Dude looks like a lady

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One of Vietnam's top models says the challenge of playing a man trapped in a woman's body made the part one of the most exciting roles of her career.

Vietnam Television's new romantic comedy Co gai bat dac di, or The unwilling girl, takes a whole new angle on star-crossed love.

The show, a remake of Argentina's famous TV program Lalola, stars Vu Thu Phuong, one of Vietnam's hottest models.

The Vietnamese version tells the story of a handsome man named Lan, a playboy and successful deputy editor of a famous magazine who is surrounded by beautiful women all the time.

But Lan treats women like objects, even with contempt, and considers romance nothing more than a form of entertainment. His life is full of one night stands and he breaks hearts left and right.

"No woman can own my heart," he always says.

But as the series begins, one of Lan's conquests decides to hire a witch to take revenge on the womanizer. The witch places a spell on Lan that turns him into a woman named Lan Anh. The punishment is that he'll have to feel what it's like to get taken advantage of by men.

With the new body, Lan finds out how hard it is to be a woman, experiencing the same bigotry he used to inflict on women.

"At first I said no to the show because I had other business plans," said Phuong, who runs her own fashion line and chain of boutiques. "But I changed my mind after reading the script ... Lan Anh inspired me."

Phuong said she read all 150 episodes through the night and the next morning.

The winner of last year's Vietnam Supermodel competition, Phuong said working with a great crew helped her act her best even in the most difficult scenes.

Though she said it was not easy to play a man in a woman's body, she was confident she proved herself through several challenges.

"I cut my hand and was bleeding for a scene in which Lan Anh punches the wall as hard as she can."

In the first scene Phuong shot, Lan wakes up surprised and dumbfounded when he looks in mirror to find out he is a woman. Phuong said it took a lot out of her to get across the right feeling of consternation and utter bewilderment for the scene.

In another scene, Lan Anh gets drunk and forgets she's a woman. She spends the night at a bar flirting with another woman and ends up in a passionate lesbian make-out scene.

"It is not easy to act in such tough scenes, but I like to challenge myself," said Phuong.

With each passing day, Lan's male characteristics start to fade away, both physically and emotionally. Lan Anh begins to develop real female qualities and even falls in love with her male office mate and Lan's former arch-enemy, Do Khang.

When Lan Anh finds the magician who can help her turn into a man again, she had to make the decision of a lifetime: back to a normal life of superficiality, or follow the true love Khang has given her.

The series Co gai bat dac di began airing last Monday on Vietnam Television's VTV3 channel. It plays every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 9 p.m.

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