Who Plays Zheng Yi Sao in Our Flag Means Death?

There’s a new pirate in town and she’s making a splash.

by Kiona Jones
our flag means death zheng yi sao
Image: HBO Max

Ruibo Qian is the talented actress playing Zheng Yi Sao in season 2 of Our Flag Means Death, and she’s doing it flawlessly. She started off the season in episode 1 “Impossible Birds” as simply Susan the maker of yummy soup. Imagine Oluwande’s surprise when his favorite food vendor turned out to be none other than legendary pirate queen Zheng Yi Sao!

Ruibo Qian Before OMFD

Image: HBO Max

Like any dedicated actor, Ruibo has been paying her dues in Hollywood for years now. She’s been featured in female-focused TV shows like Broad City and Jessica Jones. She later got her first big break as Dr. Bethany in the Oscar-winning film Manchester by the Sea.

Black Mirror fans with a particularly sharp eye might even recognize her as Penelope Wu from season 5, episode 2, “Smithereens,” She played the COO to Topher Grace’s CEO character Billy Bauer. Back then, she was trying to mitigate the chaos. Now, she’s bringing it as Zheng Yi Sao in Our Flag Means Death.

The Real Pirate Queen of OMFD

Image: HBO Max

Creator David Jenkins has a love/hate relationship with historical accuracy. While he loves using real-life figures, he hates doing so within their original timelines. So what if Captains Stede Bonnett and Blackbeard sailed the open seas at different times in their lives? Now they’re co-existing in a love affair gone wrong.

Okay, maybe hate is a strong word since Zheng Yi Sao is as awesome in Our Flag Means Death as she was in real life. Maybe she didn’t have an all-woman crew, and she worked as a sex worker rather than a soup chef. But she was definitely kicking butt and taking names across the oceans of China.

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We’re excited for more Ruiban Qian. Things have taken a turn for the worse now that Stede’s crew has revolted against Zheng Yi Sao. What she’ll do in the next episode of Our Flag Means Death is anybody’s guess. One thing’s for sure, though: she’ll do it with impeccable style.

- This article was updated on October 13th, 2023

About The Author

Kiona has been writing about movies and TV shows for over 2 years now. When they're not hard at work, they're nerding about about the newest Star Trek release or getting into a new book.