Director creates buzz abroad even before debut at home

By Xu Fan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-11-19 07:38:08

Director creates buzz abroad even before debut at home

Sun Li, the actress who plays the role of Zhen Huan in The Legend of Zhen Huan, portrays Mi Yue in the new series The Legend of Mi Yue. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Director Zheng Xiaolong's upcoming epic series The Legend of Mi Yue has garnered attention from overseas markets even before its Chinese mainland debut.

The 81-episode series, based on the life of ancient China's first female politician Mi Bazi, will be aired by Beijing Satellite TV and Shanghai-based Dragon TV from Nov 30.

Set in the pre-Qin period (the Qin Dynasty reigned from 221 BC to 206 BC), the tale chronicles the life of Mi-the great-grandmother of China's first emperor Ying Zheng-who turns from being a simple girl into an iron-handed power behind the throne.

Mi's reforms to weaken the power of hereditary aristocrats and develop the military led to the rise of the Qin Dynasty-China's first one-which unified ancient China.

Bazi is Mi's palace title and Yue is her first name.

Zheng, an award-winning director, says that the series' overseas distributor is in discussions with at least a dozen companies, including California-based Netflix.

"Almost all the channels and video-streaming sites that released The Legend of Zhen Huan are showing strong interest in The Legend of Mi Yue," he says.

The 56-year-old auteur says that Netflix wanted a English version with subtitles.

The Legend of Zhen Huan, retitled Empresses in the Palace in its condensed form, was streamed by Netflix in the United States earlier this year.

Since it premiered in 2011, the 76-episode series has topped ratings and has been broadcast around 120 times by domestic channels in China.

The series has also gained rave reviews in major Asian markets such as South Korea and Japan.

With the crew and lead actress of Zheng's directorial work The Legend of Zhen Huan back at work in The Legend of Mi Yue, the new series is widely regarded as the spiritual successor of the 2011 hit, say industry watchers.

But Zheng says the new tale, set on a bigger political stage, does not have plots, scenarios or palace intrigues which resemble those from the earlier series.

"Mi's semi-biographical tale is based on real history, while Zhen Huan's story was from the namesake novel," he says.

Screenwriter Wang Xiaoping, who leads a team of writers for the series, says idioms and literary quotations created after Mi's rule are avoided in the lines.

The script, based on a Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) historical work and modern author Jiang Shengnan's namesake novel, was revised a few times.

To be faithful to the history, the colors and the characters' costumes have been devised based on suggestions from Chinese historians.

In the series, Mi has more than 80 heavily decorated suits, while the other major characters have around 50 on average.

Zheng says Mi can be seen as the Chinese answer to Elizabeth I, the queen of England and Ireland from 1558 to 1603.

"Mi is an upright and tolerant politician. She insists on being true to her heart until the end of her life," Zheng says.

Actress Sun Li, the actress who plays the role of Zhen Huan, says Mi is a "bigger challenge".

"She was a very smart woman. In a world dominated by male rulers, she uses her personal charm and wisdom to convince the aristocrats to follow the new policies ... a pretty great achievement."


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