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