Netflix Unveils Launch Dates for First Trio of Chinese-Language Originals

Netflix
The cast of Taiwanese crime drama 'Nowhere Man' with director DJ Chen (right).

The Taiwanese prison break thriller 'Nowhere Man' will launch Oct. 31, followed by romantic comedy 'Triad Princess' on Dec. 6 and the supernatural Malaysian period drama 'The Ghost Bride' in January 2020.

Netflix's long-gestating first batch of Chinese-language original series is finally set for launch.

Spanning three distinct, binge-friendly genres, the shows — two Taiwanese, one from Malaysia — are set to roll out in succession this fall and early winter. The dates were unveiled Monday at an industry gala at the W Hotel in downtown Taipei, Taiwan.

"This is a culmination of two years of very hard work with the teams," said Erika North, Netflix's director of original content for Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. "We've deliberately chosen three very different genres to represent the scope and breadth of our content categories, and the creative prowess of the talented producers, writers and directors we have been working with."

North described Taiwanese drama Nowhere Man as a "wonderful jailbreak thriller with a strong redemptive arc," which tonally contrasts with Triad Princess, "a lighter, female-driven romantic comedy" — both markedly different from Malaysian title The Ghost Bride, a period YA drama involving supernatural romance.

"We believe that each one of these shows will represent a new avenue for Netflix," North added. "None of these have ever really been produced by Netflix before, and nothing quite like this has ever been released simultaneously in 190 markets."

Nowhere Man, Netflix's first Mandarin-language show to be commissioned, will be the first to roll out online. Written and directed by Taiwanese filmmaker DJ Chen, the show will drop Oct. 31. It centers on a veteran gangster awaiting execution behind bars. After his son is suddenly kidnapped, the gangster begins to experience unique visions allowing him to follow alternate timelines, helping him escape, fight to protect his family and gain redemption.

Chen is best known for her directorial debut, Formula 17, which she made at age 23. Released in 2004, it was Taiwan's first-ever LGBTQ-themed comedy feature, and became a local sensation, topping Taiwan's domestic box office that year. Her other films include Catch, a comedy about fraudsters, and Young Dudes, an apocalyptic fantasy feature.

Chen was present in Taipei on Monday to share some thoughts about the journey of making her first TV series for Netflix. Noting that television dramas in Taiwan traditionally are made with much lower production values and at far higher volumes — with a single season often running dozens of episodes — Chen said Netflix's commitment to a more condensed, higher-quality approach to episodic storytelling offered various opportunities for the Taiwanese content industry to retool and upgrade its production practices. 

"They have very strict requirements about what kind of elements, genres and feelings capture the imagination of the audience," Chen said. "They also were very open, passionate and willing to do whatever was necessary to see this project grow and thrive."

Netflix will then unveil Triad Princess on Dec. 6. Described as a classic crime series with a strong romantic comedy twist, Triad Princess was written and directed by playwright-turned-filmmaker Neil Wu. The series follows the daughter of a Triad boss who seeks out independence by taking a gig as an undercover bodyguard for a famous actress — a gig that forces her to navigate the unfamiliar world of glitz, glamour and love.

Sometime in January 2020, Netflix will drop The Ghost Bride, the final entry in its first Mandarin-language originals slate. A supernatural period drama set in Colonial Malacca, the show is co-directed by Malaysian filmmakers Quek Shio Chuan and Ho Yu-Hang. It follows a young girl who has been offered a marriage proposal from a wealthy family to be the "ghost bride" to their recently deceased son — an opportunity that would save her family from a lifetime of debt, but require her to spend the rest of her days haunted by a ghostly spouse. Desperate to escape the situation, she soon finds herself wrapped up in a murder mystery and embroiled in otherworldly affairs far bigger than she could have imagined.

Co-director Ho, who flew in from Malaysia to attend the Taipei event, said he had "always been wary of TV productions which tend to have rushed timelines," but that he accepted the opportunity to be involved in The Ghost Bride because it offered a "cinematic treatment," shot and produced in 4K HDR, "like one long movie but in a multi-episodic format."

Ho added: "In this day and age when people are watching on-demand and across multiple devices, the stickiness of a piece of content no longer relies on plot alone, but also focuses on world-building, so audiences immerse in a particular time and space."