As I was reflecting on the dramas I’ve watched over the past year (and there have been a quite a lot of them), I realized that most of them are quite long (50-70+ episodes). For the most part, I do enjoy them since I think they really allow opportunity for the characters to develop, but often times they do drag a bit in the middle. (Side note: A quick test for me to determine whether a drama is keeping me engaged is whether I start to lose interest in the middle).
In any event, the downside to long dramas is that often times they start out with the main characters at a relatively young age (think early-mid teens, 14-16 years) and the drama takes us through the process of their growth. The problem with this is that, depending on the actor/actress, they are simply no long convincing as a teenagers! These are men and women in their mid to late 30s or early 40s and it is extremely difficult, even with good hair, makeup and acting, to convince the audience. See below for some examples!
Rule the World – Raymond Lam
At the risk of offending Raymond Lam fans everywhere, his character in Rule the World is probably one of the most egregious examples of this problem. The book starts off with his character being only around 8-10 years old, which made sense since the main female character witnessed his birth and is his aunt. I think Raymond Lam was around 37 when this series was filmed, making it virtually impossible to pull off this feat. Honestly, he looked even older than the actors playing his two older brothers! It also made his interactions with the various characters very weird, such as the main female character caring for him like a child in the beginning. The show ends with his character being around 40 years of age, which is much closer to real age, so this does get better as the drama progresses. I understand sometimes these choices are made for budget and marketing reasons, but I think this is one where it made sense to have a different/younger actor play the character at the beginning.
Princess Agents – Lin Gengxin
Next is Lin Gengxin in Princess Agents. Again the novel starts off with a lot of the characters as children. The main female character is only supposed to be eight years old and I am guessing Lin Gengxin’s character is probably in his early teens (13-14 years of age). This is evident from the patriarch choosing a female attendant for him – someone who is supposed to keep him satisfied in the sleep department, if we are trying to be delicate. If his character is someone in his late teens/early 20s, I just feel bad for him. To be fair, I actually think he can still pass as someone in his early 20s, but 13-14 is really pushing it. Due to the way the novel is written, I think this applies to virtually all the actors/actresses on the show – Zhao Liying, Shawn Dou and Li Qin.
Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace – Zhou Xun
Finally, we have Zhou Xun from Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace. I am sure I am not the first person to mention this, but the first few episodes starts with Ruyi being probably around 16 years old. There’s a lot that can be done with makeup, hair, lighting and costumes, but none of these can shave almost 30 years off a woman’s age. The drama jumps quickly to eight years ahead and I still find it believable for Zhou Xun to play a woman in her mid-20s. Unlike Rule the World, I do not think it would make sense to have another actress play this character in the first few episodes. It may also deter audiences from watching if the main leads do not appear in the first episode. Sometimes this is just a choice that has to be made. On the one hand, it may help to market the drama more easily if the leads are in more episodes and may be more cost effective to have less actors/actresses. On the other hand, this sometimes causes the audience to raise their eyebrows and make the characters’ actions and interactions a bit weird.
Do you agree or disagree? Do others come to mind? I can definitely think of a few others but did not want to make this super long. Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!