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Qin Lan And Wu Jin Yan On Reuniting In "Legacy" And Portraying Strong Female Characters Onscreen

In this exclusive interview, the two Chinese actresses delve into their characters in family period drama "Legacy," and what it was like working with each other again after "The Story of Yanxi Palace"

HBO Chinese-language Asia Original series Legacy, headlined by a star-studded cast including Qin Lan, Han Geng, Wu Jinyan and Nie Yuan, premiered with two back-to-back episodes last June 20 only on HBO GO, followed by two new episodes daily from Mondays to Fridays. The family period drama reunites The Story of Yanxi Palace actors Qin, Wu and Nie. 

Spanning over forty 45-minute episodes, Legacy chronicles the inner workings of the glamorous and wealthy Yi family in old Shanghai in the 1920s. Each with varying motives, three half-sisters Yi Zhongling, Yi Zhongyu and Yi Zhongxiu vie to inherit their father’s shopping mall business, after their brother, heir to the family business, renounces his inheritance. Faced with fragmented loyalties, conflicts and the looming threat of World War II, the sisters scramble for family fortunes and power within the city, as matters of the heart further complicate the situation. 

Legacy cast members interview with Metro
Photo courtesy of HBO
Chinese Actresses Qin Lan And Wu Jin Yan Talk About Their Characters In "Legacy"


Chinese Actresses Qin Lan And Wu Jin Yan Talk About Their Characters In "Legacy"

In a time of upheaval and uncertainty, will the turbulence that the three heiresses face unite them to set aside their differences and save their family business, or will it prove to be their undoing? Legacy stars Qin Lan as Yi Zhongling, Han Geng as Tang Fengwu, Wu Jinyan as Yi Zhongyu, Nie Yuan as Xi Weian, Liu Jun as Mr. Yi Xinghua, Miao Pu as Ms. Huang Yingru, and Zhang Nan as Yi Zhongxiu.

Legacy is created by Yu Zheng, executive produced by Yang Le, produced by Lee Siew Tin and written by Zhou Mo. The riveting and visually stunning period drama is directed by Wang Wei with artistic direction by Luan Hexin, and Song Xiaotao as costume designer.


This is a reunion of sorts with fellow Yanxi Palace actors. What’s it like working together again?

"This collaboration with Nie Yuan was in fact the third occasion. The first time we worked together was in The Last Supper (2012). At that time, we had no scenes together, but we knew about each other's performances and met often on set. The Story of Yanxi Palace was the second time we worked together, it was then that we truly collaborated and enjoyed good rapport. Perhaps our common understanding and knowledge of our performances then led to our consensus. This time, Legacy had the foundations of our previous work together, which led to even better chemistry. We could express what we wished to as soon as shoots started. For example, both of us attached a lot of our own understanding and ideas to the characters. So, when communicating with the director, it was helpful for the direction of our characters. 

"And with Wu Jinyan, Legacy followed our collaboration in The Story of Yanxi Palace. Our relationship has grown, we have been through much more together, and we were very familiar with each other. During production, we were like real sisters and had a good relationship. Hence, we enjoyed good rapport through many of the emotional scenes and were very happy at work."

Could you tell us more about the relationship of Yi Zhongling and Xi Weian?

"In Legacy, we can say that Xi Weian's love for Yi Zhongling was hidden among the details. In fact, Zhongling always had faith in Weian’s unwavering feelings for her. I think for Zhongling, an unwavering heart was very important, as was a stable relationship. This was revealed in the second episode and the family questioned her. The truth was that Zhongling did not like Weian’s recklessness to the extent of bloodshed, but she said then that Weian had never lost her trust. 

"How would Zhongling believe him when all the family members had said otherwise? Zhongling and Weian were not newlyweds and had been together for a long time. And throughout this time, he did not break her trust, so that may have been the greatest sincerity, determination and love in their marriage. I have always felt that Zhongling and Weian suffered from friction between them that were stumbling blocks, but they were not without love. 

"At the beginning, Zhongling and Weian were indeed at odds with each other, as their personalities seemed incompatible. They started with contradictions towards each other, but exactly what problems came between them? Viewers will find out layer by layer as they follow our characters through the drama series. While Nie Yuan and my characters in Legacy were not as warm towards each other as The Story of Yanxi Palace, there will be significant progression and growth to the relationship as the show goes on. I believe that many people will feel quite different after watching it. It is quite emotional, and there will be some very moving scenes."

The show focuses on power dynamics—how does that come into play with your interactions with your sisters Yi Zhongyu and Yi Zhongxiu?

"Zhongling felt like an elder sister in a mother’s role. She was actually a bridge between the two younger sisters. When Zhongyu returned, she was misunderstood as being a troublemaker, much like a hedgehog. However, Zhongling knew she was not really like that, but attributed that to the environment Zhongyu grew up in, including hurt inflicted by her biological mother that left her feeling unloved and uncared for. That planted a dark side in young Zhongyu’s heart and left her particularly lacking in love, craving for attention, but not wanting pity or sympathy. As the eldest sister, Zhongling felt it necessary to help second sister Zhongyu to better integrate into their family. Zhongling was Zhongyu's confidant to some extent, they had great rapport and understood each other very well. 

"As for third sister Zhongxiu, although viewers will see very significant growth and transformation of her in the later part of the series, she will forever be a child who needs protection and guidance in her eldest sister’s heart. Zhongling was also very willing to take care of her two younger sisters, wanted to give her all to the family, and be their strongest support, because family was most precious to Zhongling. It was very heartwarming that both younger sisters were also protective of their eldest sister, for instance when Zhongling and Weian argued, they rushed to defend her first. I think the three of them are just like any other sisters who may squabble daily but have each other in their hearts."

You often play strong women on screen, what makes this show different?

"Each drama and every role are so different because their own life journeys were different, the characters’ setbacks, dilemmas, and happiness formed different personalities; and the scripts in their entirety were very different. I think the main ‘label’ on Zhongling was that of a very stable and reliable elder sister. She not only had great strength for herself but was more importantly, the pillar of support for her younger siblings and the entire Yi family.

"Although I have played the elder sister role before, such as in City of Life and Death (2009) where I played Mrs. Tang and had a younger sister. Then, my character was Shanghainese and I had to speak Shanghainese throughout, which was different. As the eldest sister in Legacy, I was very concerned about many things at home, including many emotions and problems that needed to be dealt with. These included conflict and dilemmas between the younger sisters and between parents. As Legacy follows a great family, Zhongling had to be dignified and take care of her younger siblings like a mother would, which made her quite unique as compared to other characters I’ve played."


This is a reunion of sorts with fellow Yanxi Palace actors. What’s it like working together again?

"I wish to say that our rapport and chemistry have remained in our latest collaboration!!! And whether it's Qin Lan or Brother Nie Yuan, everyone has gotten better as actors!!"

Could you tell us more about the relationship of Yi Zhongyu and Tang Fengwu?

"Initially, Yi Zhongyu and Tang Fengwu seemed completely incompatible, but would eventually fall completely in love with each other and finally find happiness with a little family of their own, with love and a sense of responsibility for the larger Yi family and the country.

"From the series storyline, Zhongyu first got together with Fengwu to spite her father and she saw it as more of a ‘conquest’. However, in the scene when Fengwu locked her in the room to lecture her, he genuinely put himself in her shoes and she felt his attention and love. It was in that moment she truly fell in love with Tang Fengwu."

The show focuses on power dynamics—how does that come into play with your interactions with your sisters Yi Zhongling and Yi Zhongxiu?

"First of all, as Zhongyu grew up without much affection from her parents, she lacked love. Elder sister Zhongling was like a ray of light in her life. To Zhongyu, only her elder sister could teach, criticize and encourage her. Although sometimes she may appear to reject Zhongling, she had actually unconditionally accepted and trusted her eldest sister from start to end. Younger sister Zhongxiu’s mother was whom Zhongyu’s father had his affair with, and this led Zhongyu to resent Zhongxiu and reluctant to accept her initially. They got closer from the conflicts and squabbles between them. By the middle and late stages of the series, the three sisters were completely united, and everyone understood they were 'all Yi family members.'"

You often play strong women on screen, what makes this show different?

"Relative to the roles I played previously, perhaps Yi Zhongyu is far from perfect in the eyes of many especially in the early part of the series when she behaved like a hedgehog and used her quills to protect herself. However, she is actually very soft-hearted, has a mind of her own, and is very intelligent. Overall, the roles I have taken previous seemed more perfect in character as compared to Zhongyu."

Viewers can catch the episodes of Legacy with two new episodes dropping on weekdays, on-demand on HBO GO, and available via SKY subscription for as low as P99 a month.