Legendary Entertainment has closed a deal to develop Tencent Comics’ popular webcomic “I’m a Killer Maid” into a TV series for the international market, marking a rare example of Chinese IP being developed for an audience outside China.
The comic is one of the Chinese platform’s more popular titles, with a total of 1.66 billion views worldwide so far. The series will be produced by Tencent Pictures, with CEO and Tencent Group vice president Edward Cheng Wu on board as executive producer. Wenxin She will oversee and produce the project for Tencent Pictures, while former Legendary creative executive Vasco Xu will serve as an independent producer.
The original IP is a “‘Mary Poppins’ turned ‘John Wick’” adventure with shades of “Freaky Friday” and “Killing Eve.” After retiring from the assassin group “Mountain Sea,” lead character Bacai tries to live a normal life as a housemaid for a shy, nerdy comic book writer who rarely leaves his house, only to accidentally swap bodies with her boss.
The gambit leads the show to touch on topics of “gender identity and expression, male/female dynamics and genre deconstruction,” Legendary said, although a previous 64-minute, straight-to-streaming 2017 adaptation from Tencent and iQiyi that was directed at Chinese viewers was a bit less “woke.”
The idea now is to round out a cast led by a strong Asian female lead with other diverse supporting characters who will appeal to a global audience, and treat LGBTQ themes with the greater care suitable to Western viewers. This would include, for example, re-thinking moments of jokey transvestism into a more nuanced transgendered character, a source close to the production told Variety.
Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group acquired Legendary Entertainment in 2016. The company’s television division has a roster that now includes the reboot of the classic family adventure series “Lost in Space” for Netflix; “Carnival Row,” a fantasy noir drama starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne, for Amazon; and “Pacific Rim,” an original anime series expanding the story of the first two live action movies, for Netflix.
Upcoming new fare includes “Dune: The Sisterhood” for HBO Max; “Paper Girls,” based on Brian K. Vaughan’s best-selling graphic novel; “Lightyears,” a one-hour drama series for Amazon; and “Debris,” a sci-fi drama from J.H. Wyman starring Jonathan Tucker and Riann Steele for NBC.
Tencent Pictures is a Tencent subsidiary that produces, invests, markets and distributes films, and licenses IP. It has been involved in the production, investment and distribution of 28 TV series and 41 film since its 2015 founding, including Hollywood titles such as “Venom” and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”