My Date with a Vampire (我和殭屍有個約會) is a classic ATV series which aired its debut at 9.05pm on 30th November 1998. At the same time, TVB was broadcasting its anniversary drama, Burning Flame (烈火雄心) from 9.35pm to 10.35pm and Amy Wong (王心慰) was the producer. Based on understanding, TVB usually emerges as the champion in rating record and the finale of My Date with a Vampire drama happened to clash with the debut of Burning Flame drama. The audiences had no intention to change the television channel especially airing Healing Hands (妙手仁心) series thereafter. Burning Flame drama maintained a steady rating record which did not fall below 30 pts and the finale even reached 41 pts on 6th December 1998.

Facing a strong “fire”, My Date with a Vampire series was not considered a threat but with the plot line progressing and releasing of news articles, many audiences begun to show their supports after rebroadcasting in ATV several times. Although the finale only reached 10 rating pt, but the power of the “vampire” was finally exploded in March 2003 through My Date with a Vampire II (我和殭屍有個約會II) drama. Hence, it forced TVB to release its anniversary series, At the Threshold of an Era (創世紀II天地有情) and the finale of the My Date with a Vampire II drama reached 22 rating pts. It was estimated to achieve 60% of the rating record after Fatherland (大地恩情) series in 1980 and Who’s The Winner II (勝者為王II天下無敵) series in 1992.

Apparently, the history of the “vampire” has a great significance. The two season of the drama convey the messages of vampire, exorcist, supernatural power, time travel, spirit, alien, love, kinship and magic. Despite releasing My Date with a Vampire drama 20 years ago, but it remains the best representation for “vampire” when compared to The Twilight Saga (吸血新世紀) film in 2008 and TVB drama, Blue Veins (殭) starring Kevin Cheng (鄭嘉穎) in 2016 and Kenneth Ma (馬國明) playing the male lead in The Exorcist’s Meter (降魔的) series. Honestly, there is no production which can beat My Date with a Vampire drama even after 20 years later and it can be considered a farewell work in Hong Kong industry. Ever wonder what makes ATV decided to produce the drama? How do they create the female ghostbuster role, Ma Siu Ling (馬小玲) played by Joey Meng (萬綺雯)? It turns out there is a reason behind.

Joey’s husband aka screen writer, Chan Sap Sam (陳十三) said: “In the initial stage, Joey is not in the cast list but Kristy Yang (楊恭如) and Annie Man (文頌嫻) only. We cannot afford to use Joey as she is too expensive.” At the time, Leung Lap Yan (梁立人) was one of the producers and the hosts, Eileen Cha (查小欣) and Vinci Wong (王賢誌) unveiled the truth when Joey and Sap Sam were invited to ATV show, Tribute to Hong Kong TV Industry 50 Years Anniversary (電視風雲50年) as guests in 2007: “There is no Ma Siu Ling in the drama at all and the main reason for using Joey is to persuade the boss.”

Lap Yan had drafted the plot line for My Date with a Vampire drama in 1997 and Sap Sam said: “I did try to sell the idea to TVB when writing other script for them before bringing it to ATV. However, TVB rejected it as it was out of the box and there was no guarantee in return.” And the rest is history and the obstacles encountered by the production repeatedly became a crucial factor to the existence of Ma Siu Ling played by Joey.

Sap Sam continued: “Originally, Lam Ching Ying (林正英) agreed to play the male lead in My Date with a Vampire drama and I drafted the plot line based on him. I planned to use Men in Black (黑超特警組) film starring Will Smith (韋史密夫) and Tommy Lee Jones (湯美李鍾斯) as a concept to make Chapman To (杜汶澤) and Ching Ying working together as partners, and create a modern vampire drama. Once obtaining the approval and confirming the cast list, I tried to contact Ching Ying who was unavailable. It turned out he was ill and went to a quiet place for resting but we were in a hurry to film it.”

On 8th November 1997, 45 years old Ching Ying died of liver cancer and ATV stopped the production of My Date with a Vampire drama abruptly: “The company disapproved the filming immediately after Ching Ying’s departure. The senior management did not really like our idea as they could not accept it and doubt the feasibility. At least, they know it is not that way.”

However, Huang He Xin (黃河心) refused to give up and Sap Sam expressed that Lap Yan and he loved the plot line very much, and did not want it to end up as rubbish. Hence, they had long brainstorm sessions and tried to make it work: “Honestly, Ching Ying was the best representation for My Date with a Vampire drama and his appearance definitely captured the audiences’ attentions immediately. Since the world forced us to film it without him, we had to face the reality and amend the script. We do not want any male exorcist but a female ghostbuster who was materialistic and wore a mini skirt with boot. Subsequently, we tried to sell the board to the boss and the producer (冼志偉) decided to use Joey and requested her to wear a mini skirt.”

One of the male leads, Chapman To played Joey’s disciple in the series and had outstanding performance. It is believed that her 42 inches long legs and wearing mini skirt becomes Joey’s trademark to the audiences in the industry for 30 years. Joey admitted that ATV looked for her at eleventh hour at the point: “I was not involved in the production meeting and they decided to use me suddenly. I knew nothing at all and asked if there was any beautiful costume for me in the clothing room. I remembered I was the first one to try all costumes and needed to go for location shooting in Japan in February. I had to walk on the snow and it was freezing, but the effects were excellent and all the hard work was worth it.” In addition, Joey met Sap Sam at a celebration party for My Date with a Vampire drama and both got married after dated for 7 days. They remain a loving couple and their love is perceived a romantic legend in the showbiz.

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