SINGAPORE - Local drama My Star Bride may have finished airing in Singapore months ago, but clips related to the series recently broke the 100-million-views threshold on short video app Douyin in China.
The Mediacorp series, which is available on meWatch, has garnered an impressive 8.4 rating on China's review site Douban, based on 6,000 reviews.
Many netizens praise the chemistry of its two leads, Xu Bin and Chantalle Ng.
Even Xu's wife, Ms Evelyn Wang Yifei, has gushed over the on-screen pairing.
The 32-year-old actor, who has two children with Ms Wang, tells The Straits Times: "My wife thinks we are very sweet in the series. She would smile watching us and get very into the story. When I say very sweet things to Chantalle's character, she would ask me, 'Why don't you say these things to me in real life?'"
He plays lawyer Zhong Shijie, who falls into depression after an accident leads to him having to use a wheelchair. He meets Ng's character, a Vietnamese woman named Mai Phuong Thao or Mei Fangcao, who comes to Singapore to track down her long-lost sister.
They enter into a sham marriage so Fangcao can stay in Singapore legally, but end up falling in love.
Fans have made numerous videos inspired by the drama and uploaded them to Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. Some have even counted the number of times Fangcao calls Shijie "ge ge" (older brother) in the series.
Ng, 26, says in the same interview that she initially did not believe the series was a hit in China.
"When I was told it was getting some attention in China, I didn't really understand the scale of it. It was only after I downloaded Douyin that I realised how it was really trending," she says.
Her mother, veteran actress Lin Meijiao, who plays her mother-in-law in the series, was also unconvinced at first, and caught on to the show's popularity in China only when its producer posted on Instagram about the Chinese fans.
Ng says: "She told me to help her set up Douyin so she could read the comments and asked how to find the videos of My Star Bride."
China-born Xu, who came to Singapore at the age of 11, adds: "We didn't really have any publicity push in China at all, so it was really word of mouth that made it so popular."
It was the first time he and Ng, who had previously appeared together in series such as the long-running Old Is Gold (2019), have played romantic interests.
"We really match well. I don't think we even realised the pairing would work as well as it did until the drama came out," Xu says.
On what they learnt about each other during their partnership, he points out: "Chantalle is very good at crying. She's like a faucet - her tears just roll. I'm very impressed."
Ng chimes in: "It's not that I'm very good at crying. I think Xu Bin created a very safe environment on set that made me feel very comfortable to play a vulnerable Fangcao who relies so much on him in the drama. In a similar way, I depended a lot on him during filming too."
She adds that her co-star is very different in real life. "He's more bubbly than me. If you see our NG (no good) scenes, he was the one bursting into laughter and being very expressive."
To thank fans in China for their support, the two stars came together on their own accord for a black-and-white photo shoot, which they shared on their social media accounts, including Weibo.
Ng, who created her Weibo account only this year after fans took note of My Star Bride, and Xu, who says he has neglected his account until recently, have around 18,000 followers each.
While further work opportunities in China have not been firmed up, both stars are open to the possibility.
But fans who wish to see them work together again do not have to wait long. The pair will put in a guest appearance in a two-episode arc for the upcoming series The Heartland Hero, which stars Elvin Ng.
"This time, I'm the more pitiful one who woos her," Xu says.
Ng says with a laugh: "Yes, I will be the one with the upper hand."
While details are still scant, they reveal that there is something in the works that will reunite them on screen, possibly as a couple.
Ng says: "Let's just say it's something that will make the fans very happy."
My Star Bride is available on meWatch.