Ratings bump

A debate in China’s entertainment sector on a leading lady’s pregnancy

Tang Yan-w

Tang Yan: star actress has been criticised for role in new drama

Actress Gal Gadot was five months pregnant when shooting the 2017 blockbuster Wonder Woman. Her stomach was getting so big that her figure was altered in post-production. But the pregnancy of Chinese actress Tang Yan during the filming of costume drama The Legend of Xiao Chuo has become a newer point of controversy since the series aired on Beijing Satellite TV and Tencent Video from the start of this month.

Based on a historical character, the series follows the story of Xiao Yanyan (played by Tang), the daughter of a prime minister during the Liao empire (which ruled part of northern China between 916-1125). She marries Emperor Jingzong (actor Jing Chao) despite being secretly in love with military commander Han Derang (Dou Xiao). But it is the 37 year-old’s pregnancy during the filming of the series that has caught audience attention, with complaints that special effects used to edit away her bump are unconvincing.

“In many scenes, Tang’s belly is visibly bigger than all the male characters on the show. Plus the fashion of the time was for clothes tight around the waist, which makes her bump even more noticeable. The whole thing just seems so out of place,” NetEase Entertainment rebuked.

Others have argued that Tang should have withdrawn from filming once she found out she was pregnant, accusing her of being “selfish” for not doing so (Kate Winslet’s Oscar-winning performance in The Reader in 2008 was in fact a role slated for Nicole Kidman before she stepped down due to pregnancy). “We are not saying that Tang shouldn’t work when she’s pregnant but at least she should be responsible to the audience. She gets paid an exorbitant amount while letting the body double to do all the work. If she knew she was pregnant she should have resigned from the role out of respect for the art and for audiences,” one netizen fumed.

Other fans rallied to her defence. “No woman can predict when she is going to be pregnant nor can a woman postpone her pregnancy because of work. The fact that Tang Yan successfully finished the filming of a 60-episode TV series while she was pregnant is very impressive,” one of her admirers claimed.

Others said Tang was wrongly cast for the role from the outset. “The heroine of The Legend of Xiao Chuo should have been a young girl. But Tang Yan is simply too different from this character in terms of age and appearance,” said NetEase Entertainment.

If Tang had withdrawn from filming she would probably have had to pay a penalty for breaking her contract, Tencent Entertainment reckons. And besides, it is not uncommon for a star to find out she is set to give birth after she has signed on to a project, the news portal said. And while the debates online may have mostly centred on a woman’s right to work, others noted the commercial reality for the studio was it couldn’t afford to lose Tang – whose fame is on a par with megastar Yang Mi (see WiC400) – to lure viewers and television networks.

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