Game of Thrones pro­ducer to make Empress series

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By AMY HE in New York amyhe@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Main­land Chi­nese au­di­ences will be the pri­mary tar­get.”

Brian Bernards, pro­fes­sor, USC

A new tele­vi­sion series about Empress Wu Ze­tian, the only fe­male ruler in China’s his­tory, will be de­vel­oped and pro­duced by the pro­ducer of the hit TV series Game of Thrones, but in­dus­try ob­servers ex­pressed skep­ti­cism about the show’s po­ten­tial to reach au­di­ences out­side of China.

Christo­pher Newman, pro­ducer at Game of Thrones that will wrap up after two more sea­sons, signed a deal with Starlight Me­dia and K. Jam Me­dia to de­velop and pro­duce 13-episodes of Empress. It is bud­geted for ap­prox­i­mately $70 mil­lion, with pro­duc­tion be­gin­ning in Sichuan in late 2017 and set for a 2018 pre­miere. The show will be of­fered to US broad­cast net­works.

Wu has of­ten been de­picted in pop cul­ture as cun­ning, smart and a source of po­lit­i­cal force. She ruled dur­ing the Zhou dy­nasty

There are no de­tails yet about the show, in­clud­ing whether it will fea­ture a pre­dom­i­nantly Chi­nese cast or what lan­guage the it will be in, and whether the story will be West­ern­ized to ap­peal to a global mar­ket.

The for­mat — one sea­son, 13 episodes — is more sim­i­lar to an Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion one, but Michael Berry, pro­fes­sor of con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese cul­tural stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Los An­ge­les, said the project is most likely tar­get­ing a Chi­nese au­di­ence.

“The ‘Amer­i­can for­mat’ is a for­mat that Chi­nese au­di­ences are very ac­cus­tomed to, thanks to the pop­u­lar­ity of nu­mer­ous Amer­i­can minis­eries in China,” he said.

“The act that it will be in this ‘Amer­i­can for­mat’ does leave the pos­si­bil­ity of the series to be re-in­tro­duced to the US mar­ket, but there is not any great prece­dent for for­eign lan­guage [tele­vi­sion] se­ri­als do­ing well in the US mar­ket,” he added.

Hav­ing Newman at­tached to the project may bring cred­i­bil­ity to the series, but the show’s suc­cess will ul­ti­mately be de­ter­mined by the qual­ity of its pro­duc­tion, he said.

Brian Bernards, pro­fes­sor at Univer­sity of South Cal­i­for­nia, said the show could po­ten­tially have a fan­tas­ti­cal el­e­ment to it, given what Newman did with Game of Thrones.

“While I still think that main­land Chi­nese au­di­ences will be the pri­mary tar­get — as I be­lieve they are for Zhang Yi­mou’s new Great Wall film, de­spite the cast­ing of Hol­ly­wood leads — there may be a sec­ondary goal to tap into this niche fan­tasy mar­ket in the West,” he said.

He added that China-Hol­ly­wood co-pro­duc­tions makes it more dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish be­tween West­ern and Chi­nese au­di­ences and tastes.

The show comes at a time when com­pa­nies are be­gin­ning to make more China-geared con­tent in or­der to sell to Chi­nese au­di­ences. AMC re­leased Into the Bad­lands star­ring Daniel Wu, telling a story of a mar­tial artist liv­ing in a dystopian fu­ture. Wu’s star power in China helped AMC se­cure an in­ter­na­tional dis­trib­u­tor that al­lowed the show to be aired si­mul­ta­ne­ously in the US and Asia.

US stream­ing plat­form Net­flix cre­ated a China-cen­tric show Marco Polo about the story of the ex­plorer in China dur­ing the years of Mon­gol rule un­der the Yuan dy­nasty. The pro­tag­o­nist was played by an Ital­ian ac­tor and the cast heav­ily fea­tured Asian ac­tors.

Be­fore the show aired, many saw it as a sign that Net­flix was be­gin­ning to pro­duce more con­tent that would di­rectly ap­peal to Chi­nese au­di­ences.

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