Oh what one breakout role in a breakout drama can do for an actor or actress, and this is especially true in Mainland China where the competition is fierce due to the sheer number of talented and gorgeous actors and actresses vying to shoot into superstardom. If 2011 started off with Yang Mi and Feng Shao Feng’s big break with Jade Palace Lock Heart and ended with Nicky Wu and Liu Shi Shi bringing on the love and tears with Bu Bu Jing Xin, then the undisputed breakout queen of 2012 is actress Sun Li with the period drama Legend of Consort Zheng Huan. Like JPLH and BBJX, its set in the early Qing dynasty around the time of the reigns of Emperors Kangxi and Yongzheng, but Zheng Huan is a non-time traveling take on the political battles in the back courts of the Forbidden Palace. Sun Li is having such a great year it’s not even funny – she recently got married to actor Deng Cao, then they had a baby boy, and she came back from maternity leave to do Zheng Huan as well as the box office success fantasy movie Mural (where she co-starred with her hubby). We all can only wish we had a year that was as successful career and personal life wise as Sun Li had in 2012.
Zheng Huan has now made Sun Li the most famous C-actress in Taiwan and the drama is on its third repeat broadcast during primetime hours on CTS. I swear everyone I run into asks me if I’ve watched it, and the answer is no. I was rather burned out on Qing fare after BBJX, plus watching Zheng Huan picking between older Emperor Yongzheng played by the awesome thespian Chen Jian Wu and the cutie pie 17th Prince played by Ethan Li isn’t exactly my cup of tea. I’ve caught snippets and this drama is undoubtedly gorgeous to look at and well-acted and directed so its runaway success is totally understandable. I’ve actually liked Sun Li since she played Feng Cheng Cheng opposite Huang Xiaoming in the 2008 remake of the classic HK-drama Shanghai Bund so I’m happy she’s finally broken out in such a big way. A C-actress knows she’s made it if she’s on the cover of both Vogue and Elle China in the same year. Check out the two strikingly different spread below as a baroque queen for Vogue and a water sprite for Elle.