Leo Wu and Dilraba Dilmurat: How They Surprised C-Drama Fans With Their Strong Chemistry

It's been five months since The Long Ballad airing went off air, but still fans of the coupling of Leo Wu (also known in his Chinese name, Wu Lei) and Dilraba Dilmurat could not get over with the warmth of their chemistry.

Before the series made its way to digital streaming in March this year, almost no one believe they could provide a strong impact on the romantic side of the story, after all, Leo is still so young at 20 during the filming and he has a seven-year age gap from Reba (as she is fondly called by her legion of fans).

Changge and Ashile Sun

They also had no previous drama collaboration, except in 2017 when they did a photoshoot for Bazaar magazine and short film, Lost in Your Eyes. So it was some sort of hesitant anticipation.

Fans cast doubt on Leo as a choice to play Ashile Sun, a more serious and mature role. Many still considered him as "Nation's little brother", who goes around playing and having fun.

Leo as a child star

Leo Wu made his television debut at barely three years old in 2002 when he did TV commercial. He did not start acting in television, however, until 2006 when he was cast as the young Yang Yanzhao (played by Hu Ge) in the historical drama, The Young Warriors.

Wu Lei as a child star

He became a household name in China in 2009 at barely 10 years old when he starred in television series, Home with Aliens and Naughty boy Xiaotiao Ma where he was awarded Best Young Actor during the 28th Flying Apsaras Awards, one of the most prestigious award-giving bodies in China for television.

He rose to popularity when he played Fei Liu in Nirvana in Fire, which reunited him with Hu Ge. Leo was only 14 years old during the filming of Nirvana in Fire in 2014. It was shown in television in 2015 and became one of the most popular and highest-grossing C-Drama of all time. It also became a hit overseas.

As Fei Liu in Nirvana in Fire

Thus, Leo's image in the memory of C-Drama fans is always that of a child, he had not performed mature roles before The Long Ballad. He starred in Cross Fire, Battle Through the Heavens, Guardian of the Ancient Oath, Tomb of Sea, but his roles were mostly youth.

So there was this troubling anticipation on viewers' mind. Add to that is the age-gap between him and Dilraba Dilmurat, which most C-Drama fans seem not prepared to accept.

With Hu Ge in Nirvana in Fire

However, Leo, though young, is already considered veteran in acting compared to other young actors in China today. He has numerous acting awards, citations and nominations. He is a versatile actor and considered a premier performer in wuxia films.

He can do action scenes, even the most complex sequences. He has enough trainings in martial arts, horseback riding and archery, skills needed in the C-entertainment industry to become successful. He is even considered one of the fewest actors of C-drama today who is expert in wuxia fight scenes.

Wu Lei as Yang Ping in Zhang Yimou's 2018 film, Shadow

When he took the entrance examination at Beijing Film Academy, Asia's top film school, in 2018, he performed a sword dance, he earned the highest score among the entrance takers to take performing arts studies at BFA.

Leo Wu as adult star

But things always change. We progress. We evolve. We move on with life. And we could only grasp, "Why time flies so very fast?". 

Yes, the once adorable child star is now a handsome guy and everyone swoons hard over his charming look and near-to-perfection smile. He is very athletic and has gorgeous physical appearance. Leo is truly one of the hottest species now on earth.

He is handsome. He is charming. He is a phenomenon. He is an actor with an exceptional talent. Skilled in so many aspects in acting. He has grown so tall. Lean but sturdy.

He is also on his last year in college. And with that, his maturity surfaces, both physical and mental. He is one of the fewest C-Drama actors who can carry a witty and smart conversation, he spoke with eloquence and provides intelligent responses in many of his interviews.

He truly evolves into a grown-up man, a talented and versatile actor who is more than ready to take serious roles. He is no longer a child star we once knew. It's time for C-Drama fans to view him as a young-adult actor, never the teenage star anymore.

He is ready to fall in love. 

Oh, God! Fei Liu now has grown up. 

Bad news to everyone who first saw him as the young Yang Yanzhao or Nezha (in Legend and the Heroes with Fan Bingbing), your back might be aching now haha! 

The child you once adored now known as the Bamboo shoot boyfriend of the ever-pretty Dilraba Dilmurat.

Strong Chemistry between Leo Wu and Dilireba

Back to The Long Ballad phenomenon  

A lot of doubts had been cast by fans of C-Drama before the airing of The Long Ballad in March. Surprisingly, Leo Wu proved those doubters wrong.

Scenes in The Long Ballad

Not only that he best suited for the role of Ashile Sun (Oh, those side shot angles that highlighted Wu Lei's sexy and irresistible eyes) but also he displayed a strong romantic chemistry with Dilireba. 

How would we know that the two leads have strong chemistry?

It is always undefinable like the "x-factor" thing. It cannot be foretold, unless they are seen together in the screenplay.

Scenes in The Long Ballad

Strong chemistry is mostly defined as the "rapport with the right flavor" between the two stars. It is the ability of a man and a woman to connect with each other, conveying credible emotions to the viewers. In other words, they have the ability to capture viewers' fantasy with the romance they shown in the drama.

They can establish a realistic bond, and capture sympathy with the audience. They can illicit giggles and set the stage of establishing strong emotions from the audience. Their romantic scenes have strong impact.

Strong impact means, viewers feel engrossed to the scenes when the two stars made eye-to-eye contact  or share hug or kiss.

There's something between them that we want to see more, that we want to know more. And we become so fully blown up with every scene they had in the drama. That's how strong chemistry is defined.

It's very rare. We have watched so many series, but there are pairs that just would not hit up. No impact with the romance they portrayed on-screen. There's no interest to follow them because they just could not pull off a romantic bond, no giddy feeling on viewers part, as if something is missing.

With Reba and Leo, yes, they easily hit it off. They have that coziness approaching each other in every scene, they have great rapport. 

Watching Ashile Sun and Changge fell in love in The Long Ballad, we could feel the warmth of their emotions, we could feel the effect of their staring, we could feel the burning passion to love each other. 

Watching them hugging each other, we no longer remember Leo and Dilraba having seven year-age gap. We just saw the sweet romance of two persons falling in love. And we are totally engrossed with the feeling. That's chemistry.

The romance between Ashile Sun and Changge feels like a potpouri in the grassland atmosphere, swirling around the prairie like the sweet aroma of the early spring. Like a warmth of the first sunrise And we are totally drawn with its dreamy scent and bewitching spark. 

And we want more. 

Chemistry can never be foretold. Even those fortune tellers. It's what-you-see-what-you-get sort of thing. It's like a tea bag, "You will never know the real strength unless the tea bag is put in the hot water".

And when it does, you will know the warmth lasts even after the drama is gone. That's chemistry.

Leo finally outgrown his "nation's little brother" image. He has evolved. He has matured. He is a fully-grown up charming leading man who can independently carry a big drama on his own. Now, TLB fans began seeing him as a bamboo shoot boyfriend to Dilraba. 

He is now taller than Fei Liu of course, and his muscles are drop-dead gorgeous. He developed a broader shoulder, a well-toned chest, well-developed legs muscles (because he is a biker) and athletic physique. And of course, those sexy eyes.

Even Reba was surprised with Leo's development.

Bazaar photoshoot, September 2017

In the interview in April, Dilraba said she was surprised with how Leo became so grown-up barely three years after they did the Bazaar photoshoot in 2017.

She was also impressed with his sense of maturity and gentleness during the filming of TLB. She began looking at Leo, not as a younger brother, but an older brother who could protect her and make her feel safe and secure.

Dilireba praising Leo's "boyfriend" material

Dilraba has been very vocal with her opinion about Leo in a personal capacity. She said that he can be a great boyfriend material and that his future girlfriend will be very lucky to have him. He is mature, very caring guy who always makes sure the girl is safe and protected.

During the filming, Leo always asked her if she is okay or if she got injured every after take of the scenes. Judging from Dilraba's words about him, Leo seems a perfect guy who can make her weak in the knees. Reba seems looking for someone who can give her assurance of protection and security.

Leo Wu and Vic Chou

It looks like there are only two actors she paired in the series whom Dilireba like so much as leading men. Vic Chou, her co-star in The Flame's Daughter.

With Vic Chou in The Flame's Daughter

She also revealed that among the actors she ever paired in a series, it was only Leo, apart from Vic Chou (her co-star in The Flame's Daughter) who had not complained carrying her. Vic Chou also did some spinning scenes carrying her in The Flame's Daughter.

But it was only Leo who never said she was heavy to carry according to Reba. Even though she thought she was really heavy because she gained weight during the filming of TLB in 2020.

Scenes in The Long Ballad

By the time the interview happened in April, Reba was done filming You Are My Glory and doing The Blue Whisper.

In the same live streaming in April in which they both guested, Leo also insisted Reba was not heavy and because he is taller than her, it was easier to carry her around. 

He also revealed he was very nervous when they did the rooftop scene (where he capped Reba's head) and the falling scene where he had to catch Reba. He was afraid Reba might get hurt if he could not catch her properly because she was wearing a metal gear from the harness and it might bury in her body.

Such a charming man who always makes sure his co-star is safe and protected. No wonder, Reba was all praises on his chivalry and gentleness. Indeed, a great potential boyfriend. 

What in store for Leo and Dilraba

A lot of clamor from TLB fans to pair them once again. We too, are fervently hoping they could work again in another drama because their rapport and on-screen chemistry is so warm and sweet. They could light up a whole street with the sparks brought by their warmth and harmony. 

They are simply lovely to look at the screen. No need for test-screen. There's an invisible affection pulling them together. And we want to see this light up in the screen once more.

They are currently doing respective drama. Leo for Love Like the Galaxy, and Reba for Legend of Anle. And still no other announcement for their next acting projects.

We're hoping something will be announced later this year or early next year. A new project where they could be paired again. We can only hope for the best.

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