Zhu Yilong spent the first two days of As Flowers Fade trying to get over the fact that he was the shortest of the male cast. Again. He Rondong (he was in a TV show with He Rondong! His life could be so awesome sometimes!) was only slightly taller than him, but Yu Xiaotong was at least ten centimetres taller. Ten. Centimetres. He was a nice kid, but Zhu Yilong wasn’t a fan of tilting his head so far back that his neck hurt. The only person he would deign to do that for was Peng Guanying, and that was only because Guanying was his best friend who made sure he actually had clothes to wear, went on holidays with him and would help him bury a body if it ever came to that. Besides, Guanying knew his height issues and wouldn’t poke at them. Mostly. Though really, it wasn't an issue ‘issue’ – it was just frustrating. He wasn’t short, but fate seemed to insist that every show he starred in would leave him looking up at his taller male co-stars.
At least he was in this show with Zhang Xinyu, a familiar face in this sea of new faces and a person who knew his people issues right from the start.
Zhang Xinyu ran up to him on the third day of filming, happy and excited, “Long-ge!! Did you see Yu Xiaotong?! He’s a giant!”
Zhu Yiling smiled brightly back.
Getting the call to come in for another audition for Shen Wei was a surprise. His team had told him that the production crew had had someone else in mind, but apparently, the man in question had pulled out at the last moment. The current rumour was that the actor had gotten cold feet at the possibility of starring in and being remembered as the guy from that BL drama, even when the BL drama has been stripped of the gay and had huge financial backing from Letv.
Zhu Yilong didn't have any second thoughts. He had read the script and then had read the novel. He knew that he wanted the part of Shen Wei more than anything else, he knew Shen Wei like he knew himself, he knew Shen Wei's dreams, his fears and his all consuming love for Zhao Yunlan. He was certain he could play Shen Wei better than anyone else. The BL aspect of it had never been a concern.
The other male lead was an actor called Bai Yu. Zhu Yilong had heard of him, an up and coming actor who was actually more about acting than the celebrity lifestyle – the sort of actor Zhu Yilong preferred to work with.
The first day of their table read, Zhu Yilong knew Bai Yu and him were going to be great together. They knew their characters and their relationship to one another. Zhu Yilong could feel the energy running beneath his skin; he had found somebody with similar sensibilities to him when it came to acting.
After the table read, Bai Yu walked over to him, a giant grin on his face, “Hey! Friend, this is going to be great!”
Zhu Yilong found himself grinning back hopelessly (something that would happen over and over again in the presence of Bai Yu). He was so happy he could almost ignore the fact that Bai Yu was taller than him.
He arrived at the costume fitting for Dreamlike Life exhausted but fairly relaxed, Shen Wei and Ye Zun finally laid to rest.
Dreamlike’s script was something alright, but this was an idol drama and he had worked his ass off to get the lead role. Flowers Fade hadn’t done well, and he needed to keep working. He had lost a lot of weight, a steady decline during Guardian, and hadn’t had any time to gain it back. The lady fitting him made a sound that could either be one of annoyance or a throat issue. Zhu Yilong couldn't decide. His costumes were looser on him now, but with some simple modifications, they were ready. The costumes were mostly comfortable and functional, unlike Shen Wei’s extremely well tailored pants and too-tight dress shirts.
He hadn't cut his hair since wrapping up on Guardian; Luo Fusheng was a little lord, with hair that was just a bit too long, in a household that loved him. Everything was great: the jackets settled well over his shoulders, the pants were easy to move in, and the boots were probably the most comfortable shoes he had worn on a shoot in a while. Then the head of the costumes department looked at the fit of the qipao on him.
He looked at himself in the mirror; his shoulders weren’t carrying the qipao right, and it appeared to sag around him.
“Hmm. This won't do.”
So, padding. Padding for his shoulders, biceps and chest. To “carry the qipao”, said the costumes lady with a smile.
What she meant, was padding to make his narrow shoulders wider and his chest fuller.
Zhu Yilong blinked.
Getting Minglan was amazing. Sure, it was billed as a second male lead role, but really, it was a minor one but it was produced by Daylight, the company with a string of financially and critically successful television dramas to its name, which had made Nirvana in Fire; a company that created screen stars. He was going to be in a Daylight production!
And honestly, after Dreamlike Life, he needed something like this.
On his first day of filming, Zhu Yilong realised two things: Zhao Liying was a tiny, terrifying ball of competence and twisted humour, and the Daylight crew expected excellence from every single person, actor and staff alike.
If the script wasn’t working, the director was perfectly willing to sit down with the actors and talk through a scene. Dialogue was being rewritten constantly to better fit a scenario, the costumes and sets were incredibly beautiful and detailed, and best of all, the food on set was all edible.
Actual food was freshly prepared for each scene as opposed to dishes left to go cold and off on a table under harsh lights, delicious food that he might have overindulged in, based on his constant burping on set and the weight he was finally starting to regain.
Zhu Yilong was in heaven, surrounded by a sea of passionate professionals and script idiots, people who lived and breathed scripts.
The only dark spot in this beautiful experience was the fact that his damn horse was definitely smaller.
My True Friend walked the fine line between idol and modern life drama. Zhu Yilong wasn't the lead; he just needed to do his job to the best of his ability. And well, Wu Xie was next. But he couldn't talk about that, shouldn't even think about it until filming for My True Friend was done.
Angelababy tried hard, she really did, but it was undeniable that some people just shouldn't act. However, he could admire her efforts and the fact that she would stay as late as necessary to complete a scene. She was always professional and friendly, though Zhu Yilong did sometimes think her eyes were just a bit too large to be human. Maybe aliens really had come down to earth and bred with humans thousand of years ago. Maybe he needed more coffee.
Deng Lun was friendly enough, younger than Zhu Yilong but professional and serious about acting. He was also taller than Zhu Yilong, and his skin was ridiculously smooth and white. The two of them talked about working with Daylight and shared commiserating looks any time one of them had to act opposite Angelababy. At least Zhu Yilong didn't have to wear shoe lifts again like he had during Guardian.
Then Guardian started airing.
His Weibo followers started growing, and Guanying sent him messages blaming him for being the reason he was watching a fucking BL drama. This was then followed by messages about how they should have starred in a BL drama together first, but now it was too late.
Zhu Yilong kept working. It wasn't the first time he had gotten new followers after a show he was in aired, and messages from Guanying were nothing new. Follower numbers would stall, and Guanying would stop texting him incessantly once the show’s ratings plateaued.
Except his Weibo followers didn't stop growing, and Guanying started texting him even more. Scattered among Guanying’s complaints and jokes about his narrow shoulders and large head were actual compliments about his acting, and a single text that Zhu Yilong didn't know what to do with.
Mei Mei: This is your breakout role. If the momentum keeps up, you’re going to be a star next year. Good work, Jie Jie.
And then his company CEO called him to talk about product endorsements and a new team. It was at that point that Zhu Yilong called his manager. Because what the hell.
In between the insanity of filming My True Friend (fans mobbing their film locations), doing the press promos for Guardian (fans flooding them with support, and Bai Yu always by him and making sure he didn't have a meltdown that would end in tears), accepting endorsement deals (endorsement deals!), and having some very pointed conversations with his company (he wasn't going to lose the people he trusted the most), Zhu Yilong realised he now had choices.
Scripts were being sent directly to him, and while 80% of them were still bad, the other 20% were the kind of scripts he would have given an arm and a leg for before this.
Life was great, except perhaps for the whole lack of time to sleep, eat or socialise like a normal human being. But who needed those things when he now had scripts that were actually good! Scripts from amazing production companies!
He was in heaven.
When the news broke about his casting as Wu Xie, the Internet went crazy. He decided not to check Weibo. He didn’t need that added level of stress, especially when he realised that he didn’t have time to read twelve novels’ worth of back story for Wu Xie, what with all the flying and countless interviews he was now doing; basically, he was trusting his team to point him in the right direction.
Life was insane, but great. And he wanted to enjoy every second of it.
Then Guanying sent him a DM.
Mei Mei: Oh hey, congrats on Wu Xie. But dude, looks like you’re going to be the shortest one again. [Laughing emoji]
Zhu Yilong decided he was taking Guanying down the next time they gamed together.
--- The End ---