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Maggie Q to Star in Series Based on Pirate Queen Ching Shih, the Terror of the South China

Deadline is reporting that one of our favorite historical ladies may be coming to a television screen near you: Ching Shih, a pirate’s widow who, at the dawn of the 1800′s, began a career that would make her one of the most notorious pirates in the world, the terror of the Chinese, British, and Portugese navies, so unstoppable that the only way to end her naval empire wound up being to offer her complete amnesty and a nice retirement.

Maggie Q, late of Nikita, Mission: Impossible III, and Young Justice, is”set to headline a limited series from Steven Jensen’s Independent Television Group, Mike Medavoy & Benjamin Anderson of Phoenix Pictures (Black Swan), and Fred Fuchs (Transporter). Titled Red Flag, the series is set in the early 1800s and centers on Ching Shih (Maggie Q), a beautiful young Chinese prostitute who goes on to become one of history’s most powerful pirates and head of the most successful crime syndicate in China.”

Little is known of Ching Shih’s early life, so our accounts of her usually begin with pirate leader Zheng Yi taking a cantonese prostitute for his wife. During their marriage, Ching Shih was fully a part of her husband’s profession. After his death, she maneuvered and politicked her way into the lead position of his fleet, taking as a lover and new husband a man she could trust to take care of (and I might be reading a little too far into Wikipedia here) all the boring administrative stuff. Under Ching Shih, her fleet adopted a strict code of conduct governing loyalty and the distribution of loot and stolen goods, as well as personal conduct. Extramarital sex (including rape) and adultery was punishable by death.

Ching Shih was also remarkable for being one of the only famous pirates to retire and die of natural causes. Giving up on defeating her, the Chinese government offered complete amnesty to all pirates, and she accepted, taking her ill-gotten gains and opening a gambling house, eventually dying at the age of 69.

Deadline doesn’t mention a television network in its article on Red Flag, which probably means that the series does not have one yet. So, don’t go marking your schedules just yet. But with a star signed and producers and a production company already on board, hopefully the rode to our screens will be smooth sailing for Ching Shih.

(via Deadline.)

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  • Barbarella Galaxina

    I would want to see this tv show

  • Adam Cross

    why not Ming-Na Wen or Joan Chen?, Lucy Liu, Ling Bai, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li? You know, Chinese actresses? love Maggie Q but wouldn’t some kind of authenticity be better? not that most audiences would care or tell the difference. oh well. anyway, excited for this

  • locuas

    with black sails and this we can officially say, Pirates have returned to mainstream media(seriously, though, “Red flag”? they are not even pretending they are making a show to go against Black Sails)

    Also, i need to make the next jokes because i have a lot fo rthis one:
    *Here come the rumors of them changing the gender of her second “husband”

    *But sadly, the series is going to be a failure because a female lead means female audience and, as we all know, only boys buy merchandise.
    *how long between the premiere and people having the lead singing “let it go”?
    *Let the Mulan/CHing Shih Ship-fics begin!(pun not intended)
    *Can’t wait for her to slap Jack Sparrow for something he may or may not “have deserved”.
    *She is going to be king of the pirates!(i missed my oportunity to say it with black sails, so i am saying it now)

  • locuas

    Guess Lucy Liu is bussy with Elementary and other projects.
    the rest…i don’t know. Maybe the producers really liked Maggie Q.

  • Melissa Shumake

    you can’t have ming-na wen! shield needs her!

  • Adrian

    Slightly off topic but with Maggie Q’s Nikita over but with CW liking to use actors/actresses in-house, I’d love to see her on Arrow as Lady Shiva one day.

  • Harrison Grey

    DO WANT.

  • Harrison Grey

    I believe the Chinese pirate lady in At Worlds End is loosely based on the real life Ching Shih, so she has met Jack Sparrow already. I’ve tried to mostly forgot that movie, so I can’t remember if she slapped him or not.

  • Harrison Grey

    This announcement really should have come later in the day because it’s far too early for my mind to be blown this much. Pirate Queen Maggie Q is the best thing I’ve heard in a long while.

  • Harrison Grey

    I actually could have sworn Maggie Q was part Chinese (I was assuming since she trained under Jackie Chan), so I didn’t think anything of it at first. I understand the complaint; I still grimace that Arrow had Shado (Japanese character, part Chinese actress) be the daughter of Yao-Fei (Chinese character and actor).

  • locuas

    she was blind then, so she would need someone to bring him to her. maybe in the past?

  • Adam Cross

    really loving her character in shield! but it was just to illustrate my point, there are so many really great Chinese and Chinese American actresses to choose from =)

  • Harrison Grey

    Lucy Lui and Ming Na are both regulars on other shows, and the rest are all movie actresses (and some of them don’t do much in the way of American cinema, either). So these options, while good, wouldn’t necessarily be up for it. Plus Maggie Q is younger than any of them, a plus when casting a possibly long term TV show.

  • Melissa Shumake

    fair enough =)

  • Adam Cross

    yeah, her mother is Vietnamese.. I think I just grimace in general at Arrow, that show could be so much better

  • Lily

    The character had to be based on her. She votes for herself, Mistress Ching, as a candidate for Pirate King and is seen captaining her ship before and after the final battle. There was no slapping, thankfully.

  • Ashe

    I know what they’re thinking by casting her and it really bums me out. Multiracial people are Hollywood’s safe and convenient props, rather than vibrant people in their own right.

    Not all Asians are the same, Hollywood. Get this through your frickin’ skulls.

    Still, this is history that has sorely NEEDED some recognition. I remember reading about her on Badass Of The Week and going, “We get another movie with Tom Cruise but she still hasn’t gotten a single script? I hate this world!”

  • Ashe

    Zhang Ziyi would have been perfection.


  • Harrison Grey

    Out of sheer curiosity, I read the Pirates Wikia page for Mistress Ching, which has a whole life story for her that wasn’t in the movie. The sources credited are a featurette on the DVD, but her bio basically reads like the description of the historical person here. As obvious as it is, it doesn’t look like the movie makers have acknowledged the real life person as the basis for the character, but Hollywood seems weird about doing that. I don’t know that the makers of Nacho Libre have acknowledged it was based on a real person either.

  • Anonymous

    Just interrupt the racial talk to say I’m looking forward to it. Maybe they just cast Maggie Q because she’s a martial artist, and a great actress, who knows?
    If this gets made, I hope it doesn’t end up stupid because this sounds like an interesting character and her story should be told.