Superstar: My Acting Debut on a Thai Soap Opera
It was like any other day in Bangkok, Thailand. It was hot; I was eating street food, and working on my blog in my apartment with my Irish roommate Johnny from the famous travel blog OneStep4Ward.com. Our resident couch crasher hanging out with us for the week was our good buddy and Canadian vagabond Ian from Borderlesstravels.com. This travel blogger bonanza came together as a result of the three of us teaching an English Camp in South Korea together that involved a lot of late night norebong (Korean karaoke house) visits and soju (Korean Devil Juice).
Whilst blogging away Johnny, an established Thai resident, got a phone call from a local friend asking if he and a couple of buddies wanted to be extras in a Thai Soap Opera. Johnny proceeded to ask us knowing he’d receive a big smirking yes from the both of us.
Thus, my soap opera acting career was born. The deal was we had to meet at around 7AM (devastatingly early for weekend warriors) on the infamous Khaosan Road. If by some chance you’ve never heard of Khaosan Road or never seen it in the movie The Beach with Leonardo Dicaprio, it gets more backpacker traffic than any street in the entire world. Wall to wall backpackers, hostels, t-shirt stands, lonely planet book shops, tourist traps, and outrageous all night bars specializing in alcoholic beverages served in buckets. That’s right, the bars never close and the drinks come in buckets, now you have a visual.
If you can imagine, 7AM on the biggest foreign party road is pretty ugly, in the elegant words of Johnny, “It’s rough as a badger’s ass.” Among the bodies of backpackers passed out over sidewalk tables I remember two booze riddled Russian travelers weaving down an alley hanging on two lady-boys whom they presumably thought were, well, ladies. I can’t imagine the aftermath, but I hope they wanted sausage and beans for breakfast (cue the drum roll).
As we lingered a camera crew and sound people eventually appeared and they lead us to the specific filming location in front of a local backpacker bar. As the lead Thai actress and actor were getting prepped in make-up the director gave us the juicy plot and scenario. The lead Thai actress had fallen in with a bad boy farang (Thai word meaning foreigner that the locals love to use to describe any dumb backpacker). The little lady’s dad was pissed and he wasn’t going to tolerate any more of this tomfoolery of his daughter fornicating with those damn dirty hippy travelers. While she was out with her foreign boyfriend and his friends (that’s me!) her dad was going to storm into the bar and drag her saucy little ass out in an epic showdown confrontation.
For all this to happen there had to be a setup, they needed a specialist. They approached the extras and they asked us in so many words that they need someone to act like an asshole foreigner, a real jerk that can bump into the father on the street real hard while he is searching for his daughter to build things up a little bit until shit hits the fan.
As the casting director looked across all the clean cut extras he saw my bearded, bandana wearing, tattooed, nose ring having ass and simply pointed at me and said, “You”. It was the role I was born for, this was my moment. All those people that believed in me, that thought, “you know what, this guy is such an asshole he should go pro.” Well, I’m here to say I made it baby.
We shot the scene and after shoulder checking the Dad four or five times like a real dick (I can’t believe I got paid for this) we finally created the emotion the director was looking for. We shot the remainder of the scenes, the dad storming into the bar, Johnny, Ian, and I all yelling in defense of the loser boyfriend, “She’s a grown woman! She can make her own damn decisions man!” It was some real Thai Shakespeare going on. And then it was a wrap. We all got paid 1,000 Baht (30 USD), a pretty good sum in Thailand for a fun day dicking around with my buddies for Thai TV. We did a little photo shoot with the star Thai actress afterwards and then the three of us went and got some breakfast.
To this day I have no idea what the Soap Opera was called nor did I ever see it, but don’t be surprised if Spielberg comes a knocking one day on the Shameless Traveler’s door when he needs someone to fill the role of a bearded asshole. Until next time travelers, keep your TV classy, your soap operas Thai, and never underestimate the God given ability of looking like a real dick.
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