Acting It Out….On Thai Soap Operas

Even though ive enjoyed me life of teaching here in Thailand there have been times when ive kinda felt like doing something else. To cut a long story short, ive had my fair share of opportunity over the years here of having to put my acting skills to the test and be broadcast to yous all, sat there in front of your TV sets.

To this day when folks in the kingdom ask me “And what you been doing all this time in Thailand?” I always answer “mostly teaching and a fair dose of translation work to go with it” just cause I cant be bothered to explain the ins and outs of the other employment that ive been subjected to do. It may come a surprise to you but believe it or not your buddy and regular contributing blogger here stevesuphan has played as a main character on a few of the country’s soap operas. Asking how I got myself into such work is a question for another day.

Quite a few years back (just for the fun of it) and after having an array of small parts here and there on soap operas and a few movies thrown in, got a break one day when I bumped into a certain casting agent Mr P’San. Not long after getting to know P’San he was soon paging me up for a part on a channel 7 soap opera. Thinking it was just another miserly part worthy of a days shooting I went along thinking nothing of it til I was soon getting a rather nasty look-down from the asst director who was soon on the phone to P’San asking to the darned likes of “Couldn’t ya find anyone taller? his girlfriend on the screen is as tall as him and on top of that he’s a bit on the skinny side!”. Having had me ego right dented with that one I wanted to reply “Ya want me or not sweetie? and by the way yer not exactly the finest looking thing around town yerself!” before she said to me in the face “You might as well do, there’s no one else”.

Never having had any of the main crew taking any peculiar notice of me looks before I soon realised that the reason behind the fiasco was that I had to play the part of a mean rough Farang boyfriend of one of the star girls a certain Miss ‘O’ Patjeera, I soon found out exactly what the asst director meant about height as Miss ‘O’ at 170cm was just a fraction shorter than myself.

Pretty tasty girl I was thinking there and soon had the crew having a right laugh at her expense when the first scene out of the bag was for me to give her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. Not a bad job I thought this when arriving back at my gaff that evening and waited eagerly for the call to go again for the next few scenes.

After a few more weekends it was all over after I had been ditched by ‘O’ for playing around with other girls and giving her just one too many black-eyes. Man, did I have to play some mean farang or what! Actually I wasn’t too chuffed about having to play such a stereotypical role but there was no butting out. In one of the scenes I did such a fine job of slapping her in the face and throwing her to the ground that Channel 7 soon made that scene as their ‘preview’ scene for the weekend’s next showing, so there I was, every 15 minutes in the evenings for the next five days, this big mullet of a mean face of mine blown full up for the screen with me so-called girlfriend (I wish) curled up on the floor in tears.

Well, I must admit it was pretty strange to be ‘a little bit famous’ and me Sunday afternoons of having a quiet burger in Mc’ Donalds weren’t quite the same again for a while, what with groups of poshy school girls sat on the table beside me giggling together and peering over their shoulder to have a right clear view of the Farang Girlfriend Basher, me. After a month or so of being on air every weekend I soon got the boot and was back to teaching and all the viewers had simply ‘ just forgotten me face’.

Before just getting used to the every day life of teaching again I got a call at about 11 at night shortly after from this other long long friend cum casting agent of mine P’Paeng that says “Steve, I finally got that big speaking part ya always asked for, they are coming to pick you up tomorrow morning”. Well, thanks a bunch for telling me in advance as what the heck was I to do with me teaching job but call in sick.

Not knowing the slightest, I was soon down there on Phuttamonthon road at the director’s house at 6 in the morning and he’s explaining my part of a pretty dumb but cute student farang who has come to live with the main actor for a while to study about Thai architecture or to the likes of something like that. Anyway I thought, the money’s not bad and certainly beats having to give any of the girls a good punch in the face. Thinking this was some cooshy on and off job like the last was soon mistaken that this was a full-on job for the next 2-3 weeks as they had to get the filming finished right quick cause they were behind schedule.

This time round I was literally fired in the end, from my very decent in-company teaching job there at a well-known market research firm on Silom! Well, I wasn’t exactly booted out the door but at the end of the course the personnel manager did call me over to her desk and say “Steve, you are a fun teacher, the students really like you BUT I need a teacher who is going to be constantly here, keep on doing yer acting thing though you might end up becoming a superstar” (Oh yeah..sure). Fair enough I did bunk the next three weeks off work and told her the truth that I had been handed a main character part on a popular TV soap opera and after having started the job, there was of course, no way of pulling out.

By chance the soap opera was filmed just up the road from where I live now in Suphanburi and can always remember having to try and put on the regional accent. I doubt most of the readers (except the Thai ones) know that even though Suphanburi is just a 100km from Bangkok the locals do have their own distinct dialect which is called ‘neur’. Darned, I only been here a year but im already picking it up and on going into Bangkok, ive heard more than a few times now “Hey Farang speak neur!”

This time round there was a right bunch of characters playing and it was a lot more fun than the last soap opera where nearly every scene was just me and ‘O’. This time round there were a lot of well-known faces around. Farang always have a right giggle about the standard of acting on Thai TV but I’d like to say one thing, and that is, ‘a lot of the time it just isnt their fault!’ I mean there’s the director at lunch actually typing up the script for the afternoons filming and on handing the actors their script says “ok just one rehearsal and on with the show, no need to waste anymore time!”

The director though this time was a pretty serious guy and a darned well-known one too but more for his movies than soapies. As I said before the filming was behind schedule and after finishing our stuff on the Sunday, it was like on air the coming Wednesday, pretty micky-mouse production if you ask me.

Well after this soap opera I decided to hang up my acting shoes for a while and go back to full-time teaching to save some proper cash as I had realised too right that I was certainly not going to get stinking rich out of acting in Thailand. A year or so later however I got the bug again and popped into see P’San at his place on Lard Prao and informed him “If anything comes up again then do call me” which he did a month or so later. It was the same crew from RS Production that had once made mockery of my height and my skinny-chopstick look, on the phone to P’San asking to the whereabouts of that mean Farang Girlfriend Basher, I must have put on a pretty decent showing of it though as they were wanting me back again.

It was to be the last main part I ever took on again as this time round it put a right dent in me wanting to hold a proper teaching job. As the filming was done over the course of six months I was called in every now and then for just a few days every month. On top of that I had to make my way to the production company’s HQ, up there, also on Lard Prao for the 4 in the morning mini van to the likes of Khao Yai and Uthaithani a whopping three hours plus away! Sure, I must admit the scenery was great the folks and fellow actors/actresses etc.. were all real friendly but I was pretty bored of it all at the end of the day as I couldn’t apply for a full-time teaching job cause I couldnt exactly say to the boss “I’ll take the job but I’ll have to take a couple of days day off every other week to go acting upcountry”.

So, here I am back down to earth and no-one around these parts knows the foggiest to any of the acting that ive done. I don’t really care though as being a foreigner here in a small town like this one any Farang is already a star. As for me I am already well-known enough around town and that is already as much attention as I would care for.

As for behind the scenes’ gossip I got a stack-a-that, could even write up a whole blog on some of the scandalous stories and frivolous goings-on I witnessed. I do miss it at times, sure, especially the friends you make, those in front of and behind the camera but at the end of the day though I prefer to have a ‘proper’ job.

VOCAB FOR TODAY:

Soap opera = TV Series
Array = variety
To bump into = to accidentally meet
Skinny = very thin
Sweetie = darling
A fraction = a little bit
To ditch = to split up with, to abandon
Chuffed = happy (about something)
To bash = to give a good thumping
To giggle = to have a little laugh
Cooshy = easy
To get the boot = to get dismissed (From a job)
Thanks a bunch = thanks a lot
To bunk off = to jump work
To know the foggiest = to know nothing about

15 responses to “Acting It Out….On Thai Soap Operas

  1. Good blog! Is there anything you haven’t done in Thailand?

  2. Channel 7 series are just wayyyyy too laosy lousy. Or NAM NAO (stinking water) as they call it in Thai. I’d rather watch The Ellen DeGeneres Show on KWMB back in Cali whenever I get a chance, or have my friend TiVo it for me.

  3. ‘nam nao’ or ‘reung nam nao’ as they are also called actually means like ‘sad story’ and not translated in the literal sense of ‘stale water’.

    As for some of the so-called trash series’ ive seen on western tv and in particular in the states i dont think us farang have much to complain about.

    Anyway thanks for the comments, ‘swifty’ to say the least!

  4. Sir, may I correct you that “nam nao” is actually used to refer to movies that are just wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy “out of this world’s reality”. Anyway I’m too lazy to argue over this with you or Richard.

    ANd grrrrrrrrr, The Ellen show is no trash. How can you say she is a trash, I mean look at all the shows you see on Thai TV. They’re just bunch of non-sense jokes which bored the shit out of me. You love those shows anyway I reckon.

    And oh, thanks for posting stuff that isn’t about Songkran. COz I am just sooo sick of Songkran. It’s not even a Thai tradition anymore but a tradition for young girls and whores and darn ugly ladyboy from hell outthere to come out and show their titties and nipples to the drunken men and screaming to the “oh-so-cute” farangs trying to give em #### for 10 baht a #####.

    Happy New Yar!

    B

  5. Hey Steve, I nearly went into acting after school and have various LAMDA qualifications. I was wondering if you knew if any of these and other drama certs. and recognised or even of any consequence when it comes to Thai production companies? A blog on how you got in the door might be a really interesting read for any of us a few years behind and looking for similar experiences! Cheers.

  6. Interesting blog Steve, and I would be interested in hearing more about the inside scoop as relates to the behind the scenes goings on with these fine specimens of womanhood one sees on these soap operas.

    Ben: And I also enjoyed the wet women of Songkran (bless ’em) and, unless Ellen Degeneres has premiered a new show as of late, hers was probably one of the worst big-hype sitcoms of its time – a rare show, to be matched only by ‘Growing Pains’, in which every character was deeply annoying. If she has a new show apart from that ABC debacle, I have yet to see it.

    And to be fair, we’ve had a few decades head start on Thailand in terms of developing TV content. Rent some of the early Western travesties that aired on North American television, like Milton Berle and the 3 stooges and you’d have more of a fair comparison.

    – Dougie –

  7. As for ben there i was just trying to give him some of his own medicine for a change there, just a bit of fun.
    At the end of the day i would agree that screaming ladyboys, the same old presenters and stories of poor country girl meets super rich handsome guy are way out of reality just chatting about that this morning with my Thai colleauges.

    Very suprised by no camments from any of our thai readers, wonder where they have all gone! Though i do know that the length of some of my blogs and the language i use isnt exactlt too easy for most Thais

  8. Hi Steve,

    Perhaps the Thais are melting away due to Songkran 😀

    I am safe here as no one wateringme.

  9. hi jdv again:

    unfortunately as it is thailand dont hire most of their actors etc.. cause of their standard of acting but how good-looking they are, but not always mind you.
    As for me i dont have the credential looks to be a superstar but how i got the parts was cause of my Thai language and ability to read the script so you could imagine that i didnt have much competition.
    To get a main part on a Thai Soap Opera it is essential that you speak and read Thai.

    Now i started out by complete chance, when in Krabi one day a Hollywood movie came to shoot and they needed ‘stand-ins’, i got a job and it all started there. If you really want to get into the business firstly wait for a Hollywood movie being filmed and apply for a job such as PA or ‘stand-in’ etc.. or even ‘stunt-double’ etc.. It is far far easier to get into the business when applying for a part abroad. far better than walking round Hollywood. Even an asst director an english guy i knew on one of the movies started out as ‘stand-in’, next hes working on terminator two. Then on another movie i worked on in Krabi the crew while walking around railey Beach were so impressed by an english girls costumes for a halloween party invited her to work on costume design in the movie, she has been working in hollywood ever since.

    On the very first movie i worked on for a couple of months i got very freindly with a few of the thai girls working as extras. on coming to bangkok they would tell their agent etc.. about me and it all started there. Mouth to mouth and a lucky break are all thats needed.

    I even got friendly with one of the main actors called Trevor a really nice massive english guy who played one of the baddies in Mortal Kombat 1 etc.. and after knowing him well after two of his fims even invited me to stay at his gaff in hollywood for a while and he’d hunt me down a ‘stand-in’ PA job there cause of course he had the contacts. Even a certain well-known name as BD Wong invited me too but since he had ‘the eyes for me’ i did turn down the propostion along with trevor’s cause the job didnt really appeal to me.

    >I know the main american guy living in thailand whole works solely for hollywood movies to be shot in thailand, i cant think of name of mind but i can find it out for you i will just have to delve into my archives and hunt for the ‘daily schedule sheets’ that are always passed out in the morning to the crew. Then check him out on the Web, he would be an excellent contact.
    >I also know the main Thai guy who works as asst director on all the movies here, could also find out his name for you, from the tip of my tongue his first name is Charlie.

    need anymore advice then do ask.

    cant believe that doug there asked to here some of the naughty sories that go on behind the scenes!
    I have to be a little careful though cause the pictures i stuck on there, the Thais will know exactly who im talking about!
    I would also feel a little bad about giving away a few of their secrets that havent even been told in thai language. So may be ill leave that one for a while til this latest blog is secured in my archives and everyones forgotten about it and the stars i could mention.

  10. Thanks Steve, generous info as usual. 🙂

  11. Oh my gosh i just reconized you from that movie. that movie is my favorite, well one of my very favorites of sonram and ning. so how was it like working with sornram and ning. oh my gosh it’s really you. i can’t believe i’m chating with an actual actor that has worked with other actors. all though your part was short it still rocked. well i hope to hear more from your experience in the movie. is it called ruk pra ka sit or someting like that. can you translate the title for me also? thank you.

  12. Wow! I can’t believe you’ve acted in a movie with all those famouse people, especially P’Sornram. 🙂 Congratulations on getting the part. Must be pretty exciting to act in a Thai lakorn!

  13. Wow that was kool you went to Thailand and get to do buss with all the other Thai stars. I would die to be in you place I hope you enjoyed everything and I hope you will be part of Thai La korn agian.

  14. I believe some thai soap operas are destructive for the simple influenzable mind and should be banned or a “warning”should be displayed before the program starts.
    The display of inexistant acting ,screaming ,cheatng, laying,fighting,etc. is a very dangerous show which can influence a relationship.
    If you see your girl becaing a real bitch then you know she’s been contaminated
    sorry about my english!!