The streaming gold standard for the United States is Netflix. The Chinese counterpart for this is iQIYI, where viewers from all walks of life access the same variety of content. That comparison is even more appropriate when considering that Netflix’s 150 million subscribers is almost equal to iQiyi’s more than 130 million subscribers. One of the most successful and beloved Rom-Com series on iQIYI is My Assassin Girlfriend, literally with billions of views and a 7.8 out of 10 ratings on the streaming service. In the same way that the quirky comedy The Big Bang Theory changed perceptions in the U.S. and became a fan favorite and magnet for advertisers, this unexpected Chinese Rom-Com with Sci-Fi elements attracted throngs of subscribers to iQIYI. The title indicates what you suspect; a series like this thrives on the streaming platform in an era when corporate executive might previously have balked at the title alone. Producer Serena Ziqun Lin enjoyed every part of manifesting a show like this which breaks so many rules in the pursuit of creating something truly original and genre bending. Millions of fans, both in China and outside the country have established the excellence and novelty of this story about characters from historic China time-travelling to modern day. My Assassin Girlfriend is the TV iteration of that unexpected combination of foods that you would never put together and yet somehow cannot seem to stop thinking about after having tasted it. Producer Lin remarks, “We are really going for it on the show. The sets and costumes are lavish, the action is intense, and the comedic timing is precise. We have a really large crew to make this happen. The coordination and precision needed to pull it all off while staying within budget and on schedule is incredibly demanding but the look of cadence of it is so worth it. I’m so happy that the viewers have fallen in love with our series.”
My Assassin Girlfriend is a bold production in that it combines ancient China with the modern day, including the lavish looks of both. Though the budget for the show was substantial, attaining the proper tone required the most proficient of producers. Fans love the show for its ability to authentically vacillate from martial arts action to romantic desire and desperation. Much of the allure of the series is that it seems fully committed regardless of the tone being presented from scene to scene and timeline to timeline. Serena explains, “We wanted to root both the ancient timeline and modern one in the real world but also have fun with it. It’s easy to lose yourself in the intrigue and the romance but if you pay close attention, you’ll find some Easter eggs of things that shouldn’t be happening or things that the characters shouldn’t know. This is by design and I think it’s something that the really excited fans.” This technique is established in the very first episode when the the King of Sumeru is riding a bicycle with a mechanism that attempts to generate electricity, something which did not exist in ancient China. The situation implies that the King has some knowledge of the future and relates to the audience that they should not assume they know exactly what is happening. This approach likely led to multiple viewings of each episode of My Assassin Girlfriend as it’s easy to become entranced with the beautiful and graceful fight choreography sequences. When the show switches to a modern timeline, the emotional tone is rooted in high finance and glamour, even while danger and romance have an ethereal presence. Using two drastically different directing styles (and directors) made this possible. Serena concedes that there were moments of contention between the directors, requiring her vigilance as a liaison, but the results were more than worth any discourse. She imparts, “Being a producer involves so many elements but the common thread is people. You have to know how to work with so many different departments and types of people but the most important part is knowing how to get the best out of them. Knowing that our show is not only one of the most popular on iQIYI in China but actually one of the most popular worldwide on the service, that lets me know that the way we went about creating this very original show was the ideal approach. Being a producer, audience’s positive reaction is always the most rewarding part for me.”
Serena Ziqun Lin’s leadership as a producer set the tone for My Assassin Girlfriend; that tone is a willingness to try something unusual while demanding the best from yourself. The sets, the costumes, the writing, the performances, everything about this series displays a commitment to being creative at the highest level of skill. Uniqueness is its own reward and it resonates loudly. The fans of My Assassin Girlfriend have proven that to be true.