If The Story of Ming Lan Was Remade into a KDrama
I’ve been trying to get into Chinese dramas for a long, long time. I’ve tried romantic comedies, tragedies, action, thriller, wuxia, you name it, many of which were highly rated. I’ve gritted my teeth and tried to get through the “introductory” episodes of long dramas. I’ve tried to connect with male characters as stoic as a marble statue and sympathize with juvenile female characters with their childlike dubbed voice. I've tried to get past illogical character development or lack of it, and even more illogical or simply uninteresting plots. And I usually gave up midway through it. Then, I stumbled across a gem called The Story of Ming Lan and I fell in love. I’ve tried many, dropped most, liked some, and loved a few, but to me, The Story on Ming Lan is in a league of its own.
Not only did I not fast-forward through any scenes, not only did I marathon it like crazy, but it was also the only Chinese drama that I rewatched and wanted to rewatch over and over again. It ended up becoming one of my favourite dramas in general. The story and characters grabbed my attention right from the very first episode. The characters were intelligent, interesting and complex. Even the antagonists were complex enough for me, not to necessarily sympathize with them, but to understand where they were coming from. The plot and character development not only made sense but also kept me engaged until the very last scene of the drama. As I was watching it, I kept picturing who would play each character if it was ever remade into a Kdrama (it would need to be a long drama to really capture the scope of this story). So, here’s my dream cast for a Kdrama remake of The Story of Ming Lan.
Go Ah Sung as Ming Lan
Go Ah Sung was the first and only actress that came to mind when I thought of Ming Lan, the main lead. Ming Lan was kind and just but also capable of doing anything (and I mean ANYTHING) if she feels a loved one is wronged. She’s incredibly intelligent and a great strategist who knew when to act demure and dimwitted and when to take action and be fierce. Go Ah Sung's portrayal of the lead in Heard It Through the Grapevine proves that she has the skills to portray the complexity of Ming Lan and all her facets.
Jung Kyung Ho as Gu Ting Ye
I’ve toyed with the idea of a few actors for the role of Gu Ting Ye, but Jung Kyung Ho won by a mile unequivocally. What I love about Jung Kyung Ho is that he shines equally in dramatic/film noir and light-hearted comedic roles. Not only that, but he can switch from one end to the other so smoothly. And the role of Gu Ting Ye needs a delicate portrayal of an actor who can go from playful to tender to serious to subtly sardonic and back again. You can pretty much watch any of Jung Kyung Ho’s dramas to see his capacity to shine even in less than great dramas. And, we already know he has great chemistry with Go Ah Sung!
Jung Hae In as Qi Heng
I’ll admit, the first reason for picking Jung Hae In was the visuals. From certain angles, the actor playing Qi Heng, the second lead, looked almost identical to Jung Hae In. But I also think Hae In would be perfect as Qi Heng with his innocent view of the world and his idealization of Ming Lan. And he can also portray the darker side of his character as his character develops. I can already imagine some heartbreaking scenes becoming even more heartbreaking with Hae In’s portrayal.
Lee Elliya as Sheng Mo Lan
Not only is Lee Elliya capable of portraying a fun antagonist, but I think she can give a distinct performance under the guidance of the right director. While the brand of evil that she portrayed in The Last Empress was entertaining, I think she can give a more nuanced and complex but just as fun performance playing Sheng Mo Lan, the older sister of Ming Lan.
Park Se Wan as Sheng Ru Lan
As the youngest sister of Ming Lan and legitimate daughter of Shen Hong, she is immature and spoiled, yet surprisingly pragmatic when you least expect it and has a good heart. Even though she is not a major character, I think she grows (and grows on the viewers) as the story advances. I think that’s the same feeling I had while watching Park Se Wan in Just Dance. She was able to make a seemingly annoying and self-centered character relatable and slowly drew you into her world.
Kim Young Ok as Grandma Sheng
As the strong and commanding yet loving and protective matriarch of the Sheng family, I can’t think of anyone other than the national grandma of Kdrama Kim Young Ok. Enough said!
Choi Won Young as Sheng Hong
Sheng Hong, Ming Lan’s father, is such a fun character for any actor. He’s gullible, bumbling and pathetic, yet self-important and ambitious. And he always puts the family’s reputation above everything. He’s such an interesting character that you hate, love, laugh at, pity all at the same time. Like most characters in this drama, he felt human. And I think no one can bring him with all his complexity to life like Choi Won Young.
Kim Yeo Jin as Wang Ruofu
Wang Ruofu, the legal/main wife of Sheng Hong, is another character that grew on me until I adored her by the end. She was complex and interesting (I can honestly say the exact same thing about almost every single character in this drama). At the very start of the drama, you’d be inclined to think that she is an antagonist. And while she continues to do questionable things throughout the drama, she is ultimately not a shrewd or an evil person but merely driven by her childlike need for attention, love, and respect. Kim Yeo Jin can bring sass to the role of Wang Ruofu.
Yeom Jung Ah as Lin Qin Shuang
It can be easy to hate Lin Qin Shuang, Sheng Hong’s favourite mistress. She is manipulative and has committed some horrible things. And yet, there were moments that might seem like throwaway scenes or pieces of dialogue that I felt gave her more depth than a simple villain. She represents a subtle criticism of women’s place in society and how that can pervert their thinking and lead them to resort to alternative ways to advance or succeed in society. Rather than play her as the straight-out villain, I think Yeom Jung Ah can give a nuanced and subtle performance of the character.
Park Hae Soo as Sheng Chang Bai
As the second eldest of the Sheng siblings, he’s the straight man in a house full of immaturity, scheming, manipulation, and careful maneuvering. He is kind, loyal and just to a fault. At first, I thought Kwon Yool would be perfect for the role since he has played the straight man so many times. But the problem is that the character is a bit boring and so is Kwon Yool in these types of roles. And that’s when I thought of Park Hae Soo who I think can breathe a bit of life and playfulness into one of the less interesting characters. Just watch Prison Playbook and you will see how he took a character that could have easily been boring, ridiculous, or annoying and played him with a straight face yet exhibited his playfulness.
Song Yoon Ah as Xiao Qin Shi
Who can forget Song Yoon Ah’s performance in The K2, one of the only two great things (along with Ji Chang Wook, of course) in a flawed drama? The trajectory of Xiao Qin Shi is almost theatrical in its scale as she grows more obsessive, erratic and then completely unhinged by the end due to the hate that consumed her. Just imagining Song Yoon Ah playing this character excites me. She can bring such nuances to a character that can easily turn into a caricature.
Cha Joo Young as Zhu Man Niang
I don’t know whether this is my least favourite character in the entire drama because of how her character was written or how she was portrayed by the actress since she was more of a caricature than a person. I’m inclined to believe that it was due to how she was acted. She was also the one character that I struggled the most in casting. As I was searching for an actress to play her, I remembered one of the secretaries from Jugglers. While Cha Joo Young played a conflicted character in Jugglers, I felt that the character was pretty bland for her. This character can provide something more fun for her to play while she can bring earthiness and realism to it.
Jin Hee Kyung as Princess Pingning
Finally, Princess Pingning, Qi Heng’s mother, was an antagonist that I hated but understood and later pitied. She’s prideful, intelligent, resourceful and not above being cruel to get what she wants. I would love to see Jin Hee Kyung’s portrayal of the character where she can bring inner strength and elegance to the role.