The cast has been revealed for the China-produced remake of Singapore’s most successful TV drama series ever, The Little Nyonya, and two actors from the original show are starring in it again – Xiang Yun and Dai Xiang Yu.
The creative team behind the series unveiled the cast at a ceremony to mark the launch of shooting at Pinewood Studios in Johor Baru on Thursday (11 October).
Nyonya is helmed by director Guo Jingyu with the script penned by the Singaporean creator of the original 2008 series, Ang Eng Tee. With a budget of 150 million yuan (S$30 million), the remake is expected to feature more elaborate Peranakan settings and costumes than before.
Ang said, “It’s been 10 years since I made the first Little Nyonya, and I have dreamt of making my story better. I have more story ideas which I can now include in the new series.” At 40 episodes, the remake is longer than the 34 episodes in the original series.
Set in Singapore and Melaka, the original Channel 8 period drama broke viewership records, peaking during its final episode with 1.7 million viewers, or 33.8 per cent of TV audience, tuning in. Channel 8 has never broken this record since.
The Little Nyonya was popular with overseas audiences as well and was released in markets including Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, the US, France, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Myanmar, and Cambodia. The show was also acquired by streaming giant Netflix.
The storyline centres around a Peranakan woman, Yueniang, who struggles against the prejudices of her extended family, and is set from the 1930s to the present day.
Bigger role for Xiang Yun
Veteran actress Xiang Yun, who originally played servant-mistress Wang Tian Lan, now has a meatier role as the powerful matriarch of the Chen family in the remake. The role of Madam Chen was previously played by Li Yinzhu.
“I often watch China-made dramas and wondered if I could ever star in one,” said Xiang Yun. “I have to thank director Guo for fulfilling my dream to act in a China production.”
Xiang Yun added that her character would play a prominent role in the new series as the storylines are more focused on the Chen family than before.
Dai will reprise the role of the dashing Japanese photographer Yamamoto Yousuke in the new series. The Shanghai-born actor, who is a Singapore permanent resident, was active in local television from 2008 to 2011. He was previously known as Dai Yangtian, but changed his name to Xiang Yu in 2013 after he moved to China to pursue his career.
Channel 8 actor Jeffrey Xu will star as one of the minor villains, Huang Tianbao, who was previously played by Andie Chen.
The rest of the main cast include actors from China and Taiwan. China’s Xiao Yan plays Huang Juxiang and her daughter Yamamoto Yueniang, originally played by Jeanette Aw. Aw shot to fame for her dual roles as mute servant Juxiang and her long-suffering daughter Yueniang.
Taiwanese Kou Chia Jui will play Chen Xi, the love interest of Yueniang, originally played by Qi Yu Wu.
Yue Li Na will play main villain Huang Gui Hua, who was played by Lin Mei Jiao previously.
Darren Chiu Kai Wei will play Chen Sheng, Madam Chen’s grandson. Crazy Rich Asians actor Pierre Png starred in the original role.
The other cast members include Tu Lin (Tian Lan), Fan Chengcheng (Ah Tao), He Yu Hong (Huang Yu Zhu), Li Yuan Bing (Huang Zhen Zhu), Zhang Li Ming (Huang Yuan), Ji Ning (Huang Jin Cheng), Niu Bei Ren (Liu Yidao) and Niu Bao Jun (Charlie Zhang).
Jointly produced by Chinese companies iQiyi and Changxin Pictures, and Singapore company G.H.Y Culture & Media, the series will wrap up shooting by January 2019. Filming will be at locations including Johor Baru, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Haikou.
Nyonya is slated for release on iQiyi’s video streaming platform some time in 2019 but producers plan to distribute it for international releases as well.
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