Streaming platform iQiyi has just released the premiere episodes of its first Southeast Asian Original series, The Ferryman: Legends Of Nanyang, which stars Lawrence Wong and Qi Yuwu.
The horror fantasy drama features ghosts and spirits from Asian folklore and myths. Although The Ferryman was mostly filmed in Malaysia and its setting had been unclear earlier, it was apparent in screener clips shown to media that the series is set in Singapore.
The Ferryman is a remake of iQiyi’s 2014 Mandarin language series of the same title, but with the setting changed to Southeast Asia instead of China – hence “Legends Of Nanyang” – and features an international cast. Read our review here.
The 36-episode series follows Xia Dong Qing (Lawrence Wong), a convenience store worker with the ability to see supernatural beings, who teams up with Zhao Li (Qi Yuwu), a "soul ferryman", to help spirits pass on to the underworld.
The cast also includes Taiwanese actress Kate Kinney, as well as Singaporeans Jeanette Aw, Tay Ping Hui and Terence Cao, and Malaysian actresses Debbie Goh, Jojo Goh and Koe Yeet.
Lawrence Wong, who is now based in China, shot to fame with his role as Hai Lan Cha in iQiyi's hit drama Story Of Yanxi Palace, and the Singaporean actor was later appointed as the Chinese streaming company's "International VIP Ambassador" to promote its shows outside China. It's therefore fitting that he is headlining iQiyi's first show catering to the Southeast Asian audience.
"I'm extremely honoured to be iQiyi's international ambassador because, in a way, my career took off immensely after Story Of Yanxi Palace, which was an iQiyi original production," said Lawrence. "So I'm deeply grateful to iQiyi, and to be able to be their ambassador, and to spread iQiyi all over the world outside of China, to me it's such a big honour."
Here's a 14-minute sizzle reel of The Ferryman:
Lawrence said of his character: "Xia Dong Qing is a young man who can see ghosts, and who is extremely kind. He just feels so much for everyone and every ghost and every soul, and he tries his best to help them, even though this ability to see ghosts has troubled him so much and scarred him so much ever since he was a kid. But he still helps all these souls to fulfil whatever they hadn't done when they were alive, or to solve any of their problems."
The Malaysia-born actor, whose Chinese name is Wang Guan Yi, said he was excited to shoot in Johor Bahru at first because he hails from JB and has family in the city. "I'm a JB boy at heart," he said. However, his busy schedule prevented him from visiting his family much because, besides the production shoots, he also had magazine shoots and other job commitments.
Yuwu said he usually does not like to watch shows in the horror genre, so he was a little wary of accepting the role. But he was attracted to the prospect of the series having a wide audience because of iQiyi's global platform, and saw it as a good opportunity. He also said that it was refreshing to work without certain censorship restrictions that normally apply to local Singaporean productions because of free-to-air TV rules. "Even though this is a horror series, there were less limitations on the script in terms of how gory or how scary the show might be. The producers had more freedom in being creative with what we wanted to shoot for the sake of the story," said Yuwu.
Malaysian actress Jojo Goh plays Yan Luo Wang, the ruler of hell who the soul ferryman reports to. The Chinese god of the underworld is usually personified as male but Jojo's gender-bending character takes both female and male forms in her appearance. She also has a complicated love story. "You always imagine that if you're a god figure, then you'd be selfless, you serve the people and all that," said Jojo. "But this Yan Wang is actually very human. She has human emotions and passions, but for thousands of years she's been rational and suppressing her emotions, but because of her romantic feelings, her heart was triggered."
Non-subscribers of iQiyi can catch the first two episodes of The Ferryman for free on the iQiyi International app and iQ.com upon the 24 August premiere, while VIP members can access up to eight episodes. Subsequently, two new episodes will be released every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 8pm (SGT).
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