(Warning, spoilers ahead!)
Netflix’s latest book-to-series adaptation, “Partner Track,” has people talking.
The 10-episode romantic drama is based on Helen Wan’s 2013 novel of the same name, and follows hard-working lawyer Ingrid Yun (Arden Cho) as she attempts to make partner at her elite New York City law firm, Parsons Valentine & Hunt, no matter what it takes.
While attempting to climb the career ladder, Ingrid finds herself in the middle of a love triangle between Jeff Murphy (Dominic Sherwood), a former one-night stand and transfer attorney from London, and Nick Laren (Rob Heaps), a kind-hearted millionaire who is head-over-heels for her.
However, after binge-watching the season, fans are noticing another love interest (or at least expressing their thoughts on who Ingrid should be with). That person is Desmond Chiam’s character, Zi-Xin “Z” Min.
Z is the son of Min Enterprises owner Franklin Min (Kelvin Han Yee). The young businessman is devoted to green tech, which causes tensions between a deal that his father is trying to close with another company called Sun Corp. He and Ingrid meet when her law firm is tapped to oversee the high-stakes deal. While Z’s scenes are limited, they sure made an impression.
Chatting with TODAY via Zoom, Chiam shared that he did a “deep search” on Twitter to see what people were saying about his character and was pleasantly surprised by their reaction.
“It’s nice to see people loving a character,” the 35-year-old said. “It's always heartening as an artist to put something out there and people react positively to it.”
"Positively" is one way to put it. Fervently is another. Online, fans are posting comments about wanting Z and Ingrid to end up together, even though the character wasn't positioned as one of Ingrid's Season One love interests.
“Partner track had us think we’d have to choose over nick or murphy yet people want z and ingrid instead LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE @netflix,” one fan tweeted about the love triangle.
Chiam said to think of Z and Ingrid's relationship as a long game. “I know a lot of people are chomping at the bit for it to happen, and I think we’re forgetting that this is a series, it’s not a movie. We’ve got to have legs,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing for storytelling in a way, but personally, I would love for it to happen. Let’s see where it goes, though ... but I think it would make sense.”
Over the season, Ingrid is torn between her two lovers who couldn’t be more opposite. While she begins to date Nick and accepts his marriage proposal, she continues to be tempted by Murphy’s flirtation while working together.
Meanwhile, fans propose Z as the third — and, to them, obvious — option.
“The Partner Track: Ingrid is in a love triangle between Nick and Murphy. Me, an intellectual: But clearly both an intellectual match and somebody to push her, a much better option of a romantic partner, is Z,” one viewer tweeted.
Chiam offered some insight as to why he thinks fans are "shipping" Z and Ingrid. What worked for the two characters, he said, is that their chemistry “was restrained in a way. We didn’t push (it).”
Giving a hat-tip to the “sympathetic screenwriters,” he added, “The other two fellas in her life, obviously, are written to push her in certain ways that are at best enlightened self-interest, and at worst kind of selfish.”
“Z, I think, is the only one who pushes her in a way that’s like, ‘Well, no, hang on. What do you want? What do you think?’” the Australian actor said, touching on Ingrid being surprised by an award at her company’s Diversity Gala and reading a pre-written speech she had no idea about.
“That whole thing of the gala, the speech, like, ‘What would you have wanted to say?’ is kind of the subtext of that little conversation they have outside. And in that way, it’s really less about the chemistry of it or the romance of it. It’s really just a dude being like, ‘Listen, I see you.’ And as someone who is the model minority, that is, I think, a very important thing. And obviously we see the chemistry there...”
"It’s less about the chemistry of it or the romance of it. It’s really just a dude being like, ‘Listen, I see you.’"
Chiam described Z as the “moral compass” of the show set, set in a ruthless work environment. He's someone who is an anchor for Ingrid in the moral, ethical and cultural way. “Because even though he’s Chinese and she’s Korean, both of these Asian diaspora, he kind of helps her see what an alternative to existing in an otherwise white society is," Chiam said.
Z and Ingrid’s relationship is also dynamic. Tensions arise between the two after she persuades him to make a deal with the company that puts his green tech plan in danger. The two eventually move past their differences and work together to take down Sun Corp’s chairman, Ted Lassiter (Fredric Lehne).
The characters' interactions appear intentionally intimate, and Chiam agrees with that assessment.
“My favorite scene would have to be the eyelash scene,” he shared. “While she’s grappling with her betrayal, and I come out and I’m sort of like, ‘Thank you so much’ ... there’s so much subtext in that scene.”
Chiam said that he and Cho chatted about viewers’ hopes of Z and Ingrid becoming romantically involved “a little bit here and there.”
"But it’s one of those things that you don’t look in the eye necessarily. If you’re trying to build a relationship, best to build a relationship, instead of having that target,” he said, adding that the actors just let the scenes steer themselves. “I think that speaks to the chemistry.”
While a second season hasn’t been confirmed, “Partner Track” has been on Netflix’s top five most-watched series for the last two weeks. Chiam, on his end, said “the optics look good” for more episodes.
In a prospective second season, he hopes people get to see more of Z and his business aspirations. “I want to see how Z navigates very real situations with this kind of iron rod ethical standard, because I think that’s impossible. And I want to see if there’s a breaking point for that sort of thing for him.” Similarly, he also wants Z to help Ingrid “navigate” her new work dynamic with Parsons.
As for sparks flying between the two and a potential romance? Chiam concluded by saying, “I think there’s hope. Yeah, I think so.”
Season One of “Partner Track” is now streaming on Netflix.