The upcoming original lesbian series, Fragrance of the First Flower by GagaOOLala has successfully wrapped up its production. The series, directed by the new and rising director Angel Teng, centers on the desires and struggles of a married lesbian in pursuing her one true long-lost high school love. Aside from Mathilde Lin and Lyan Cheng as the lead protagonists, the show features a start-studded lineup of established stars and influencers that include the likes of Lee Yi, April Liu, Oscar Chiu, lesbian Youtuber, CACA&BELLA, and the rising Taiwanese internet celebrity, Xie Da-Jun. Together, they are to bring one of the most convincing lesbian series in Taiwan which is set to release on Asia’s biggest queer online streaming platform this August.
Fragrance of the First Flower's first day on set. Director Angel Teng, Executive Producer Jay Lin, and the three protagonists of the series. (Source: GagaOOLala)
With critically acclaimed works such as the Best Original Screenplay winner Bao Bao under her portfolio, Angel Teng's first directorial feature, Fragrance of the First Flower is the first prize winner of last year's GagaOOLala Pitching Sessions (GPS) 2020. The series tells the story of an accidental encounter between a Manda, married woman with a child, and Ting-Ting, her girlfriend from her former high school that brings back to life the spark and emotions they once shared for each other. With the long-lost feelings of love once again revived, does Manda have the courage to leave everything behind her, face her true self, and rewrite the following half of her life with Ting-Ting?
Finding an actress to play the role of a married woman and a teenager between the age of 17 to 33 with a sense of natural maturity was a much harder task than writing the actual script of the series for director Angel Teng. Despite speaking with several different actresses, she just could not find the perfect fit for her lead character, Manda. Fortunately though, through the recommendation of a friend, Teng managed to meet Mathilde Lin. Impressed by Lin's ability to perfectly juggle a hectic life between metropolitan Taipei and rural Hualien, Teng immediately knew the part of Manda was hers.
Mathilde Lin scored her first nomination for the category of Best Actress at Golden Bell Awards for her performance as Zhong Man Qing in the 2012 Taiwanese TV drama series, An Innocent Mistake. More recently, she participated in the 2020 stage play The Last Love Letter. Set between current day Taipei and flashbacks to Manda's high school 16 years ago, Lin was able to seamlessly transition between the differing roles of a fun-spirited, bubbly teenager and the one of a mature and responsible wife and mother with complete ease thereby speeding up the shooting timeframe of the series.
Mathilde Lin (L) and Lyan Cheng (R) in Fragrance of the First Flower. (Source: GagaOOLala)
In comparison, the process of casting an actress for the role Ting-Ting, Manda's high school love interest, was much a much easier task. With a lookout for someone with cute and elegant features, the first name to pop up in the mind of director Teng, after scrolling through a carefully selected list of talents, was actress Lyan Cheng. However, keeping in mind that most of Cheng's previous works were largely delicate and fragile, Teng was concerned if Cheng would not be the right fit for Ting-Ting’s more direct and free-spirited personality. However, upon meeting Cheng in person, Teng was soon to notice her straightforward and open-minded personality, thereby making Cheng the perfect fit for the role of Ting-Ting.
Fragrance of the First Flower marks Cheng's first time playing the role of a lesbian and engaging in an intimate scene with a woman on screen. Likewise, Cheng also overcame other life challenges for the first time on the set of the series. For instance, as someone who couldn't ride a motorcycle in real life, Cheng convinced herself to train and practice riding out of the need of her character in the series.
Lyan Cheng (L) and Mathilde Lin (R) in Fragrance of the First Flower. (Source: GagaOOLala)
The original series also features the famous actor Lee Yi as Manda's husband in the series. Lee Yi is said to have studied and relied on the accounts of some of his personal straight friends who have had lesbian wives to better understand and process the sorts of emotions they went through to help accommodate himself to the role. Elsewhere, the other cast members of the series include April Liu from Qseries, Golden Horse nominee Oscar Chiu, lesbian Youtuber CACA&BELLA, and rising Taiwanese internet celebrity, Xie Da-Jun. Fragrance of the First Flower will be exclusively made available on GagaOOLala, Asia’s largest LGBTQ+ streaming platform this August.