Despite previous reports that Legend of Zhen Huan (后宫·甄嬛传) would air on HBO for its American release, the series has actually been picked up by the on-demand media provider Netflix. It recently became available for streaming on Netflix’s website under the name Empresses in the Palace.
Originally 76 episodes long, Empresses has been shortened to six episodes, each with a running time of 90 minutes. Because the American release is so much shorter, some of the cast has seen their screen time all but disappear. The biggest victim is Chen Jianbin‘s Emperor Yongzheng, many of whose scenes were cut to make room for the doomed romance between Zhen Huan (Sun Li) and Prince Guo Jun (Li Dongxue).
The American release of Empresses has been in production for two years, with most of that time spent on the new soundtrack and on the English subtitles. On a random note of interest, Sun Li’s staff protested when Netflix originally posted the actress’s name as “Betty Sun,” saying that she has never used the English name “Betty” and that the website should have used “Li Sun” or “Susan Sun.” (Whoops, guess Wikipedia needs to be edited!)
As of publication, Empresses has a 3.6-star rating (out of 5) on Netflix, but director Zheng Xiaolong says he is not overly concerned with how the series fares in the United States. “The most important thing is that Americans have the opportunity to watch the series and at least have some understanding toward Chinese history and culture,” he stated.
Netflix is currently available in around 50 countries, not including mainland China. However, the company has expressed interest in expanding its market to China, which may be why it purchased the rights to Empresses.