'Crazy Rich Asians' Cast Reveal Messages From Private WhatsApp Group

A group chat that at one point included more than 60 people celebrated birthdays and even featured videos of members singing Backstreet Boys songs.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Getting the cast of Crazy Rich Asians to discuss representation is easy, but getting them to share specifics on their private WhatsApp group text requires a bit more prodding. First things first: Just how many actors from the international cast are included?

“There’s 120 of us,” says comedian Jimmy O. Yang. “I read every single text, too. I never skim.”

Not so for producer Nina Jacobson who admitted that she had to silence her notifications after a bit. “At a certain point it got really distracting,” she joked. Same for Chris Pang: “I turn it on silent at night. I can’t sleep otherwise.”

Gemma Chan reveals that the group has an official title: Crazy Rich House of [red heart emoji], but she has a much more conservative estimate for how many of the cast and crew are included. “Maybe 60 sounds more realistic,” says the former model, who then fears she’s said too much. “I occasionally mute the group and then check back in. Is that bad to say? You can’t keep up!”

Star Henry Golding, who makes his feature film debut, even teased that there’s more than one group. “There’s a couple. I can’t disclose the amount,” he says with a smile. “I’m more of a spectator sometimes and I don’t often weigh in.”

Veteran actress Michelle Yeoh admits that she’s been fortunate to get close to other casts she’s worked with, but nothing like this film. “This is an exception,” she explains. “This is a very international cast from Australia, England, Asia, Singapore, Malaysia, America, and we just bonded. We exchanged stories about how difficult it is to make movies and to be Asian American. The WhatsApp group helps us stay connected, and this will last for a long, long time.”

On Aug. 6, Yeoh celebrated her 56th birthday and the group chat lit up. “They went crazy,” she says. “I was inundated in the best possible way.” (Yeoh says she also has a similar WhatsApp group with her Star Trek: Discovery family.)

Jacobson credits the far-flung shooting locations as one reason the cast became so close. “We were stuck in Southeast Asia for so long, and it’s too far away that nobody was leaving to go home for the weekend, so we would go out, do karaoke, eat food and travel together. [On WhatsApp] people are always checking in saying, ‘This is where I am, who’s going out for dim sum?’ It’s connecting all across the world.”

Director John M. Chu says it’s filled with “so much love and so much sharing.” He adds: “I’ve never been on a text group like this.”

The newly married filmmaker cut his honeymoon short for the film’s promo tour but didn’t oversaturate the chain with his wedding pics. “I didn’t do any of that. I tried to be respectful of everybody’s photo albums.”

So, what’s the best message so far? Says Yang: “Pictures and videos of us singing Backstreet Boys in Singapore.” 

A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.