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Friday, October 16, 2009

Charmaine Sheh Tavia Yeung – The Battle of Good Against Evil

Warning: The news translation below contained spoilers, therefore please read at your own risk. Please do not discuss spoilers in the cbox, thank you for your co-operation.

[Mingpao 15/10/2009]

Executive producer Mui Siu Ching: Most gorgeous palace series

Conflicts, deceit, survival of the fittest are situations that happen on daily basis. When [Evil] is being seen as evil with a valid reason, we can only say it's human nature. Being the good person is more difficult; it's bringing trouble upon oneself. [Beyond the Realm of Conscience] used Good versus Evil as its main theme with tales of friendship, revenge, political struggle and romance added into the storyline. Executive producer Mui Siu Ching personally explains [Beyond].

[Beyond] original script is titled as [Lau Sam Ho], which is the name of Charmaine Sheh's role in the series. Siu Ching Jie says: "[Lau Sam Ho] was inspired during a Buddhist teaching exhibition where I saw children writing stories using the theme of 'Three Good'; doing good deeds, speaking good words, showing goodwill. I am deeply touched and hope to convey this positive message through series, hence preparing the script of [Lau Sam Ho]. Later the title was changed to [宮心計] (Beyond's Chinese title) because the story happened in the palace and also the double entendre of the Chinese phonetics, meaning 'schemes and manipulation'."

17 image and 30 set of costumes for Charmaine Sheh

"[Beyond] is a gorgeous palace theme series. Every cast member has the most beautiful costumes and accessories. My request is that the entire cast has a 3D outlook, they have to look beautiful no matter which angle they were filmed. Charmaine have 17 image and 30 set of custom-made costumes. The wigs for the male characters were not taken lightly as well. Kevin Cheng's wig with middle parting was made by the same master who crafted Tony Leung's wig in [Red Cliff]. Moses Chan's emperor wig was specially created with braided pattern. I even studied about Li Han-Hsiang Tang Dynasty movies and also the set up and props in mainland production series. As we did not film outdoor scenes overseas, we have enough funds to invest on the costumes and props. As for outdoor scenes, I transformed several Hong Kong parks into imperial palace. Though high rise buildings surround the parks and you can see their reflections on the water, the post-production removed these modern infrastructures in the editing process."

Ferocious looking Tavia Yeung – Her eyes almost popped out

Mui Siu Ching requirement toward the cast are not limited to 'beautiful' only. Looking at the cast list, it's a show hand consisting of TV Kings, Queens and veterans in acting. Last year Best Supporting Actress award winner Tavia Yeung portrays a villain role for the first time. Her role is outstanding and considered having chance to fight against '4th Mistress' Sheren Tang for the Best Actress award.

"When I discussed the role with Tavia, I told her that her 'evilness' must be to the extreme. Yiu Kam Ling (Tavia's character) level of evilness evolved a lot. When she first entered the palace, she will still give in to others. However, she realized can't survive. She doesn't want to be ordered around by others; therefore she will stop at nothing to climb to the top. There's a scene where she punches Selena Li's tummy to make her miscarriage. Afterward, Tavia said her face is so ferocious her eyes almost popped out. Charmaine's acting exceeded my expectation, it's really difficult to portray a good person like Lau Sam Ho. She is an expert in crying scenes, multi-layered and refined portrayal. (Is she extra absorbed while filming romantic scenes with Kevin?) Both of them are professionals, I often saw them rehearsing their scripts while eating lunch boxes, their romantic scenes are indeed filmed well. However, scenes of Moses Chan teary, sentimental gaze with Charmaine are also very moving.

Michelle Yim is really a good actress. She was worried for Yee Lou (Michelle's boyfriend) sickness and constantly harassed by the media throughout filming but she never brought her emotions to work. This is Susanna Kwan's first time filming costume series. Together with Michelle, they created a lot of sparks in their conflict scenes. Even bystanders can feel the strong tension."

The fight for TV Queen – Charmaine, Tavia versus Sheren Tang?

Siu Ching Jie was asked whether Tavia Yeung will have upper hand to fight for Best Actress award.

"I feel that both Charmaine and Tavia portrayed their roles very well, I cannot choose either one of them. I am also fond of '4th Mistress'; I feel that they can rival Sheren Tang. As for Best Actor award… the first series Wayne Lai portrays 1st leading actor [Pages of Treasures] was produced by me. I really like 'Chai Gau', it will be great if there are more awards for actors."

The successful theme in [War & Beauty] is once again explored in [Beyond]. The conflict and struggle in ancient palace were translated into the office politics of modern society, it's something audience can resonate with. "There are some situation where audience can empathize with. A single sentence by Kam Ling to Li Yi caused Grand Empress Dowager to punish her to slapping. Actually the Grand Empress Dowager intention is to indirectly insult Li Yi's birth mother who came from a lowly background. Moses gratefulness toward Charmaine is due to the memory of her kindness during his saddest moment. Charmaine once gave him a lotus seed. This is a personal experience that I added in the series. I remember a colleague was leaving the company. Before parting he gave me a box of candies with a note: "A gift of sweetness", making me feel warm. (Are there any golden quotes to leave a deeper impression on the audiences?) We put a lot of effort on the dialog as well, audiences will reminisce on the words. In the modern society, it difficult not to spread rumors and hurt other people. [Three Good] is a positive message, I hope to spread it forward."

Lee Kwok Lun engrossed in his villainous role

The peony flower has to be supported by green leaf, though the two leading actors and four leading actress in the series are eye catching, Mui Siu Ching points out that there are other interesting cast too.

"I really want to say that all cast members are really competent in their roles. However I must praise Lee Kwok Lun, who portrays an evil eunuch in the series. He is totally absorbed in the character, he is acting while facing the camera, and acting on his back while filming dialog exchange with co-stars. Even if he is standing far behind the leading characters, as long as a single eye of his appeared onscreen, you can see his acting. I remember there's one scene where he's the central focus, he's so excited and charismatic when he entered the studio."

Susan Tse – high wigs and high status

The image for Susan Tse's role; Grand Empress Dowager Kwok have a 'giant banana' on her head, Tavia's empress image have a 'UFO spaceship' while Charmaine have a 'thick pillar'. They're such an eye opener.

Mui Siu Ching indicate that the height of the wig represent the social status in Tang Dynasty. Susan Tse is the empress dowager; hence her wig has to be really high. She added that the fake wigs and hairpins are really heavy to the female cast. Before filming they will wear neck pillow to alleviate the pressure. It's also one of the amusing scenario in the filming studio.

Ash Urn Well

A Hong Kong costume series with internal palace as theme, Mui Siu Ching and behind the scene staff gathered a lot of information and elements to be added into the series. A palace maid doesn't even have a memorial tablet after they died. Sam Ho's mother was cremated after she died and like other palace maids her ashes had to be scattered into an old well, just like an urn. After Sam Ho grew up, she can only shed silent tears in front of the well as she worships her mother.

It's nearly impossible for maids to leave the palace because the servantship is permanent unless special amnesty from the emperor. On a special date, there will be arrangement to 'release yin'. After calculating the date with overpowering yin (female) energy, they will allow palace maids with matching birth date to leave the palace. In the series Michelle and Susanna missed the opportunities due to a misunderstanding, resulting them turning into enemies.

Deception, manipulation and schemes in palace

[Beyond the Realm of Conscience] synopsis: Revolving in the era of Tang Dynasty, Lau Sam Ho's father was exiled to the border by Emperor Muzong. His wife, daughter and servant were forced to enter the palace to work as servants. Sam Ho's mother Kong Choi Ging offended Grand Empress Dowager due to 'phoenix weeping blood' incident and was beaten to death. Lau Sam Ho and her best friend (and maid) Yiu Kam Ling was arranged to work under Chung Suet Ha (Si Zhai) and Yuen Chi Wan (Si Zhan) respectively. Suet Ha and Chui Wan became enemies due to misunderstanding during their youth; hence the two departments are constantly rivaling each other. The internal palace became their battle ground.

20 years later, Sam Ho who is responsible for embroidery learned the skills of crafting hairpins from Kam Ling as well. With her talented hands, she gained recognition from Empress Dowager and was promoted to Cheung Zhan (supervisor in jewelry department), incurring Kam Ling's jealousy. Sam Ho and chess master Ko Hin Yeung started to have feelings for each other, at the same time Li Yi was summoned back to the palace. Li Yi remembers Sam Ho act of kindness to him during childhood time and he also started to fall for her. As Emperor Wuzong passed away due to sudden illness, eunuch Ma Yuen Zhi backed Li Yi to ascend the throne and become Emperor Xuanzong. Ko Hin Yeung successfully saved Li Yi on many occasion and he is promoted as Imperial Guard.

Kam Ling used Sam Ho's relationship with Xuanzong to get closer to him. In the end she was promoted to Consort Lai as wished. She knew that Xuanzong love Sam Ho the most and her personality gradually changed. In order to protect her status as imperial consort, she decides to eliminate anyone who threatens her position and headed toward the point of no return. Sam Ho have always followed her demised mother advice to uphold 'doing good deeds, speaking good words, showing goodwill', have to overcome schemes in the deceitful palace, ensuing a battle between good an evil!

United and rumor free

There's bound to be rumors whenever there are many women. [Beyond] is a female focused series, but there's no rumors at all during filming! Siu Ching Jie laughed that before filming, people told her that she will have trouble with a bunch of women pitting against each other in beauty and acting skills. In the end she successfully wraps up filming without problem. "The cast are really professional, unity and group support are important. What I can do is to allocate the screen time so everyone will have opportunity to develop their character. The costumes are of high quality and everyone is satisfied with the results."

Four departments under Sheung Gong

Hong Kong audiences familiarity toward the term 'Shueng Gong' may have come from Korean series [Jewel in the Palace]. Mui Siu Ching point out that China already have 'Sheung Gong' bureau since Han Dynasty, which later spread to Korea. The Sheung Gong bureau serves the imperial ladies – different dynasties have 4 – 6 different departments. In [Beyond], the 'Sheung Gong' bureau has 4 departments under her charge which is Si Zhai (Embroidery), Si Zhan (Jewelry), Si Sin (Food and beverage) and Si Mut (Upholstery). The department featured in [JITP] is Si Sin. Under the department head there are 3 ranks; the lowest being apprentice, attendant as 3rd rank, and supervisor (Cheung Zhai, Cheung Zhan, Cheung Sin, Cheung Mut) as 2nd rank. Each job is meticulously categorized.

No repost allowed.

Finally done translating the lengthy articles. My apologies if there is any unintentional mistakes.

Charmaine's TVB Blog is updated with pics from [Beyond], please drop by and support her!

p.s. Charmaine is rumored to be taking part in movie remake of 72 Tenants, I'm still waiting for her or TVB to confirm the news.

1 comment:

alicechen said...

Thanks for the hard work SehSeh!! Looking forward to read more!!

Love this line: "However, scenes of Moses Chan teary, sentimental gaze with Charmaine are also very moving."

Awww Moses! ^_^

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