The period drama, The Little Nyonya, is directed and produced by the “Legendary Drama King,” Guo Jingyu, directed by well-known Singaporean directors Xie Minyang and Huang Guangrong, scripted by Singapore “National Screenwriter,” Hong Rongdi, played by Xiao Yan, Kou Jiarui, Yue Lina, Qiu Kaiwei, Dai Xiangyu, Xiang Yun, Sun Zijun, He Yuhong, Fang Chengcheng, Niu Beiren, Niu Baojun, and many more. It is co-presented by Beijing iQiyi Technology Co. Ltd., Tianjin Changxin, G.H.Y Culture & Media (Singapore) Pte. Ltd., Yizuoyou Television Jiangsu Co. Ltd., G.H.Y Culture & Media (China) Pte. Ltd., and Sanniu Television Jiangsu Co. Ltd.
Through the grievances and resentments of several generations of a large family, the screenplay integrates the essence of Nyonya culture, and tells the story of the indomitable struggle of kind-hearted girl Yueniang.
The TV series, The Little Nyonya, held a lensing ceremony in Malaysia on October 11, 2018, announcing the remake of the Singapore’s “iconic drama.” On February 17, 2019, the shoot was completed. Filming took 131 days and spanned more than 4,600 kilometers over China and Malaysia.
The 2008 romance drama, Little Nyonya, has fully demonstrated the cultural phenomenon of the ‘Nyonya culture’ with a very Southeast Asian characteristic. It not only created a miraculous rating in the history of Singapore TV dramas, but also set off a ‘Nonya fever’ in the entire Asian region. This remake, 10 years later, put together top production teams from China, joined by Singapore’s top screenwriters, with an upsize of production quality, all to continue the legendary phenomena of Little Nonya.
The Little Nyonya tells the story of three generations of ‘Nyonya’ Peranakans. First generation Tianlan was sold to a rich man’s house as a servant at a young age. At sixteen, she is accepted by her rich young master as the second mistress but her inferior position in the household causes her to suffer significant amount hardships. She gave birth to her daughter Juxiang, a gentle and beautiful girl. She possesses great cooking and needlework skills learnt from her mother since she was a child. However, she became deaf and dumb after a serious illness during infancy. Juxiang was set-up in an arranged marriage to marry a wealthy man as his 2nd wife. She resisted the marriage and met a Chinese-Japanese photographer, Yamamoto Yosuke. Juxiang resolutely accepted Yosuke’s love and they got married. After their marriage, Yosuke is forced to return to Japan to serve in the army, leaving Juxiang alone to raise their daughter, Yueniang, single-handedly. In the turbulent times, Juxiang and her husband are tortured to death, leaving behind their eight-year-old daughter, Yueniang.
Yueniang took her mother’s relics and went back to her grandfather’s house, where things began to fall apart. Under the supervision of her grandmother Tianlan, she studied traditional Nyonya cooking and needlework. Yueniang grows up to be exceptionally beautiful like her mother. Wealthy leaders and handsome lawyers are all attracted to her. However, her romantic relationship was not smooth sailing. She is destined to meet her true love Chengxi but unfortunately, not fated to be together. Entangled within the family’s disputes and fights, Yueniang is always discriminated against, beaten, framed, tortured and expelled. But her strong character leads her to fight against the odds. She embarks on a journey to carve out her own destiny and succeeds despite several setbacks and eventually saves her declining family business. However, her romantic life is still a blank canvas, as she is unable to let go of her true love…
Singapore National Film Sets Off the “Nyonya Fever”
The term “Nonya” refers to the offspring between the Chinese settlers and the indigenous Malayans; the males were called Babas and females were called Nyonya. “Nyonya” is not only an ethnic group, but it also represents the history of the integration of the Chinese nation and Southeast Asian culture.
The immense pressure of the creative team in remaking such a classic after 10 years is expected. Fortunately, this remake team is anything but trivial – it was headed by Guo Jingyu, director of many popular China dramas such as Iron Pear, Dog Stick, Brave Heart, and Mother’s Life. The original screenwriter of Little Nonya, Hong Rongdi, took charge of this new script, adding more fresh elements to the classic story. At the lensing ceremony, Hong Rongdi said: “I have been dreaming and wanting to rewrite Little Nyonya, to perfect the story furthermore. It is a dream come true today after ten years.” Both directors are well-known Singaporean directors, of which Xie Minyang is the director of the original version. She will continue to direct the new version and grasp a better essence of the drama. Another director, Huang Guangrong, is a Singaporean director with many international co-production experiences. He has produced excellent TV series such as Little Legend and Our Home in Singapore. The collaboration between these two Singaporean directors is expected to make The Little Nyonya closer to the “soul” of Nyonya culture.
The production team led by Guo Jingyu is also not to be underestimated — stylist Chen Minzheng was the chief styling designer for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. His works include: The Revolution of 1911 and Biography of Zhen Huan. He was nominated for the “Best Costumes Design” award at the 55th Golden Horse Awards. Photography director Qi Weihua and art director Cheng Guangming are also Guo Jingyu’s longtime partners, and they have collaborated on a number of works such as Dog Stick and Brave Heart.
In order to beautifully portray the Nyonya culture and custom, the crew went to Singapore and Malaysia several times to see the scenery and inspect the characteristics of Nyonya architecture and clothing. The art department built actual scenes of the Nyonya family’s life in the studio. Every carving and decoration are to follow closely the characteristics of Nyonya life. The production has also specially invited Nyonya chefs and Nyonya etiquette coaches for the actors and actresses to learn the making of the Nyonya dishes and the Nyonya etiquette. At the lensing ceremony, production crew also prepared a variety of “Nyonya cakes” for the invited guests and media, enabling them to have firsthand experience of the Nyonya culture.
New and Old Opera Member, Xiao Yan, Explained the History of Nyonya on Stage
The role of Yueniang in The Little Nyonya this time round, will be portrayed by a new generation actress, Xiao Yan, who has appeared in many period dramas previously. At the press conference, Xiao Yan said: “I am honoured to play the roles of Juxiang and Yueniang, and I will do my best in portraying the characters.”
Chen Xi, will also be played by Kou Jiarui, a young actor from China-Taiwan.
The notable actor Yue Lina, who has shaped many classic characters in Dog Sticks, The Ferryman · Manjusaka and Mother’s Life, will play the important role of Guihua in this drama.
Famous China-Taiwanese actor Qiu Kaiwei, mainland Chinese actors He Yuhong, Niu Beiren, China A-list actors Niu Baojun, Zhang Liming and etc, are also within the cast list of this new version of The Little Nyonya, to achieve a good combination of young + old actors.
What’s more worth mentioning is that two actors from the original drama series, Little Nyonya, will also joining this new version of The Little Nyonya. Dai Xiangyu, who played Yosuke Yamamoto in the original version, will be reprising his role again. Another former “Nyonya,” the well-known Singaporean actress Xiang Yun, will play Granny Chen in this new edition. Xiang Yun said emotionally: “I’ve always hoped to work with the Chinese team. This time, I finally have the opportunity to work with them, and especially in a big production like The Little Nyonya, I feel that my dream has come true!”
It is reported that the drama is undergoing negotiation with Hunan TV’s “New Year’s Drama” broadcast cooperation. It has become the most anticipated TV drama of the coming year, so stay tuned!