Kids in the Western world may have their comic book superheroes, but kids in Asia also have our own mystical fantasy martial arts heroes. And now, thanks to Chinese Paladin 5, we have a whole new fantasy world to explore.
Based on the hit role-playing game of the same name, the series, currently available on dimsum.my, is arguably the most epic Chinese fantasy drama of 2016.
In the show, the two main characters come from vastly different worlds. There is Jiang Yunfan (played by Elvis Han), a boisterous half-blood orphan from the human world; and there is Long You (Joe Cheng), a cool-headed demon prince from the nether world.
As the more human character in the drama, Han, 24, says Jiang starts off as a small-time bandit before discovering his true self. “Later, through his acquaintances with Long You, Xiao Man, and Yu Rou, he enters Mount Shu. Then after that, due to suppression by the Four Great Aristocratic Clans, he learns of his true identity as a descendant of the Demon Clan,” he said during a group WeChat interview from China together with Cheng.
Cheng, 34, described Long You as a complicated young man. “Long You appears to be somewhat dark, yet he actually yearns for friendship and romance. Because Long You is the Second Demon Prince of the Netherworld Kingdom, so even though he derives happiness from teaming up with Jiang, Xiao Man, Yu Rou, he still has to constantly remind himself of his duty to revive the Netherworld Kingdom,” said Cheng.
“The most heartbreaking part about him is that in his heart, he yearns for love and kinship. But, due to his identity, he has to make sacrifices and keep his distance. He has to position the resurrection of the Netherworld Kingdom as his top priority, and it is a very distressing predicament for him.”
Cheng may have 19 dramas and seven movies under his belt, but Chinese Paladin 5 was special for him. Not only is it his first costume drama, it also fulfils one of his childhood dreams.
“As a kid, I was already a fan of Chinese Paladin. So, just being part of it is like fulfilling a dream of being a heroic martial arts warrior,” he said.
Collaborating for the first time in the 45-episode drama, both Cheng and Han recalled, with much amusement, their initial impressions of one another. Each had assumed that the other would be aloof, and that they would be very different from one another.
After all, Cheng was born and bred in Taiwan while China-born Han spent his formative years in Canada.
“My initial impression of him was a very Westernised young guy, optimistic and lively,” Cheng said of Han.
But their first impressions couldn’t be more wrong. As Han and Cheng got to know each other better, the pair found themselves getting along really well, aptly mirroring their brotherly bond in the series.
The two actors said the biggest challenges of shooting a fantasy action drama were injuries, which may impede filming, and having to depend on their imagination when it came to CG creatures and the like.
Han recalled his most major injury on the set, which happened during a wire scene. “I had to spin and flip then land on my back. Test shots went smoothly. But while shooting the actual frame, my hip bone crashed on my wrist with so much force that it felt like something broke. We continued shooting, and I went to hospital after that. There, we realised it was actually quite serious. Recovery took two months and there were many other minor injuries following that,” he recalled.
The experience hasn’t put him off action scenes though. “I really enjoyed the whole process of shooting action scenes and fight sequences.
“Our relationship with the stunt crew was especially good, and we later agreed that whatever I could do myself, they would allow me to do.”
For Cheng, who made his name in romantic comedies like It Started With A Kiss, it was a challenge as well as a learning experience. “Sustaining minor injuries during fight sequences is inevitable. But I must say that the crew takes great pains to ensure the safety of the cast when we shoot martial arts action scenes.
“Although it is challenging trying to act while being suspended in the air, we actually feel very invested in the scenes, as the stunt crew is very careful about our safety.”
Han, who shot to fame after Wu Xin: The Monster Killer, said that the making of Chinese Paladin 5 took an epic effort in creativity.
“It’s martial arts fantasy, with special effects generated only later during post-production, so there is no concrete point of reference. Hence, it requires a very fertile imagination and a strong belief that it all exists,” he said.
After Chinese Paladin 5, Han filmed a couple of new TV series – 20 Once Again and Siege In Fog – and is now in the midst of shooting a reality show. “It’s a show about six brothers on a road trip, titled We’re Seventeen. The other guests include Aaron Kwok, Jimmy Lin, Sun Yang, Hua Shao (Hu Qiaohua), and Fan Yun.”
Meanwhile, Cheng is currently filming a new drama in Hangzhou, China. “It’s called The Company Men, and revolves around the lives of three men, following them from college days to their career successes. It’s totally different from the kind of romantic idol dramas that audiences are used to seeing me in.”
Chinese Paladin 5 is available exclusively in Malaysia on dimsum.my. Stream full episodes of the epic drama on this video-on-demand service starting today. Subscription is priced at only RM15 a month. Subscribers have unlimited access on as many as five devices, including smartphones, computers and laptops. New registrations come with a complimentary 30-day trial. For more information, visit dimsum.my.