Story of Yanxi Palace: Charmaine Sheh, the Most Beloved Villain

“Even her fingers are acting” was the comment that popped into discussion boards when netizens watched Charmaine Sheh’s (佘詩曼) performance in the Chinese period drama Story of Yanxi Palace <延禧攻略>, which is currently airing on Hong Kong’s TVB.

The Qing Dynasty series, produced by Yu Zheng (于正), is the hottest TV show in China this summer season. Starring Wu Jinyan (吳謹言) and Charmaine Sheh, Story of Yanxi Palace tells the story of a seamstress’s journey through the forbidden palace, and how a seemingly “average” consort rises to power.

Charmaine, who plays Consort Xian, isn’t the drama’s central character, but she is definitely the star of the show. Calculative and chilling, Charmaine doesn’t need heavy makeup or dramatic background music to demonstrate the extent of her character’s villainry.

Impressed with her performance, “Charmaine’s acting” has become a trending topic, with numerous netizens dropping comments such as “even her fingers are acting” and “(university) professor-level acting.” On the other hand, there are also netizens who believe that Charmaine’s exceptional performance in Story of Yanxi Palace is benefited by her talented costars—and if Charmaine ever returns to TVB, she would probably end up being on her own.


This article is written by Addy for

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  1. Everyone did well, everyone was lively and convincingly themselves. From the main lead to the villains, and even maids, all were nicely written and well developed. Ming Yu wasn’t just a simple supporting role doing nothing except be a deadly sacrificial loyal slave for the main lead, she had development. Er Qing went through changes as well. The queen had no changes but she is so sweet, which is hard to play, most people sucks so badly at trying to act calm and nice but Qin Lan was really exceptional. Deserves lots of praises for sure.

  2. Charmaine’s performance is just nice…but not especially amazing. It’s just her usual acting to me, except that she is playing the villain here. I’m neither particularly impressed with her performance…nor am i liking her character in this show.

    Instead, i think Qin Lan did a great job as a kind and demure empress. She looks elegant and is definitely a perfect cast for her role. Not many can act genuinely kind as she did. Some actors are so fake in acting a kind character like that. Qin Lan definitely deserves more praises for her outstanding performance.

  3. Idunno if it’s because her voice is dubbed in both versions, but her character isn’t thaaat outstanding.
    On the other hand, the cinematography of this drama is amazing!

    1. @bubbles23 I actually thought Succession War earlier scenes had better more awesome scenery. Then I wonder how come the king can go in and out of palace so often just to chat at great wall or some mountain view with river.

  4. Whyyyyyy I wrote a long comment and it is gone!!! Whyyyyyyy

    In summary, loving Yanxi because I like women fighting and seeing Yingluo winning is very fun. Charmaine at this point very few scenes but even those few scenes she was lacking. She could have done more if she was a better actress but this is her maximum. THose comments are OTT. I find those scenes where she’s supposed to be conflicted, sad, angry, hurtful but none there. She just looked confused annoyed and slightly pissed. From the start her smile was forced, fake so I couldn’t see the difference. But I reserve my comments. Maybe 10 episodes in she really could let her fingers act evil etc. Love Qin Lan as the empress. She was so beautiful, dancing etc. I don’t understand why everyone is worried about her as against Consort Gao in the emperor’s heart. It is obvious who the emperor loves.

    Compare this to Ruyi. Oh dear… if not for Vivian Wu, it would be disastrous because Zhou Xun is literally killing the series, not in a good way. She can’t emote not because she is a bad actress or lacking like Charmaine but she can’t emote because her puffy face looks botoxed. Her voice is such a terrible voice, it feels emotionless as toneless. Very dreary performance, like she’s sleepwalking or in daze. I want Sun Li!!!

    1. @funnlim Agree to me Sun Li is queen of historical shows. Many others are okay but they only look good with so so acting which sucks because some shows could’ve been great but it’s either ruined by bad acting or plot. Would love to see Sun Li in another historical show again.

  5. There are some scenes in the last 20 episodes where Charmaine does exceptionally well. Be patient.

  6. I think Qin Lan definitely had the tougher job since nice characters usually come off as boring, but she maintained the audience’s interest and sympathy the entire time. I think Charmaine Sheh performed adequately as well; I’m already on the 60th episode (watching the Chinese dubbed version, not TVB’s) and I don’t think she’s that exceptional. Unless she improves a lot in the last 10 episodes? I actually think the Chinese dub helped her because sometimes the voice actor’s performance conveyed her character’s emotions better than her facial expressions do. I have really enjoyed the show so far; I especially like how they took time developing the Qianlong and Yinluo’s relationship over the years. The two actors work so well with each other that I really feel their chemistry and every time they’re apart because of an argument or misunderstanding, I anxiously wait for them to make up with each other and be together again. They really sell the story. The supporting actors are not bad either, even though a few of them tend to overact. Pretty good show overall. I did try one of the Cantonese dubbed episodes on TVB and woof, the voice acting is horrible as usual. Where do they find these awful voice actors? Their voices rarely fit the characters…it’s worse when they perform for the child characters cuz you can always clearly tell it’s an adult pretending to be a child. Very cringey.

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