chan starred in action-thriller Stratton (2017) as the titular character's "smart-girl" colleague, Aggie.[51] In 2018, Chan joined Andrea Riseborough, Jane Horrocks, Jaime Winstone, and Laura Carmichael to star in a film produced by ActionAid, encouraging the British public to support girls at risk of sexual violence.[52]

Chan at the 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards

Also in 2018, Chan co-starred as Astrid Leong-Teo in the film Crazy Rich Asians.[53][54] Originally asked to portray the lead, Chan preferred the "more intriguing" role of Astrid.[55] She first heard about the novel Crazy Rich Asians in a text message from her sister, read it on holiday, and "fell in love with Astrid".[56] On her role, Chan stated that "what you see with Astrid is not necessarily what you get. There are layers to her ... [she] seemingly has it all together.[57] The film became the highest-grossing romantic comedy of the decade and received critical acclaim for its cast, visuals and on-screen representation.[58][59] The Hollywood Reporter lauded Chan as "a radiant presence who lights up her every scene".[60]

That same year, she featured in the short film titled Leading Lady Parts in support of the Time's Up movement.[61] Chan appeared as Petronella in London Fields (2018), which was a box-office bomb.[62] Chan portrayed Elizabeth Hardwick in Josie Rourke's directorial debut, historical drama Mary Queen of Scots (2018), which premiered at the AFI Fest.[63] Chan's casting "provoked controversy among internet trolls", as her character had been a white woman.[64] Chan responded that "if John Wayne can play Genghis Khan, I can play Bess of Hardwick" and remarked that "art should reflect life now."[64] Chan appeared in Captain Marvel (2019) in a supporting role as Minn-Erva, a sniper who is part of the Kree Starforce.[65] The role required an extensive amount of prosthetic makeup, described as "four layers of airbrush paint" that took four hours to apply.[66] The film had the sixth-biggest opening of all time to critical success.[67][68] That same year, she was one of fifteen women selected to appear on the cover of the September 2019 issue of British Vogue, by guest editor Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.[69]

2020–present: Let Them All Talk and Eternals

In 2020 Chan starred alongside Meryl Streep in Steven Soderbergh's comedy Let Them All Talk.[70] She portrayed Karen, a literary agent who has a "maybe-romance" with her client's nephew.[71] The film premiered on HBO Max to positive reception.[72] That same year, Chan was the fifteenth recipient of the Women In Film Max Mara Face of the Future award, given for her "distinguished acting achievements" and "personal embodiment of timeless style and grace".[73] Chan voiced the warrior princess Namaari, the antagonist of the Disney animated film Raya and the Last Dragon, which premiered in March 2021.[74] The film was received positively by critics.[75] That May, she briefly produced Hold Still, Vincent, a podcast about the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin.[76] It was subsequently pulled from distribution by the producing team after it was revealed that the podcast's production company did not consult with Chin's estate during the project.[77] November 2021 saw the release of the Marvel Studios film Eternals, in which she starred as Sersi, a member of the titular race. This was her second role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Captain Marvel (2019).[78]

Chan will reprise her roles in the two Crazy Rich Asians sequel installments, China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems.[79] Chan appears in psychological thriller Don't Worry Darling directed by Olivia Wilde and will appear in science fiction film The Creator directed by Gareth Edwards,[80] and horror film Cuckoo, alongside Hunter Schafer and John Malkovich.[81][82] She appeared in the Apple TV+ anthology series Extrapolations.[83] In 2022, she was cast in Duke Johnson's upcoming film The Actor, based on the novel Memory by Donald E. Westlake.[84][85]

Advocacy and activism

Chan travelled with Save the Children to Lebanon to meet Syrian child refugees in 2017.[86] In 2018 she partnered with Moet to support Help Refugees UK.[87] She volunteered for Cook-19, an organization that delivers meals to key workers, during the COVID-19 pandemic.[88] Chan has supported UNICEF UK since 2015 and travelled to Jamaica to raise awareness of domestic violence with the organisation in 2019.[89] She participated in Soccer Aid to raise funds for the charity in 2019.[90] She participated in World Children's Day commemorations in 2020.[91] She was appointed a celebrity ambassador for UNICEF UK in 2021.[92]

In response to the xenophobic and racist attacks against people of East and Southeast Asian descent during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chan advocated for the #StopAAPIhate movement and fundraising campaign.[93][94] In May 2021 Chan launched the #StopESEAHate campaign to assist people of East and Southeast Asian descent who are victims of hate crimes.[94]

Personal life

Chan dated English comedian Jack Whitehall from 2011 to 2017.[95][96] She began a relationship with English actor Dominic Cooper in 2018.[96][97] They reside together in London.[97]

In September 2013 Chan appeared at the Old Bailey in central London as a witness to a fatal stabbing outside Putney Bridge tube station.[98]


Chan and her partner Dominic Cooper participated in the People's Vote March, expressing support for a second Brexit referendum, in October 2018.[99] She has criticised both the Conservative and Labour parties for their processes in choosing leadership.[100][101]


Denotes projects that have not yet been released


Year Film Role Notes
2006 When Evil Calls Molly Nelson
2009 Exam Chinese woman
2010 Pimp Bo
Shanghai Shin Shin
Submarine Kim-Lin
2013 The Double Glamorous Judge
2014 Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Amy Chang
2015 Love Is a Four Letter Word: Worth Seven Points Wife Short film
Families Chen-Lin
2016 Everyday Performance Artists Melody Short film
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Madam Ya Zhou
2017 Transformers: The Last Knight Quintessa (voice)
Stratton Aggy
2018 Crazy Rich Asians Astrid Leong-Teo
London Fields Petronella
Mary Queen of Scots Elizabeth Hardwick
Intrigo: Dear Agnes Henny
Leading Lady Parts Herself Short film
2019 Captain Marvel Minn-Erva
2020 Let Them All Talk Karen
2021 Raya and the Last Dragon Namaari (voice) [102]
Eternals Sersi
2022 Don't Worry Darling Shelley
2023 The Creator Post-production
TBA The Actor Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
2006 Project Catwalk Herself 10 episodes; finalist
2009 Doctor Who Mia Bennett Episode: "The Waters of Mars"
2010 The IT Crowd Ivana / Female Sulu Episodes: "The Final Countdown", "Reynholm vs. Reynholm"
Sherlock Soo Lin Yao Episode: "The Blind Banker"
2011 Secret Diary of a Call Girl Charlotte Regular (season 4)
Fresh Meat Ruth Recurring
2012 Bedlam Kiera Regular (season 2)
True Love Kathy Television miniseries
2013 Shetland Hattie James Television series
Death in Paradise Jennifer Cheung Series 2, episode 7
Dates Erica Episodes: "Erica and Kate", "Erica and Callum"
2014 The Game Chen Mei Television miniseries
2015–18 Humans Anita/Mia Lead role
2015 Brotherhood Miss Pemberton Recurring
2016 Revolting Rhymes Snow White (voice) 2 episodes
2017–2020 Hotel Transylvania: The Series Kurma 23 episodes
2018 Watership Down Dewdrop (voice) 4 episodes
2019 I Am Hannah Hannah TV film
2020 Thunderbirds Are Go Professor Kwark (voice) Episode: "Icarus"
2023 Extrapolations Natasha Alper Episode: "2066: Lola"


Year Title Role Playwright Theatre
2008 Turandot Ragged / Shu Meh / Su Bertolt Brecht Hampstead Theatre
2012 The Sugar-Coated Bullets of the Bourgeoisie Anders Lustgarten Finborough Theatre[103]
2013 Yellow Face (UK premiere) Leah Anne Cho David Henry Hwang The Park Theatre
Our Ajax (World premiere) Athena Timberlake Wertenbaker Southwark Playhouse
2014 Yellow Face Leah Anne Cho David Henry Hwang Royal National Theatre
2015 The Homecoming Ruth Harold Pinter Trafalgar Studios[104]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Project Result Ref.
2015 Broadcasting Press Guild Awards Best Actress Humans Nominated
2018 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture Crazy Rich Asians Nominated [105]
National Board of Review Best Ensemble Nominated
Music City Critics' Association Best Supporting Actress Nominated
2019 MTV Movie Awards Best Fight Captain Marvel Won [106]
National Film and Television Awards Best Actress Nominated
2022 Gold List Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Eternals Won [107][108]

Authored articles


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