Kenny Lin, Chen Xiao, and Shawn Dou Rise to China’s A-List

2017 was a very fruitful year for China’s rising actors Kenny Lin Gengxin (林更新), Chen Xiao (陈晓), and Shawn Dou (窦骁), all who have snagged important roles in critically successful dramas that would guarantee them a bright future ahead.

In 2017, both Kenny and Shawn headlined the uber-successful Princess Agents <楚乔传> alongside Zanilia Zhao Liying(赵丽颖)—the historical action drama went on to become the highest-rated television drama of the year, and is the first Chinese television drama to surpass 40 billion clicks during its run. Chen Xiao, on the other, starred opposite Sun Li (孙俪) in the popular Nothing Cold Can Stay <那年花开月正圆>, which brought his popularity up another notch.

Kenny Lin Takes Things Slow

Much like his Princess Agents costar, Kenny’s debut work was a high-profile release. Portraying the Fourteenth Prince in the cultural hit Scarlet Heart <步步惊心>, Kenny caught the attention of Hong Kong producers such as Tsui Hark (徐克) and Stephen Chow (周星馳), who have casted him in blockbuster films such as Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon <狄仁傑之神都龍王> and Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back <西遊伏妖篇>. Despite having a successful film career and winning rookie acting awards, Kenny failed to find a break in his popularity.

With the success of Princess Agents, however, Kenny is getting back into the radar of producers, and rumors are saying that Tsui Hark is eying Kenny to portray Yang Guo in his film version of Return of the Condor Heroes <神鵰俠侶>. Fans are also trying to round up support for Kenny to be considered for a role in Disney’s live-action Mulan, which will be starring Crystal Liu Yifei (刘亦菲).

According to reports, Kenny’s pay was increased to 80 million yuan per drama after appearing in Princess Agents. But with Kenny’s lax attitude towards work, being China’s highest-paid actor doesn’t seem to be his goal. Kenny has said in interviews that he refuses to sacrifice his private life for work, and insists on doing only about one to two acting jobs per year. Nonetheless, Kenny still managed to make it to the 43rd spot in 2017’s Forbes China Celebrity List.

Shawn Dou Finds Success in TV

Like Kenny, Shawn also had a high-profile debut, appearing for the first time in Zhang Yimou’s (张艺谋) Under the Hawthorne Tree <山楂树之恋>. While his costar Zhou Dongyu (周冬雨) went on to become an award-winning actress, Shawn’s own career stagnated. It was Princess Agents, his first television drama, that had put him back on the spotlight.

Shawn’s role in Princess Agents, Yan Xun, was not an easy character to portray. He toys around two extremes, and Yan Xun eventually turns into a villainous character. Nonetheless, the role rounded up a huge fan base, making Shawn one of the most popular rising stars of 2017. Shawn is currently starring in Tribes and Empires: Storm of Prophecy <海上牧云记> and will soon appear in Tears in Heaven <海上繁花>.

Chen Xiao Breaks Out of Idol Realm

Chen Xiao, who made his debut through Yu Zheng (于正) dramas, was best known for starring in the controversial The Romance of the Condor Heroes <神雕侠侣> and being Michelle Chen’s (陳妍希) husband until he snagged a leading role Nothing Gold Can Stay, starring opposite “Queen of Television” Sun Li. Breaking out of the shadows of idol dramas, Chen Xiao’s pay reportedly increased to 50 million yuan per drama after the broadcast of Nothing Cold Can Stay.

There was a rumor that Chen Xiao planned on retiring from showbiz to take care of his wife and son, but the simple response “always walking forward” quickly ended those speculations.


This article is written by Addy for

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  1. Please please please, not another ROCH remake! It’s been remade to death in the past decade!!!

    I’m very surprised by Kenny’s attitude towards acting. Normally, once an actor hit’s that break in popularity, you’ll start seeing him/her everywhere. He was very promising in BBJX. Thought he could’ve been better as Yuwen Yue in Princess Agents (so handsome though!!!). Saw Shawn Dou for the first time in Princess Agents and really liked him there. His character was also really interesting.

  2. Kenny basically just bathed in Zhao Liying’s popularity because his role was not interesting nor did it require any action. When he played 14th prince that was more interesting and he did portrayed good acting skills in there. He is very skillful in acting, but Princess Agent’s story did not give him that chance. It was just Zhai Liying’s fans that pair him up and love ship him with her that made him popular. Shawn’s character was not the best thing ever but it was the only and only interesting thing that ever happened in Princess Agents, it was also, mostly thanks to Zhao Liying’s fans again as well. But luckily he starred in Storm of Prophecy too, and that led him to be even more successful. Good for him. Chen Xiao who I don’t know if I really like his personality in real life because of rumors saying he is short tempered, he is far much more professional in acting as well as lucky (or good) in choosing good roles. ROCH was the only unfortunate project he took. But he’d played a good variety of characters successfully, he’s not going to surprise me anymore with how good his skills are. Unless he can go beyond what he’d accomplished.

  3. @ Addy:


    Chen Xiao & Michelle Chen have a son, not a daughter. Shawn Dou is my favorite here then Chen Xiao, last one is LGX.

  4. I have grown to quite like Shawn Dou in the past year. He seems to be taking on a variety of roles (villians and heroes) and coping well with it. And he sometimes breaks out in English when mucking around on set which I find cute as well.

    Kenny, I quite like as well. I think he is accepting more film jobs than the occasional series to boost his popularity. Tsui Hark seems to like using him a lot.

    Chen Xiao, his acting has definitely improved after leaving Yu Ma, but I find his acting sometimes a hit or miss. Maybe becoming a dad has helped, Maybe I need to watch more of his new works.

    The article has not mentioned this actor, but I really like Huang Xuan who is very consistent in his acting and I hope he has great things planned for him as well.

  5. Kenny really know how to choose his co-stars. I still remember he talked about how when he heard that the female lead is ZLY, he said yes automatically. He was famous, but his movies and dramas never gave him this much of fame. It’s the first time I saw him everywhere when he starred in PA.

    Shawn is also lucky. If he didn’t take that role, it would be a regretted decision. But well, when you have super famous friend like ZLY and she personally asked you to take a role like that, who wouldn’t take it. Hopefully, they will maintain their star status and have great dramas for us to watch.

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