Presenting the Leading Actresses of Taiwan Entertainment

After I did the post on the leading men of Taiwan entertainment (here), it’s only fitting I devote the same attention to showcasing the leading ladies who spark and sizzle with those guys. To be frank, my personal opinion is that the number of good actresses in Taiwan is significantly lower than the number of good actors.

But I’ve watched a lot of actresses improve from project to project, so that is always a good sign. These ladies may not always wow me consistently, but many of them have put in one good performance that makes me hopeful they can continue to develop their acting talents.

Cheryl Yang

I consider Cheryl currently the best young actress in Taiwan. It took me a long time to check out any of her works, since I found her features too sharp and her style too edgy for my taste. She’s fits the high fashion model profile, and my actress preferences tend to run towards the sweet and cheeky. I finally decided to check out one episode of Zhong Wu Yen (for my fave second male lead Chris Wu), and ended up bowled over by her talent and skill. She’s a consummate actress, who doesn’t just portray a character as much as becomes a character. I went back and watched My Queen afterwards, and ended up completely in love with her performance and charisma. Cheryl’s next project is rumored to be part III of the Happiness trilogy with Blue Lan.

Ariel Lin

Ariel is my favorite Taiwanese actress, and its both for her real life personality and for her acting talent. I was totally annoyed by her performance in It Started With a Kiss, which means she did a great job since the character of Yuan Xiang Qin is the very definition of annoying.

What turned me into a lifelong Ariel fangirl is her impeccable turn as the iconic character of Huang Rong in Legend of the Condor Heroes 2008. It was like the character as I imagined her up and walked out of the classic novel and onto the screen. Ariel has a movie and an upcoming drama scheduled for 2011, plus she released an album and travel book last year. The busier she is, the more treats there are for her fans like me.

Cyndi Wang

I think Cyndi is a middling actress, and one who coasts on her sweet smile and gentle demeanor from drama to drama. She doesn’t annoy me, but I always wish another actress was cast in her role. I don’t think Cyndi is pretty enough to warrant a pass from the acting critics, so I’m rather perplexed at why she’s a leading lady. She alternates between placid and OTT with regularity, creating performances that never veer from her playbook. Up next for Cyndi is the upcoming drama Mei Le, Go with Mike He, where she plays a baker and he played an over-the-hill record producer.

Ella Chen

Confession: I am allergic to Ella. I cannot stand her, and its not because she’s a bad actress, because she’s not! She may be a good actress, but I think she resembles the Pillsbury Doughboy, so I simply can’t watch her onscreen without wanting to eat some crescent rolls. It’s my own personal opinion of her, and I like her great as a member of S.H.E. Ella’s most iconic roles are probably her turn in The Rose, the TW-version of HanaKimi, and her most recent drama Down With Love.

Janine Chang

Before watching Sunny Happiness, I was indifferent to Janine. She was pretty enough in a quiet way, but she never wowed me. She has a tendency to fade into the background, and I attribute it to her getting typecast as serious and brainy characters like in The Hospital or Black & White. After watching SH, my opinion of Janine is now positive, even if I still don’t think she’s a great actress (yet). What I do like is that I’ve actually seen Janine improve from project to project, which signals that she is growing with experience.

Chen Qiao En

Qiao En was my entry point into modern TW-idol dramas, with her Prince Turned Into Frog. I have a soft-spot for her, even if I readily concede that she’s a very limited actress. She’s capable of delivering the goods, but it feels like she has to work at it, and even then it doesn’t really feel natural to watch. She’s been typecast for some time now as the hardworking girl-next-door type, and she’s the one actress I feel like has exhibited zero growth from when she started acting until now. I still have a tendency to check out any drama she stars in, but it’s invariably a disappointment for me.

Sonia Sui

Sonia is the opposite of Qiao En, in the sense that she was godawful in the first performance I saw her in (a small role as the resident bitch in Prince Turned Into Frog), but has then steadily improved and recently shown that she is capable of range and nuance. Sonia’s looks (the stunning model figure and her sharp high fashion features) tend to land her roles as femme fatales or divas, but it’s actually her sweet and low-key performance as a homely girl in P.S. Man that showed me her growth and turned me into having a positive opinion of her. Sonia is currently starring as the titular character in the highly rated The Fierce Wife.

Barbie Hsu

Barbie is pretty much done with the TW-idol drama scene, having successfully transitioned into a movie actress who has starred in a string of A-list movies. But she’s a trailblazer for the TW-idol industry, and her Meteor Garden and Mars is still watched today and touted as many people’s fave TW-drama(s). Now time for another confession: I really dislike Barbie. I can’t stand her acting (morose and plodding), and I think she looks pinchy-faced and depressing. Clearly this is my own issue with her, and her success means that plenty of people like her well enough. I tend to steer far from her projects for my own sanity. Barbie is currently shooting the movie Da Wu Sheng with Wu Zun and Han Geng, and is also a newlywed who has spoken about taking a break from acting to start a family after the movie wraps.

Ivy Chen

I’ve only seen one complete Ivy drama, her star-making turn in Black & White, but she has won me over with that simple performance. She was totally believable as the cute and kick ass Chen Ling, and her chemistry with Zai Zai was sizzling. Ivy hasn’t yet earned a reputation as a heavy-weight or A-list actress, but her next drama Extravagant Challenge should bump her up there if she delivers the goods. I have faith she will, and look forward to watching her in a story I think is interesting and complex.

Amber Kuo

Amber has a very small acting resume, having only two completed dramas under her belt. I’ve only watched her debut performance as the lead in Woody Sambo, and I found my reaction to her rather bipolar. At times she was quite good, and other times I found her trying too hard and too forced. Amber’s second drama, a Taiwanese family period piece, landed her a Best Actress Golden Bell nomination (where she lost to Rainie Yang). I think Amber’s two biggest challenges are that she looks 14 years old and that her voice sounds like a sex doll’s baby-voiced twang. I like Amber, and look forward to watching her grow as an actress. But first she needs to learn to pick better projects, as she is currently starring with Joe Cheng in Channel X, likely the worst drama of the year.

Rainie Yang

Rainie is the current reigning Best Actress Golden Bell winner, and she’s at the top of her game. I’ve found Rainie’s acting annoying and OTT in the past, and I’ve never watched any drama of hers which I’ve liked (including her dramas with Mike He which have garnered them lots of love in fan coupledom). However, I’ve recently decided to check out her underrated ToGetHer with Jiro Wang, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what I’ve seen thus far. Her performance as Momo has been nothing short of revelatory – she disappears into a very distinctive role the same way Ariel did in It Started With a Kiss. I think by the time I finish ToGetHer, I’ll have changed my mind completely about Rainie. I look forward to it.

Ady An

I like Ady theoretically (she’s gorgeous and has a winning personality), but I can’t seem to like her performances or characters in anything I have seen. Doesn’t help that her looks scream “I am a long suffering first wife” and she tends to play long-suffering and abused characters. And the one time she did spoiled and bratty (in Fox Volant of Snowy Mountain), I wanted to push her off the mountain she was so annoying. Ady is a solid actress, with the ability to really convey emotions with her wide-eyes. In general, I’m fine with Ady, but I won’t watch a project just because she’s in it.

My Thoughts:

This post is by no means all-inclusive, and I’ve left out some well-known or up-and-coming actresses like Tiffany Hsu, Bianca Bai, Hebe Tian, Sandrine Pinna, and Joanne Zheng. Compiling this list, I’ve realized that Taiwan has a lot of well-known actresses, but not nearly the number of good thespians needed to improve the industry.

Overall, I think most Taiwanese actresses tend to rely on the cute as a crutch, and don’t push themselves as much to improve. However, I think many of these ladies have the desire and room for improvement, and it’s always a treat for me to have my opinion changed by an actress who unexpectedly wins me over with a startlingly honest performance.


Presenting the Leading Actresses of Taiwan Entertainment — 34 Comments

  1. ah, although i know less than half of the actresses mentioned… interesting post! Gonna go over to read the men’s review ^^

    Any chance you’ll do something similar with K-actors? 🙂

    • im in the same boat with ItadakimasU as i only know few of the actress mentioned.

      maybe its time to check out some of them!

      well, as ItadakimasU said, is it possible to have the korean list?
      just wishing ockoala! ^_^

  2. How about doing a J-list for actor and actresses?
    Apart from Nagareboshi, it is quite difficult to find J-Drama that can really hook me? (Although I am hook with Control now due to Naohito Fujiki). Anyway, I am looking forward for the K-list. (By the way, I like Ariel Lin so much :))

    • OMG! I absolutely agree! I like Jdramas though so I end up watching several throughout the yr but last yr the best story by far was Nagareboshi! I loved it!

  3. you should try watching Raine Yang’s Hi! My Sweetheart. This is really a different side of her. Not her typical cute roles.

    • I agree. I was never able to finish any drama of Raine’s because her roles are usually so annoying. However, her character in Hi! My Sweetheart is pretty amusing to watch.

  4. I agree with you! I can’t stand Barbie Hsu! I thought I was the only one seeing how popular she is.

    I’m not sure what it is about Ady An I feel before this but I think you hit the nail on the head. Only watched her on AC, then I saw the pics of her in Four Women Conflict on Dangermousie and I thought no way I’m going to touch THAT!

    Good read! Thank you ockoala 🙂

  5. I very unladylike snorted with laughter when I read your description for Barbie Hsu. She’s a decent actress, I think, but like you said, her face has always turned me off, it’s so flat. I feel terrible for being superficial, and as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I always have to refrain from making snarky comments when I see people praising Barbie Hsu’s looks, because I know her rabid fangirls (and fanboys) will skin me alive.

    I positively adore Ariel Lin, and am quite willing to force myself to love her in anything that she is in and praise her to the high heavens. That being said, I think I am starting to realize that while she’s undeniably an above-average actress compared to most of her Taiwanese peers, she still has yet to completely knock me over with her acting. She’s been good thus far, now I’m waiting for her to morph into “great”. 🙂

    You are so right that when Taiwanese actresses go for the cutesy, it invariably turns into their crutch. For example, I recently watched Ady An in “Fight and Love with a Terracotta Warrior”, and while I think she’s great as a serious/melodramatic actress, whenever she did cutesy in that drama, I really had to fast-forward through her scenes. It didn’t help that when she widened her already-plenty-big eyes for the patented cutesy look, she looked more alien/bug-eyed than doe-eyed. It was kind of scary, actually.

    Maybe this is why I have started to stray from Taiwanese dramas to Chinese ones instead, as I feel like the former rely way too much on the cutesy formula. Too much Japanese influence, perhaps? It’s also for this reason that I haven’t watched a Japanese drama in a long, long, long time, as their heroines almost invariably drive me up the wall with their dumb, cutesy behavior. I kind of want to yell at them to grow up.

  6. I don’t really know tw drama actress. Only a handful like Barbie,Rainie &Qiao En.
    I think the reason why Qiao En has improved is because she’s been typed cast as the ‘girl next door who works hard’ I’ve seen some of her work besides Prince turn into frog) and it’s all the same so i stopped watching her.
    I like the fact the the male tw actors are trying not to play the same role twice and i think tw actress should do the same.

    A list of top jdrama actress would be cool. There are i few i like and can’t help watching because of who was cast.

  7. Interesting, our tastes in twdrama actresses are pretty much polar opposite – the only two on your list I truly love are Barbie and Ady. But then CQE is an automatic “no way am I watching” for me, so it takes all kinds 🙂

    • Me too! I’m actually way more familiar with the Korean scene than Taiwanese. The only actresses on the list I’m really familiar with are Cyndi Wang (spot-on there) and Rainie Yang (who I found annoying as heck in her early dramas).

  8. I’m a Rainie’s fan. I feel that most taiwanese dramas are like mangas. Since most of them are base on them anyways. Some of them are rather hideous. As in too kid-like. But i was quite drawn to some of them because of cutesy. Rainie’s earlier dramas were not good at all but it reminded me alot of the high school years. I think she recently improved on “hi my sweetheart” but god that series is a joke. Her and Show were great but the story is god awful.

  9. I love, love, love Cheryl. I quite liked her until I saw My Queen and now she’s one of my favourite actresses. Her and Ethan had great chemistry. She always connects with her leading men.

    I’ve liked Ariel since Love Contract and always make a point of watching anything she’s in. I loved her in It Started with a kiss.

    I love Rainie, she’s probably one of my two favourite actresses. There’s something really infectious about her. Everyone should watch ToGetHer. It’s my favourite thing she’s done and it opened my eyes to Jiro Wang who I’d never seen the point of.

    My other favourite actress is Ella. Adore her. The Rose is one of my all-time favourite dramas. But I like her in anything and evrything. Down with love was great!

    I really like Chen Qiao En, more for her charm than anything else. She’s easy to watch and her dramas aren’t particularly taxing. She always has good chemistry with her leading men as well.

    Hmm Barbie… I think I like her dramas/film/co-stars more than I like her. I watch a lot of her stuff because she seems to get good plots or leading men. I’ll decide that sounds good, i’ll watch it and then realise she’s in it, but I find her pretty watchable.

    Someone who I wish would do more dramas is Hebe. I loved her in Bull fighting and Reaching for the Stars. I like her almost as much as I like Ella. Those S.H.E. girls are really watchable (well not so much Selina).

    I’m also liking Annie Chen, who is a fairly recent discovery for me. I loved Happy & Love Forever (the prequel to Sunny Happiness) and I’m currently finding Volleyball Lover quite fun. Prince + Princess 2 was kind of rubbish but I liked her anyway. I find she’s got the usual simple, loud, girl-next-door thing going for her, and it works.

  10. I pretty much agree with most of your comments about the TW actresses. Cheryl Yang was absolutely winning in My Queen, and she was one of the few TW heroines that I’ve fell in love with and rooted for. My Queen is also one of the few dramas where I loved the heroine way more than I loved the hero in the story.

    However, I have to disagree with your views on Ady An. It may be that the dramas that you’ve watched of her are just bad dramas, but I found her great and totally engaging in Chinese Paladin I (which says something b/c I hated her character while playing the original game). While she was a bit weepy in Autumn’s Concerto, her chemistry with Vanness was riveting, regardless of the plot. I haven’t watched the Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber yet, mainly b/c of my reluctance at a Zhang Ji Zhong production, but I’ve heard good things about her performance in it.

    I’ve yet to muster enough courage to watch something with Rainie Yang. Her past works have eternally scarred me with her OTT performances and overly cutezy acting. My heart is shaken with trepidation even at the mention of her dramas. I was very perplexed when she won the Golden Bell award, but it may be quite a while before I can bring myself to watch any of her works again.

  11. Woow … O_O
    Before reading this list I never knew how many twdramas I’ve seen. I’ve seen almost every one of these women in a drama and some even in a movie or two. And I also watch jdramas, kdramas and whatever else I get my hands on. Never realized i was such an addict. 😀
    Anyway. Back on topic:
    1. Cheryl Yang. Loved her in My Queen. Her + Blue Lan = me watching 🙂 (if there are subs available, of course)
    2. Ariel Lin. She is sooo awesome that I can forgive the monumental stupidity of her ISWAK character. And that says enough.
    3. Rainie Yang. I like her even though I usually don’t like her dramas much. Yes, especially those major hits with Mike He. One of my biggest wishes is for her to drop the cute act and play a villain.
    Honorable mention:
    Barbie Hsu. She did “Mars”. Can’t hate her but I’ve never seen her in something I liked after that.

  12. i love joe chen..maybe she is typecasted but what i love in her is that she easily makes you cry..she could play cute but not that corny way…of course my favorite taiwanese drama of all time is FTLY…she looks good to whoever is paired with her but i love her the best with ethan ruan…i love her latest chinese drama, the girl in blue with roy chiu

    • ^^Ditto on Joe Chen’s ability to make the viewer cry. I think she is one of the few Taiwanese actresses who can emote convincingly with her tears. She’s good at what she does but I do realise her range may not be as broad as some other actresses- still, I love the girl 😉

      Thanks for another cool post, ockoala 🙂 Have to say though, a much as I like many of these ladies, call me shallow or what have you, but more often than not, it’s the guys that end up coaxing me in to pick up a Taiwanese series.

      lmao at your Ella allergies!!!!! While I like her, I can see how many people can not fathom the thought her the woman being a viable romantic lead. I guess it’s just refreshing to see someone on the Taiwanese scene who, looks-wise, is not a cookie-cutter leading actress.

      I’m one who is immune to Ariel’s charms- okay, okay, so maybe it’s the fact that she’s gotten way to close to Joe Cheng far too many times that has turned me off from her, lol. No seriously, as v mentioned, I think Ariel is a decent actress but she’s never really wowed me either.

      The one to watch for me is definitely Janine Chang, I think she has this timeless grace and elegance about her- she definitely has that “X-factor.”

      Er… just curious no one has mentioned Angela Zhang (although I do kinda understand, lol. Sorry -___-; *loves on Dolphin Bay*)

      • Hi jicks!

        Been wanting to respond to your comment on the TW actors post, but sadly been tied up all weekend. Just wanted to reply quickly about not mentioning Angela Zhang. I’ve only seen her in Romantic Princess and was not impressed. However, she’s not the worst amongst her brethren of lady actors. But I tend to lump her as a singer more than an actress. She hasn’t done a drama since 2007, so I’m not sure she’s quite a leading lady anymore.

        Butbutbut, I am currently listening to one of her new songs 24/7. It just happens to be the ending theme for Sunny Happiness, which is my current crack.

  13. I’m almost in sync with ur musings on the TW leading ladies, Twinnie. I love Janine more than you, that’s about it!

    And yes Rainie as Momo is a revelation and still the most memorable thing by a long shot fr drama. She is at the bottom of the barrel for me but after I finished ToGetHer couple months ago, if I have time I’ll check out everything I refused to watch because of her (list is long) and to guilttrip how I judged her wrongly. It’s almost impossible for me to fathom she can top Momo with her Golden Bell win. I’m checking that out next I need to know!

  14. The only Rainie Yang drama that I haven’t seen yet is ToGetHer. After reading some of the comments here that her acting is good there, I will try watching it now.

    And just when I thought I was the only who hate Ella. (No offense. Peace.)

    Is Rainie the top actress in Taiwan now? It’s because I can see that she has a lot of endorsements, records album every year and has a TV series every year. Just wonderin’.

  15. Re Angela Zhang,
    You’re right, it has been yonkers since her last drama! Romantic Princess was painful but I pulled through it, mainly for Calvin who I thought as just super trendy suave in the series (bar the minor stretch when he had to earn his own living and went a little weird, lol) and also for, ah, Wu Zun’s topless moments xPP

    Btw, no worries on not getting around to making instant replies- I know exactly how you feel! *shakes fist at “real life stuff”* If only we could all blog for a living… :)))

  16. My favorite is Qiao En. She’s my actually my first girl crush actress. She is actually quite a good actress and very expressive. And yes, she is one of the best crier I’ve seen in dramas. But I also think that her acting seems to stagnant. I feels she has some habits in acting that she needs to break, you can say it’s her trademark or something but I feel it prevents her growth. She is active now in C dramas and hopefully honing her skills. I hope that next time she returns to Taiwan, we can see her growth as an actress.

    Ady An, I like her in the first Chinese Paladin drama. Or rather I like her character. But like you I can’t seem to get into her, even though there are many reasons to like her. I can’t say why either.

  17. Ivy Chen (Asia’s Angelina Jolie 3 feet less I can forsee, shifting from cutie to sweetie) has a lot of thing going hoping she won’t get box into the little miss helpless heroin like Ranie Yang….I’m a tough chick I love her in Black and White…..I like Ariel Lin her face heals a broken heart very sweet and innocent I would love to see the strong side of her character in a drama common T-drama people think on your feet give her a new challenge, I wanna see her snotty….Ch en Qiao En I love this girl very cute she did a martial art drama with Dao Ming I forgot the title….But man you have got to grow up!!!! Barbie love her face but not her acting…..

  18. If ockoala is allergic to Ella Chen, I too feel the same way about Janine Chang. But please note that I’m one of those people who act and think based only on the characters they’ve played. Usually, my annoyance to the character extends to the actor.

    As in Janine’s case, she got my ire in The White Tower/The Hospital. Because no one, and I mean NO ONE breaks Jerry Yan’s heart to a million pieces and expects to receive an ounce of love from me. Seriously, girl, you’re way too much of a –tch in that show. Then she annoyed me to the maximum level in Honey and Clover I almost forgot I was watching it because of my beloved Joe Cheng.

    Ady An is the recent addition to my “list.” I finished Autumn’s Concerto just last month and her character’s excessive lying turned me off so much. And her prolonged staring that does nothing but make me ask time and again, “Did she forget her lines?”

    Those two Taiwanese actresses joined three Korean actresses (alright, characters, if you say so) in my Dramaland Penitentiary. They should be having a hell of a lovely time together with Koo Hye-Sun (or is Goo Hye-Sun?) of Boys Before Flowers, Lee Ji-Ah of Beethoven Virus and Lee Na-Young of Ireland.

    Their crime? They piss me off so much I want them all dead at the final episode of their respective dramas.

    Just my thoughts–twisted, twisted thoughts. =)

  19. SH is currently making me happy at the moment, which lead me to become curious about the main players in Taiwanese dramas as the TW entertainment scene is the one that I’m least familiar with.
    Thanks for this post, ockoala!

  20. My top list actresses are the first two in your list as well. Their performance are strong. Raine Yang, I can never like her, her acting is annoying, I couldnt follow any of her dramas except Devil besides you.
    Janine Chang has improved a lot, her past work didn’t leave much impression on me. It felt like she faded at the back in the drama.
    BaRbie Hsu, haiz I can’t like her either:) I don’t feel any happiness from her face or maybe her characters in dramas were too serious and depressed.
    I have the similar thinking as u 🙂

  21. i really like Rainie yang n had seen all of her drama like
    1.devil besides u
    2.why why love
    3.miss no good
    5.hi my sweet heart
    6.sunshine angel
    7.drunken to love
    well for me the best drama are hi my sweet heart n drunken to love u. i really like her n cant say with any words again . just one :’I LOVE HER,SHE IS MY INSPIRATION”

  22. It’s common knowledge that Taiwan’s 3 most bankable actresses are (not necessarily in this order) Lin Chi-ling, Shu Qi, and Ruby Lin Hsin-ju, so I don’t know how this list could be taken seriously.

  23. I consider myself an avid fan of Taiwanese dramas, so thanks for posting this! Other Taiwanese actresses that were no included in your list but good in acting, too: Tammy Chen, Penny Lin, Angela Zhang,…and a whole lot more!!! 🙂

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