Defense Ministry unveils cast for military drama

By Christine Chou, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Ministry of National Defense (MND, 國防部) announced Sunday the lead actors and actresses for the ministry-produced Taiwanese drama based on the smash-hit Korean television series “Descendants of the Sun,” according to local media. Last month, the ministry announced plans to produce the 16-episode series titled “The Best Choice” (最好的選擇) on a tight NT$12.8 million (US$420,000) budget, helmed by award-winning director Liang Hsiu-shen (梁修身).

The crew is expected to start a five-day training Monday and begin filming on April 28, said Liang. Local actor Allen Chen (陳禕倫), known for his role in the drama “Close Your Eyes Before It’s Dark” (天黑請閉眼), will play the male lead. The ministry has also tapped Phoebe Yuan (袁艾菲) to play the main actress. “I like working with emerging actors,” said Liang. “Allen Chen was the best-prepared among the nearly 30 actors we’ve auditioned. He knows how to fight on the spot, and he has honor and integrity. Allen’s also the easiest on the eyes.” The drama surrounds the story of a captain of a Taiwanese Special Forces Unit (Allen Chen) and a music teacher (Phoebe Yuan).

Responding to previous criticism that the budget was far too small to create anything that could compete with its South Korean counterpart, Liang said “(‘Descendants of the Sun’) was made in Korea, and ours is based in Taiwan. You can judge it once you watch it. It will feature all the most advanced weapons our country’s military possesses.” Taiwan’s Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) previously made headlines for his tongue-in-cheek claim that he was more handsome than “Descendants of the Sun” star Song Joong Ki in his younger days — the statement was immediately followed by photos with Feng’s face cropped onto the Korean drama’s promotional posters going viral. According to the crew, Feng will visit the cast during filming, but will not be making an appearance in “The Best Choice.”