EVIL is the new SEXY
The villains on popular Taiwanese drama, Love, talk about the pros and cons of being cast as baddies
By Tan Kee Yun
November 21, 2010
GUO Congmin and Xie Mingming.
Ask any ardent viewer of Taiwanese soap opera Love who their favourite characters in the show are and these are the two names that pop up.
Ever since the 787-episode drama series made its way into Singapore living rooms and became de rigeur at family dinners, the on-screen evil antics of Guo and Xie have become a major hit.
Did we say evil?
Yes, while Love centres on the trials and tribulations of the Lin sisters – kind-hearted protagonists Chunhua (Chen Meifeng) and Shuhua (Fang Xin) – the villains are the ones who are stealing the show.
‘Xie Mingming is the most devilish role I’ve ever taken on so far. I haven’t been that bad since,’ actress Jiang Zu Ping told The New Paper at Taipei’s Fullerton South Hotel with a chuckle.
PICTURES: BIZ TRENDS MEDIA, MEDIACORP
‘But I must say, it was definitely the most successful… It was really satisfying to be able to play her (Xie), as I’m a totally different person in real life.
‘That’s the best part about acting. You can live out your wildest fantasies of being this ruthless, menacing person who breaks the law like nobody’s business.’
In Love – which airs daily over Channel8 – Xie Mingming, born originally into a humble household, schemes her way into a wealthy businessman’s family.
According to statistics provided by MediaCorp, Love ‘attracts an average of 864,000 viewers per episode and on some days, a million viewers’.
It is also showing on Malaysia’s TV channel Astro and was previously available via cable TV in other regions outside of Taiwan, such as Hong Kong and Macau.
Aunty thinks his reel life is real life and says:Turn over a new leaf
In a tussle for the family’s fortune, Xie backstabs her mother-in-law and even her own husband.
Jiang, 32, was promoting the year-end Love Of My Life Concert, which will see seven Love cast members entertain Singapore audiences with songs and skits.
Veteran actor Ni Qi Ming, 45, who plays the greedy, womanising Guo Congmin, is part of the line-up aswell.
The impact of Love was so great that for a long time, many fans treated him like he was Guo when they bumped into him in the streets, he said.
And sometimes, the father of two would jovially playalong.
‘I remember when I was promoting Love in Macau, several aunties came up to me and started holding a conversation with ‘Guo Congmin’ on the spot,’ said Ni.
‘They asked me questions like ‘Why are you here in Macau? Are you hiding from your creditors? Why do you treat Shuhua (Guo’s wife in the show, whom he dumped) so badly?’
‘One even…encouraged me to ‘quickly turn over anew leaf’ and not hanker for money anymore.’
Not wanting to dampen their spirits, he told the aunties cheekily: ‘All of you must not tell the police that you’ve seen me here, okay?’
His character earned an unsavoury reputation for cheating countless women of their feelings and money.
Towards the end of the show, in a twist of fate, herealises his mistakes after being stricken by throat cancer.
Jiang, as well as veteran actor Lin Yi-Fang, who plays the supporting gangster character Masa, both echoed Ni’s sentiments with regard to the maniacal fandom that greeted them.
‘There was a period of time when people in Taiwan were calling Xie Mingming ‘Jian Mingming’ instead,’ said Jiang. (‘Jian’ means contemptible in Mandarin.)
She recalled one of her most bizarre encounters with a fan.
‘I was taking a stroll and there was this man on a motorbike,’ she said.
‘When he rode past me, he suddenly jerked his head around and screamed loudly ‘Xie Mingming!’
‘The next minute, he had hit something in front of him and fell down.’
The accident wasn’t too serious though, she added.
‘Before I could stop and check if he had hurt himself, he picked himself up and gave me a sheepish smile, mouthing ‘pai seh’ (Hokkien phrase for sorry).’
Lin, who’s in his mid-50s, said that even though it has been two years since Love ended its run in Taiwan – it was aired on Taiwanese TV in 2008 – people still call him ‘Masa Big Brother’ whenever they see him.
‘It really proves how successful the show is,’ he said.
‘I’ve been stereotyped for many years playing gangster roles, but this one somehow stuck with viewers…’
Coincidentally, Ni, Jiang and Lin got roles in another soap opera My Mother’s Place (Niang Jia) shortly after Love wrapped up.
Not surprisingly, they play villains once again.
Ni was the first to admit that he was initially a little worried about being typecast.
‘Love was so popular that the image of me as Guo Congmin has become entrenched in people’s minds,’ he said.
‘People look at me and see me as a baddie, no matter what I play.
‘I deliberately told producers I didn’t want to play the bad guy anymore, but a string of scripts came and alas…all were evil roles!’
He soon changed his mindset to a more positive one.
‘I guess to a certain extent, I’ve created a style of my own through playing bad guys like Guo Congmin.
‘It’s distinctively mine.’
Jiang, too, is relishing her current ‘villainous phase’ after playing soft-spoken, demure, girl-next-door types for nearly a decade since she kickstarted her acting career in 1998.
‘Evil isn’t that simple…and can be very exciting to depict.
‘In Love, the character of Xie Mingming is quite layered and complicated.’
Come Dec 26, these villains will have to take on an entirely different challenge when they are required to serenade audiences in Singapore.
The concert organisers tell The New Paper that they hope this upcoming gig will be ‘the best gift’ local Love fans can enjoy over the Christmas season.
With a laugh, Ni said singing is ‘foreign territory’ to him.
‘Give me a script and I’d be able to confidently memorise it in five to 10 minutes.
‘But when it comes to memorising songs, it’s so much harder.’
Jiang agreed, saying she will be ‘a bundle of nerves’ before she even steps on stage.
‘I haven’t even decided what to sing yet,’
WHAT: Love Of My Life Concert
WHERE: Suntec International Convention & Exhibition Hall
WHEN: Dec 26, 1pm, 4pm and 7.30pm
TICKETS: $98, $88, $78, $68 and $48 from http://www.sistic.com.sg or 6348 5555