Adding to the thrill of the Chinese Ghost Festival this year, iQiyi streaming platform contributes its share of supernatural horror stories with the debut of iQiyi’s first Southeast Asian original series “The Ferryman: Legends of Nanyang” on the iQiyi International app. The series features lead cast Lawrence Wong (王冠逸), Kate Kinney (金凯德) and Qi Yuwu (戚玉武) along with stellar international cast members including Tay Ping Hui (郑斌辉), Koe Yeet (高艺), Debbie Goh (吴天瑜), Jojo Goh (吴俐璇) and Jeanette Aw (欧萱).
“The Ferryman: Legends of Nanyang is a remake of iQiyi’s 2014 Mandarin series of the same title. The setting of the remake series is changed to Southeast Asia and it follows the story of Xia Dong Qing (Lawrence Wong), a convenience store worker who has the ability to see supernatural entities because of his ‘Yin Yang eyes’. Dong Qing then discovers that his special ability was granted by Zhao Li (Qi Yu Wu), a grim reaper that patrols the mortal world with a hidden agenda of his own.
Dong Qing then embarks on a mission to help the distressed wandering souls in the mortal world along with Zhao Li. “The Ferryman: Legends of Nanyang” will highlight the stories of ghosts and spirits from a range of Southeast Asia myths and folklore such as the ghost bride, a beauty-obsessed and power-hungry nine-tailed fox, and a two-horned devil played by Tay Ping Hui.
“The Ferryman: Legends of Nanyang” tells the tale of how an intrepid duo come together to help wandering souls in the mortal world complete their unfinished business. The series is produced by Singapore-based GHY Culture & Media and it was filmed at Iskandar Malaysia Studios in Johor Bahru and other locations around Malaysia.
We recently had a chance to join the cast of “The Ferryman: Legends of Nanyang” during the online press conference where they spoke about their role, memorable moments while filming the series and more. Check out the interview here:
1. What inspired you to take on the role and how did you prepare for it?
Lawrence Wong: I have always been a horror film buff and I love everything horror. But ‘The Ferryman’ doesn’t just have scary visuals, it also has a lot more depth, exploring questions on love and life. When I got the chance to be a part of “Ferryman”, I immediately jumped at it. What drew me was also because my character Xia Dong Qing is so rare. He can see ghosts and he has so much love and kindness for every living being around him. Even though he can see ghosts ever since he was young, he still finds an uncontrollable urge to help them move on to the afterlife. This was a challenging role to play.
Qi Yuwu: This show has a lot of interesting stories about romance, friendship, and a lot of human nature. This is a project with a lot of humanity in it. As an actor, it is something I really enjoy and I really want to present a character with a lot of emotional depth. This show is very emotional. So, I decided to try something new. The Ferryman is the one who guides the soul to the underworld. This show has a lot of crew members and cast members. I remember the last time I filmed around Malaysia, there weren’t a lot of crew members around. The production is why I was so interested in it. This is the first time China has worked on such a big scale, with large collaboration between Singapore and Malaysian cast and crew. It’s why I was so attracted to this show. Every story in The Ferryman had human elements, and I enjoyed being able to convey these feelings through Zhao Li.
Koe Yeet: For me, personally, because my role is a humane role as in I portray a normal human, not a ghost or (other supernatural). So, there was not much preparation to do. Maybe it was the usual standard actor’s character drafting preparation where you have to build the background for the character. Other than that, there was no extra preparation needed for my role.
Debbie Goh: I have no similarities with my role because my character is sort of naïve. My character wants to be immortal, but in reality, I don’t want that. I believe we, as human beings, have to learn to accept the natural process of ageing, sickness and death, so that we can cherish life even more. She also has a naïve perspective on love, by wanting to give her all to get it, but I personally have other priorities like investing in my family. This show has a lot of mythology and romance, and there’s a lot of moral values and integrities involved in the storyline. I think that’s quite rare. In my own story, it’s my first time with something like that. And every story and plot has its own values. It’s quite tiring but also quite rewarding. The stories in the series have a lot of depth, and the audience can expect to take away with them valuable life lessons.
Jojo Goh: Mine is also pretty straightforward. When I was sharing about my involvement with friends and family, they were surprised that I was playing a traditionally male character – the King of Hades. My character sometimes appears as female if she wants to, and male if he wants to. She’s like a kid who breaks out of her own prison and she comes out to this world and she finds things to be quite interesting. The mortal world is a huge playground to my character. I think the coolest part was probably when I told my friends about this role, they always triple checked with me. ‘A female king of hell? Are you sure?’. And I didn’t use anyone in particular as reference. I just go through the script and do my own interpretation and I actually add my own style to make sure that everything gels together.
2. As the first iQiyi’s Southeast Asia original content, what was the most challenging part of this project and was there any pressure for you to deliver your best performance?
Lawrence Wong: There were a lot of challenges shooting “Ferryman” because we were shooting it during Covid period. Shooting something this big of a scale during Covid period is surely gonna be harder, tougher, and more tedious. It’s gonna be more draining and it’s going to take a lot more out of you. Plus, especially for me, physically and emotionally it is especially tiring. I have the most number of scenes and I work everyday, 15 to 16 hours, I kept falling sick. I had to push through physically and emotionally because Xia Dong Qing is a character who feels so much more; all the ghosts and souls that need help. So, all of this really can be mentally and emotionally draining as well. But overall it was a very rewarding experience.
Kate Kinney: My biggest challenge is the crying scene because I personally feel that I am mostly always happy. So, crying is like a deep emotion and I think it’s really hard.
Qi Yuwu: I myself am someone who’s afraid of ghosts and supernatural shows. Before starting filming, I was hesitant as well. Someone had offered me to film shows like these before, and I was quite reluctant to do so. Sometimes, during filming, I would be more imaginative towards the ghostly aspects.
Jojo Goh; As an actor, we will always strive to do our best. This project is probably for Southeast Asia, it kind of has a homemade kind of feeling because we know the majority of the crews in the production. I really wanted to film a horror ghost film and I was given the opportunity to play the role of a ghost and I was instantly promoted to a king. It was such a rare chance and I really wanted to do it because there are not many opportunities in Malaysia to explore ancient era types of ghost stories. So, usually you don’t really get a chance to wear ancient costumes. It was really fun doing all the action scenes.
Koe Yeet: I don’t think pressure is the right word. I think when we watched the trailer, what we felt was that it’s rare to have a production where so many amazing Malaysian and Singaporean actors take part. The more challenging part of the entire shoot was that because we (the Malaysian cast) speak Malaysian Chinese, the director actually came up to us and said try not to be so Malaysian. Try to change the accent a bit and make it more international. I’m not sure if the director mentioned it to the other Malaysian cast but the director told me that.
3. In such a story that deals with life and death, how does being involved in this project affect your outlook?
Lawrence Wong: I think the interesting thing about “The Ferryman: Legend of Nanyang” is not just a horror film that is out to scare you. There’s so much more depth to it. Like every episode unfold the stories of different souls. You learn so many things about friendship, love and life in general. There is never just about how this story scares you. So I think after going through the filming process, I feel like I’m reminded of so many more things in life that I had forgotten. Filming this show actually reminded me about the many small joys in life that I’ve missed after having worked tirelessly the last few years. As I was busy working, production after production, hence, I would say it was a very rewarding experience for me.
4. Since this series deals with the supernatural, have you had any personal encounters before?
Lawrence Wong: Yes, I definitely have had supernatural encounters before. I remember once when I was in Paris, there’s always a lot of things happening when we go to Paris. I don’t know why. You know how we love to knock on the hotel door room before we enter so that we inform whatever ‘beings’ inside that we are coming in, and like you know, just let us in. So, once, one of the stewardess knocked on her door and we were all in the same row because we were all going into our respective rooms. It was quite funny because we could see everybody was knocking on their room door. And suddenly, we heard a knock back. That means the stewardess was knocking on her door and suddenly someone knocked back from inside her room. And we all were like, ‘Was that from inside your room?’ and that was quite spooky. So, we all went inside our room, we opened the door and saw no one inside. Long story short, the stewardess asked to change her room naturally and yeah, that was quite scary I think.
Qi Yuwu: I haven’t had any strange experience like this before. And I’m not a fan of horror dramas or movies, which is why it’s quite a challenging role for me. I am actually quite scared sometimes with the costumes and makeup of the ghost characters in this series.
Koe Yeet: Although half of my projects are of the horror genre, I’ve never experienced anything supernatural! This time, my mother had prepared a small talisman consisting of a wild boar’s tooth for me before shooting, and perhaps that is what protected me. Nothing happened to me because usually when I go to shoot this kind of genre, I would usually carry my little talisman that my mom bought for me. It is supposed to warn off omens and evil spirits. The talisman has an animal tooth as well apparently that helps. So yeah, nothing weird happened to me. I think this shoot is kind of like ‘protected’ in a way. Nothing crazy happened.
Jojo Goh: I never quite experienced spooky stuff before. I respect the belief of other beings or different realms but I just don’t have the connection for that. I mean, if you look at my personality, I’m always really loud. It also helps in my acting, this perspective of other realms that existed. But actually before we started shooting this series, I actually read in the newspaper that some people actually experience paranormal experiences. Like some accident happened on set, some weird encounters; some stuff got knocked off the actress’ hands, something like that. But that can also be an actual accident because sometimes you can explain how those things happen. I embrace any possibilities as there are still so many things that we don’t know outside of our world. It depends on how we define them.
5. What was your most memorable moment or scene from this project?
Lawrence Wong: One of my favourite scenes is my last scene where, I’m trying not to reveal too much of the plot but my last scene was extremely real and touching. I really felt all sorts of emotions and that was my favourite scene and my most memorable scene actually. My most memorable moment was when I had to dive 5 metres into a pool and there was a deep container. But I can’t really swim that well and yet I have to complete it. It was raining and I was really cold. We were filming at night so that moment was really memorable for me because I was just gonna dive down and do it. That was pretty unforgettable.
Kate Kinney: I think it was the scene in episode 35, we were really tired and the camera was filming me. You (Lawrence) and Wu ge (Qi Yuwu) were saying nonsense stuff because I think you guys forgot the lines. I still have the footage and yeah that was really funny because you guys especially brother Wu was making weird faces. I have that on film. We were all really really tired at the time because of the long day.
Debbie Goh: My memorable scene was when I had to lip sync for a song and also when I had to play the Pipa. I had to learn the way to hold a Pipa and also sing the lip sync part and it is quite challenging as well.
Jojo Goh: Most of my scenes were quite memorable if you ask me. There is this one scene where Lawrence and I and the love of my life are confined in a bus and even that is quite interesting because you had a whole bus and from the exterior view you can actually see like a spirited bus. And another scene in a ghost night market, they build like a huge set in a studio, at Iskandar Malaysia Studios. The challenge was also when it was drizzling during filming and we could not finish the scene on time. Because the set was installed for only two to three days so we only had two filming nights. The first night, Lawrence was sick so I was actually acting to myself the whole night assuming that Lawrence was beside me. They actually had a stand-in for Lawrence who was just moving around together. My character has many interesting scenes.
Qi Yuwu: There are so many memorable moments for me to count. When we first started, it was my first time filming with Kate and Lawrence. It was an unknown situation I was walking in so I didn’t know how things were going to go. But, I remember the very last scene, we were all filming our last scene on different days. The atmosphere was very much like brothers in arms at war, because we just cheered each other on. The whole environment was very positive, there was a lot of hard work, and I think all the positive parts were most memorable. I really cherish those moments.
6. Describe “The Ferryman: Legends of Nanyang ” in one phrase.
Kate Kinney: We survived from Covid. Because we took a long time to film amidst Covid.
Qi Yuwu: We have all the stellar cast from Malaysia, Singapore and Southeast Asia here in the series.
Debbie Goh: We have all these great actors from around the world so that’s the greatest of all. So, you must watch.
Jojo Goh: Go watch the show and you will find the answer.
Koe Yeet: One of a kind horror story because it is a compilation of Southeast Asia’s best myths and stories. I believe all of us would be able to relate to it.
Watch the trailer of “The Ferryman: Legends of Nanyang” here:
“The Ferryman: Legends of Nanyang” premieres globally on 24th August with two episodes released every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday exclusively on the iQiyi International app or iQ.com.