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Time out for Chinovela
The TV series stars Chris Wang and Allison Lin in a love story that should resonate among Filipino fans
STAR/ File

Time out for Chinovela

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - January 7, 2021 - 12:00am

Back then, the rage was over Telenovelas (Mexican TV series led by Marimar that kept the country glued to the TV sets) and then over Chinovelas (Chinese TV series like Meteor Garden, The Endless Love, etc.), until K-Drama caught our collective attention.

Need a breather from the Korean dramas that have been ruling the Internet?    

Watch the Chinovela Adventure of the Ring, Taiwan’s offering for Filipinos looking for the true meaning of love (from romantic relationship and kinship, to friendship and self-love). Now airing at 9 p.m. on Sunday exclusively on HBO and HBO GO, the series stars Chris Wang (Time Traveler, Love Family) as Yi-Zhi, a baseball-loving actuary, and Allison Lin (HBO Asia Original The World Between Us, Family Time) as Lisa, his free-spirited flight attendant girlfriend. The story starts when Yi-Zhi, after all the meticulous planning for his marriage proposal with Lisa, misplaces the most important part of it all — the engagement ring!

Chris plays a baseball-loving actuary and Allison a free-spirit ed flight stewardess

Helmed by Nelson Yeh (Far And Away, Mad King Of Taipei) and directed by Golden Bell nominated director, Kitamura Tayoharu (Running Man, Q Series – Love Of Sandstorm), the series is produced by KBRO Media’s Good Image Production with the support of the Taiwan Ministry of Culture (Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development), as well as the Taipei Film Commission. 

You and your family traveled around and lived out of a caravan. What’s it like returning to acting after a five-year hiatus? 

Chris: Since my children were born, I haven’t taken on any leading roles. I’m really happy to be acting in Adventure of the Ring. Of course, we had to make some adjustments within the family. During the filming, my wife stepped up to take care of the children. My wife is happy (that I am taking up this role) because she enjoys watching me act. 

I couldn’t sleep the night before we started filming. It has been ages since I played a lead role. Even though I’m a father now (and I’m supposed to have reached a stage of life where I’m calm about things), I still worry if I’m prepared for it and if I could perform.

You play an air stewardess. Did you tap on your previous experience as an air stewardess to portray the role? 

Allison: Of course, I did. When it comes to developing the character, the most crucial aspect is how close a connection you have with the character. So I’m very lucky to have a lead time of four years to prepare for this role. 

How did you research your role? Did you watch any movies or reference any characters? 

Chris: Yi-Zhi is a genius at work, a great problem solver. But he’s unpopular among his peers, and even his boss doesn’t like him. I was looking for a similar character for reference and found Benedict Cumberbatch’s genius mathematician role in the film, The Imitation Game. I observed the interaction between Benedict’s character and his love interest. I played the movie on a huge screen so that I could focus on the details and watched the scenes repeatedly. About 50 to 100 times. 

Allison: Chris recommended The Imitation Game to me. I wanted to observe how a girl could move Benedict’s unemotional character. She’s very straightforward and it is as though she hacked into his world, causing a short circuit and igniting sparks. 

The series is a romantic comedy. Was it challenging to do comedy? 

Chris: It was a challenge for me because Yi-Zhi is quite different from me. It’s my first time taking on comedy. I put in a lot of effort into preparing for the role. When I started filming, I had to go through another round of adjustments because the (comedic) atmosphere was foreign to me. 

Allison: Comedic acting comes easily to me. Romantic comedies are fun and relaxing, which is what I like. I could get our director Kitamura Toyoharu’s Japanese’s style of humor. Just by looking at his hand gestures, I understood what he wanted me to do.

Do you have a comedic side? 

Chris: I’m not really humorous, unlike our director. Our director lives and breathes humor. He can make anything funny. I want to learn comedic timing from him. 

Allison: I agree. Chris is interesting, but not humorous. When I became an actress, I became more serious. But I’m a jokester. I was the funny kid in class. I would make people laugh by doing something weird. I like to see people laugh because of me. 

How different are you from your character? 

Chris: Yi-Zhi is an unemotional, logical guy who sees the world in numbers. He’s a genius, who got accepted to actuary school on his first try. The couple’s interaction is based on logic. He later discovers the emotions hidden deep within him and that a relationship isn’t just about data. How am I different? I tell jokes and say silly things, which Yi-Zhi would deem it to be beneath him. He wouldn’t bother wasting time on jokes.

Allison: Both Lisa and I are self-sacrificing and like to serve others. These are traits that are common if you are in the service industry. Where we differ, I envy Lisa’s boldness. She’s very open to facing things head on. She speaks her mind and doesn’t hold back. On the other hand, I tend to be more cautious, considering consequences and thinking about the big picture. I envy her rebellious streak. 

What are your impressions of each other? 

Chris: Allison is very intelligent. We can talk about various topics — from her interests and photography, to documentaries and philosophies. She has a mind of her own and shares her opinions. I always look forward to chatting with her. 

Allison: I know Chris as the leading man of Taiwan idol dramas. He is a senior in the industry. It’s a feat to be able to give a sincere performance, while looking suave. Chris managed to do both. He is willing to uglify himself in the name of acting. In a particular scene, he was so unsightly that he stole my spotlight. But I was also very impressed. 

The drama opens with the male lead losing the engagement ring on the metro. In real life, have you ever lost something precious to you? 

Allison: No, because I don’t place much value on tangible items. I’ve lost a phone before, but a phone can easily be replaced. I would be more worried about losing my e-mail password or a connection with a person.

Chris: Because I travel around in my caravan, I live with my parents whenever I’m back in Taipei. Sometimes I misplace the house keys. I once forgot to bring my passport to the airport. I had to get my family member to send my passport to me. I haven’t really lost anything important. I dropped my phone in a desert during a cross country race. I thought my phone was gone forever. I walked up and down the stretch of sand repeatedly, and finally managed to recover.

How would you sum up your 2020? 

Allison: It’s a year of gratitude. We’ve lost a lot — my dramas were cancelled, the world has changed. We took things for granted previously. Now, just being able to gather and film are such a blessing. 

Chris: It’s a year of connection. On the surface, we’re separated because of social distancing and quarantines. But we’ve become closer as a result. Our priorities have been clearer and you realize what matters. You’ll connect with what or who is important. 

What do you hope the audience will take away from the drama? 

Allison: Adventure of the Ring takes a light-hearted look at serious issues. This year has been a tough year. I hope this romantic comedy can bring audiences some laugh.

(E-mail reactions at rickylophilstar@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

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