Charmaine Sheh On “Winter Begonia” Role: “It’s Completely Different”Grace
Yu Zheng’s (于正) Winter Begonia <鬓边不是海棠红> has already begun airing in China. Loosely adapted from the novel of the same name, Winter Begonia tells the story of two men who become lifelong soulmates as they spread the love for Peking opera and heroism in a time of war. It stars Huang Xiaoming (黄晓明) and Yin Zheng (尹正).
Charmaine Sheh (佘詩曼) plays Fan Xiang’er, wife of Cheng Fengtai (Huang), and a supporting role. Winter Begonia is Charmaine’s first mainland drama since starring in the mega-hit Yanxi Palace <延禧攻略> in 2018. Unlike Consort Xian in Yanxi Palace, Fan Xiang’er’s presence in the story of Winter Begonia is little, but for Charmaine, playing a supporting character like Fan Xiang’er is just as challenging as playing any other main character.
“I play a northeastern housewife,” said Charmaine, who is as southern (Chinese) as anyone can get. “So there were challenges. I had doubts that I could do this role justice.”
Northeastern women are known for being straightforward and frank, and while Charmaine herself can also be described as such, she is not as loud and confident as Fan Xiang’er. “I actually really admire Fan Xiang’er,” she said. “She has no reservations. She’ll yell at you if she doesn’t like what she’s seeing. I’m not like that at all.”
To perfect the role of a northeastern woman, she consulted with Nie Yuan’s (聂远) wife Qin Ziyue (秦子越), who is from northeastern China. Charmaine imitated her mannerisms—from larger strides, to faster speech rhythms. She thought of Ziyue while she studied Fan Xiang’er’s character—even when Fan Xiang’er is loudly scolding at someone, she does it with grace and style, because Fan Xiang’er is educated and proper.
Compared to Consort Xian, Fan Xiang’er is a very simple woman. She is neither cunning nor calculative. She is traditional housewife with a genuine heart, and her husband, Cheng Fengtai, is her everything. Playing such a mild character is actually more challenging for Charmaine, and she thanks Huang Xiaoming for helping her into character. “Because I could genuinely feel that Fengtai loves his wife,” said Charmaine. “Even though he’s working every day, fooling around every day, he’s always remembers that he has a home to go back to.”
After the success of Yanxi Palace, many dramas have reached out to Charmaine for a collaboration, but she turned down every single one. “Firt, I didn’t want to repeat myself,” she said. “Second, I still haven’t found a role that surpasses Consort Xian.”
Although Fan Xiang’er is a supporting role in Winter Begonia, Charmaine accepted the job offer without question. “She’s a completely different character [from Consort Xian]. I’ve also never worked with Huang Xiaoming or Yin Zheng before.”
Winter Begonia airs on iQIYI.