Tragic love

All hell breaks loose when two sis­ters clash over one man in Thedescen­dant.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TV - Sto­ries by SETO KIT YAN en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my Thedescen­dant.

IF you are par­tial to fam­ily dra­mas that re­sult in tragedies that span over gen­er­a­tions ala TV drama se­ries The Iron Lady or Age Of Glory, then Ntv7’s lat­est Man­darin se­ries The De­scen­dant was made for you.

The De­scen­dant is also known in Man­darin as Xiang Huo (lit­er­ally the burn­ing of in­cense) which de­notes de­scen­dant or heir.

The 30-episode se­ries spans five decades and is told in three phases fol­low­ing the story of three gen­er­a­tions of in­cense mak­ers.

The first 10 episodes be­gin with a love tri­an­gle where two sis­ters turn against each other over their love for the same man. And when that is done with, the fol­low­ing episodes show them clash­ing again over the male heir of the fam­ily’s in­cense-mak­ing busi­ness. The last phase shows how the in­tended de­scen­dant be­comes a “lit­tle towkay” at age 18.

Since joss-sticks are used as of­fer­ings and in­cense is em­ployed to com­mu­ni­cate with deities, it goes with­out say­ing that in­cense-mak­ing is deemed a no­ble pro­fes­sion, hence in­cense-mak­ers are ex­pected to lead a benev­o­lent way of life.

Yet in The De­scen­dant, Yeo Yann Yann (Golden Awards Best Ac­tress 2010) and Deb­bie Goh (Golden Awards Most Pop­u­lar Ac­tress 2010) por­tray sis­ters who end up de­stroy­ing them­selves and their own fam­ily due to their love for the same man played by Steve Yap.

Their co-stars in­clude Fred­er­ick Lee, Les­lie Chai, Brenda Chiah, Kyo Chen, Ernest Chong and Phua Chee Kin.

The story goes that af­ter the merg­ing of two in­cense-mak­ing fam­ily busi­nesses – Shen Siang Tang and Chang Chu Siang Zhuang – the Chen pa­tri­arch passes away. His son Chen Yu Lin (Yap), is called home from his vil­lage teach­ing job to in­herit the fam­ily busi­ness. Part of the deal in­cludes mar­ry­ing Shen Dan Fang (Yeo) and let­ting their first­born son take the Shen sur­name to en­sure the con­ti­nu­ity of the Shen blood­line. On the wed­ding PLAY­ING the tit­u­lar char­ac­ter in Ntv7’s new se­ries The De­scen­dant has put pint-sized young Malaysian ac­tor Tan Hau Yen in the spot­light.

“My pre­vi­ous projects have all been fun and play­ful ones. This par­tic­u­lar se­ries is more re­al­is­tic so I feel it is more com­pelling and en­joy­able,” Tan said in an in­ter­view held af­ter the press con­fer­ence to pro­mote the se­ries last Thurs­day.

In The De­scen­dant, Tan plays 10-year-old Chen Shao Zun aka Gou Zhai. Though born in a re­spectable in­cense-mak­ing fam­ily, cir­cum­stances cause him to be aban­doned, then ab­ducted and sold to be trained as a pick­pocket be­fore be­ing res­cued only to be abused again by his own fam­ily.

Yet, due to his spe­cial abil­ity which he in­her­ited from his fa­ther, he per­se­veres through years of abuse and fi­nally ends up as the towkay of the in­cense-mak­ing fam­ily busi­ness.

Yes, and play­ing an abused child also meant he ac­tu­ally had to en­dure beat­ings from many of the cast mem­bers while film­ing The De­scen­dant.

Tan de­scribed the most painful scene as the one which showed him be­ing whipped se­verely.

“The di­rec­tor was the one do­ing the can­ing as he was very con­cerned about cam­era an­gles.”

Has such a “painful” ex­pe­ri­ence dis­cour­aged him from tak­ing on sim­i­larly “tor­tur- day, Yu Lin, dis­cov­ers to his sur­prise, that his wife’s younger sis­ter Yu Hua (Goh) is his lover from the vil­lage where he was teach­ing.

Star2 met up with the main stars in an in­ter­view af­ter the press con­fer­ence last Thurs­day.

Yap’s char­ac­ter is gifted with an abil­ity that gives him an ad­van­tage ous” projects in the fu­ture?

“Not at all, it hasn’t. I’ll still go for in­ter­est­ing roles, but I sure hope they won’t be as ‘mis­er­able’,” he added with a laugh.

Tan felt that many of his scenes were very spe­cial and de­scribed sev­eral of the most mem­o­rable scenes.

“The scene in which I was re­united with my fam­ily, was all due to a purse. And, an­other one where I was at a tem­ple and my friend got killed try­ing to save me. A lot of them are very un­ex­pected. One mo­ment you’re happy, and the next, some­one dies. So, it’s all very ex­cit­ing.”

At 13, Tan may be a mi­nor but he con­ducts him­self like a pro­fes­sional and doesn’t even need to be chap­er­oned by his dot­ing par­ents. When asked whether his par­ents are sup­port­ive of his act­ing ca­reer, since he is barely out of his tweens, Tan cheer­ily replied: “Of course they are, oth­er­wise they won’t send me to cast­ing calls.”

Dur­ing the press con­fer­ence, he was un­fazed even when quizzed as to which of the two lead­ing ladies he pre­ferred work­ing with – Yeo Yann Yann (who plays his god­mother) or Deb­bie Goh (who plays his over his in­cense-mak­ing coun­ter­parts.

“My nose can de­tect scents to such an ex­tent that I can tell the com­po­si­tion of in­gre­di­ents from just a whiff of the in­cense. This abil­ity comes in handy when my char­ac­ter has to make the huge dragon in­cense so that the Shen fam­ily can par­tic­i­pate in a spe­cial com­pe­ti­tion for in­cense-mak­ers.”

To pre­pare for his role, Yap took a crash course in in­cense-mak­ing from a sifu in Ser­dang, Se­lan­gor. “There’s so much to learn, that the few hours I spent there re­ally wasn’t enough.

“In­cense-mak­ing takes time and pa­tience. Spe­cial in­cense like the gi­gan­tic dragon in­cense takes up to six months to make, as there are so many lay­ers and you have to en­sure that each layer is dry be­fore go­ing on to the next,” ex­plained Yap, 40.

In real life, the lanky ac­tor would pre­fer an­other su­per­nat­u­ral abil­ity as he feels an ex­tra sen­si­tive nose is just bad news when bad smells are in­volved. “If you’ve seen He­roes then you’ll know of this char­ac­ter who can mimic oth­ers. Sim­i­larly, I’d like to have a spe­cial power that en­ables me to per­fectly repli­cate other peo­ple’s char­ac­ters for my roles.” Sounds like a dream-come-true su­per power for an ac­tor!

Last seen in Malay movie Om­bak Rindu, Yap is in the midst of shoot­ing an­other Ntv7 Man­darin se­ries about re­la­tion­ships is­sues ala Sex In The City and says he is look­ing for­ward to pro­duc­ing a Chi­nese birth mother)?

Put in a spot, the witty lad play­fully ram­bled a bit, then gave a chuckle be­fore quip­ping cheek­ily: “I be­lieve there’s a prob­lem in my hear­ing!” movie with film di­rec­tor Yeo Joon Han, the di­rec­tor of English mu­si­cal com­edy Sell-out!.

Play­ing the two sis­ters, Yeo, 35, and Goh, 32, were also seen in Happy Fam­ily, the Ntv7 lu­nar new year tele­movie which aired on the first day of Chi­nese New Year two weeks ago.

Hav­ing to shoot the light-hearted com­edy at the same time as the gut-wrench­ing fam­ily drama was ad­mit­tedly quite tax­ing even for Yeo.

“It was a very chal­leng­ing time. I couldn’t fo­cus and had to keep re­mind­ing my­self that I was film­ing a com­edy. I usu­ally pre­fer to take time to get into a role.”

Trapped in a love-hate re­la­tion­ship, Yeo de­scribed the sis­ters as two tragic souls who loved and hated each other in turn while Goh said their in­tense emo­tions even­tu­ally turned them into en­e­mies.

Talk­ing an­i­mat­edly, the ladies play­fully ac­cused each other with “It started when you stole my hus­band” and “No, you stole my boyfriend first” be­fore both lament­ing that it was a very emo­tional project for them.

Even their cos­tumes in the se­ries were a huge con­trast as the sis­ters were sep­a­rated since young, with the younger be­ing sent away to live in the kam­pung as she was be­lieved to be a jinx.

“If I had count­less changes of beau­ti­ful dresses in Age Of Glory, then here in The De­scen­dant, I only have kam­pung clothes, poor girls’ clothes, and four sets of aun­tie cloth­ing. And, I’ve also got all the aun­tie shoes. Plus, al­most no make-up at all,” Goh lamented.

Yeo, on the other hand, had cause to cel­e­brate. “I had all the pretty qi­pao and nice ac­ces­sories.”

A very busy Goh had to take the next plane back to Mon­go­lia to con­tinue film­ing for her role as the Mon­gol Em­pire fe­male re­gent Oghul Qaimish in main­land Chi­nese TV se­ries The Leg­end Of Yuan Em­pire Founder which tells of the life story of Kublai Khan, the fifth Great Khan of the Mon­gol Em­pire and the founder of China’s Yuan dy­nasty.

Af­ter star­ring in James Lee-helmed hor­ror thriller Clay­pot Curry Killers (2011) as an abused daugh­ter-turned­cold-blooded killer who serves fresh hu­man meat in her mother’s bustling clay­pot curry busi­ness, Goh is look­ing for­ward to meatier roles in lo­cal pro­duc­tions.

On the other hand, Yeo is tak­ing a brief respite from act­ing to get over her very drain­ing role in The De­scen­dant. “I need to take a rest and do some­thing less emo­tional or take on a com­edy in­stead.”

The Ipoh-born, Kl-based boy first em­barked on a TV ca­reer two years ago when he took on some projects with Astro Xiao Tai Yang (Ch 325) and Astro Hua Hee Dai (Ch 333). The De­scen­dant is his sec­ond TV se­ries, his first was Hua Hee Ev­ery­day, dubbed Malaysia’s first Hokkien sit­com.

He shone in his big screen de­but last year por­tray­ing the adorable son of a gas de­liv­ery­man (played by ra­dio dee­jay/ac­tor Jack Lim) in Chiu Keng Guan-helmed, feel-good lu­nar new year flick Great Day.

And it looks like Tan will con­tinue to be busy this year as he has al­ready re­ceived seven episodes of the script for his up­com­ing project, which will see him col­lab­o­rat­ing with Les­lie Chai again.

“It’s a Chi­nese drama se­ries to be aired on TV2 ti­tled Tie Mei Gui (lit­er­ally Iron Roses in Man­darin),” shared Tan, who will be­gin film­ing in a week’s time.

The sports-lov­ing lad also shoots hoops reg­u­larly and rep­re­sents his school play­ing in the un­der-15 boys’ bas­ket­ball team. “I hope to strike a good bal­ance be­tween my aca­demic stud­ies, sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and act­ing projects,” de­clared the level-headed Form One stu­dent be­fore he was quickly whisked off to at­tend school in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.

The for­ward-look­ing fel­low re­mains un­af­fected by his act­ing ca­reer and was happy to add that his friends do not treat him any dif­fer­ently ei­ther. n Thedescen­dant airs on Ntv7 Mon­day to Thurs­day, at 10pm start­ing to­day.

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