Along with men in fedoras and 1930s cars, the costume drama "Grassroots King" has a feature that nearly every Chinese TV show seems to require these days: a Western character.
Kerry Brogan, an actress from Newton, Mass., who plays the lead character's British girlfriend, is one of dozens of foreign performers on Chinese TV, recruited to appeal to increasingly worldly audiences.
Our audiences are no longer satisfied to watch foreign characters played by Chinese in a wig," said Yan Hao, a producer of "Feng Yu," a spy thriller whose cast includes three Western actors.
Producers who used to hire exchange students and other foreign amateurs to supply a dash of nonspeaking exotic color to TV shows now put out casting calls as far as the United States and Europe for professionals. They appear in productions as diverse as war stories and romances, and some host variety shows.
Brogan, a Mandarin speaker in her 20s, said she has appeared in 40 movies and TV productions. In "Grassroots King," a saga set in the turbulent years before World War II, she has a speaking role as a regularly appearing character.
"There's much greater desire to work together between Westerners and mainland Chinese people," Brogan said. "The market has a greater need."
Yan said Chinese audiences are looking for entertainment that reflects the world they see on the Internet and in China itself as society becomes more cosmopolitan.
Read more at theLos Angeles Times