You may have already noticed it, I’m more into the Earn-Pete team than anyone else, and there are so many aspects and side stories about them that a “fanboy series” seem not enough, so I asked my friend Vera who happens to ship the team too for a more thorough, detailed discussion about why Ngern Anupart and August Vachiravit are getting so much hype (which they deserve) and that their fan service is becoming so in-your-face.
… and since she knows more than me about the fandom and where to get the latest about them too! LOL (sometimes I feel so helpless that everyone else seems to know everything except me!) Anyway, so Vera had a question ready…
Vera P: In your opinion, do you think their characters and storyline would’ve been as compelling if they were played by different actors? I’ve noticed that the older fans in the fandom were more partial to them especially because they looked older than the rest of the cast members.
Jed M.: The younger fans were carried away by the fact that Noh and Phun were the main characters and they came first, so I understand the loyalty and obsession but for more discriminate fans (the older ones, as you said), they have gotten over the initial lovesickness to prefer Ngern and August.
I also don’t think I would have spent countless hours watching fan-made vids, go over official Lovesick releases and browse forums to get more of them if somebody else had played the parts. I think they have unusual chemistry together. I also don’t know if everything is fan service since they seem to be so authentic and honest that whoever is behind the “act” is one hell of a genius. But fans (young and old) can spot the fakeness. So far, I’m going with the flow…
There is a sort of history when it comes to BL couple (who are actually straight guys, “heteronormative”, your word), so people know they are just playing along for the sake of the show. But fans can also spot a faker and the lovin’ and interest on the couple may disappear.
Sorry, this is a long rant, but I just want to share these side stories, knowing we have a few more questions about Earn-Pete team right after.
Update: Apparently, there was an earlier team as far as 2009 in terms of BL in Thailand. In the 30-episode drama entitled พรุ่งนี้ก็รักเธอ (Tomorrow, I’ll Still Love You), it was Kong & Phiwit (Fluke Pachara Thammon & Oh Anuchit Sapunpohng) who made a lot of headlines as gay lovers in this ensemble drama/lakorn produced by Channel 5.
This earlier BL team is rather cheesy, yet there is undeniable chemistry between the two actors. [ watch the video here ]
Mario-Pchy: When Mario Maurer and Pchy got so much lovin during the Love of Siam run, everyone knows it’s all for show but there were hints of Pchy getting personal about it, but for all the wrong reasons. I mean he’s shy and he is not as focused on having an acting career so much so that his studies will suffer. Mario, though, has a different agenda and look at him now! After a few years and without seeing each other, Mario had a concert in China and Pchy was invited [ I’m inserting video here on the China concert ]
Previously Mario made a “surprise” appearance during Pchy’s concert [ here’s the Pchy concert video ]
The chemistry is not so evident anymore, maybe because they have different career paths, or maybe the initial fanservice no longer applies. I’m not really sure.
Tou and March: In Hormones S1-S2, this “tradition” of fan service continues but on a different level. March and Tou both know how to play along and it really excited the fans. [ Video 1 | Video 2 ]. I’m particularly impressed with March (Chutavuth Pattarakampol) who has an amazing acting range. His solo episode in Hormones S2 is amazing, and his role in the Swimmers is one of the best I’ve seen among his batch.
Oh, and note the dark-white complexion “combo” – Mario and March are fair skinned (and have the most success in showbiz) while Pchy and Tou have darker shades and apparently got less and less of the spotlight.
Now we’re into Ngern-August timeline and – whether they, their agents and everyone else who played along – will deny they have no idea about the team up I mentioned above are lying or just playing innocent… For me, they have transformed the BL team fan service to an almost art form.
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Jed M: Is it only me (and am I just imagining things) but lately, I have to say Ngern appears to become more competitive and aggressive in more ways than one. Or perhaps I just noticed it now? I initially think of Ngern as the best actor among the group, but then I became more and more aware of how he chooses his roles and also August, with his more serious demeanor and the fact that he was not cast in the ‘skin’-ny Waterboyy says a lot about his sense of direction and personality.
If you were the casting director and producer, would you pass the opportunity to explore the Ngern-August team in Waterboyy and get someone else? I mean, this is pure speculation, but I don’t see August accepting such a role.
Vera P: I agree, their sense of direction seems entirely different. You could say it comes across in their interviews and fanservice as well – with Ngern often being the one to take the lead with his polished answers and actions, while conversely, August plays off of him more spontaneously. I’m sure they’re both still learning about what works and what doesn’t, especially now that they’re under new management and they get to do things differently than before. They both make mistakes and correct each other as they go along, and that’s been one of the more interesting parts of following them since the end of Lovesick – they’ve got their own brand narrative now.
In all honesty, I think it would’ve been a mistake for August to take that role – therefore, I’m glad he didn’t. I think the ideal situation would’ve been to choose new faces; specifically, actors who have yet to be paired up with other guys on-screen. No matter how you look at it, BL shipping business is something you gotta be meticulous with. Once there’s an emotional attachment with one pairing, it can’t be messed with. That’s another reason why I think BL works well for television, the long-term investment gives viewers the ability to become more familiar with characters, getting to know them on a more human level. Waterboyy’s gratuitous sexual objectification being at the forefront detracts from that, in my opinion. So I can’t see that route working out well for Ngern and August if they’re made to be stock type characters in that sense, they already have enough going on for them that they can’t be flattened out now.
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Jed M.: This is just a hypothetical question but supposed Lovesick has a 3rd season (like Hormones), and that the main characters were Ngern and Pete. Would you watch it? Do you think they have enough fanbase to make the series viable? What sort of storyline would you prefer? Do you think having a triangle would suffice for the fans or should they think of some other formula for the characters?
Vera P: Let’s begin by saying I would undoubtedly watch any of their prospective projects together, even if shot with a potato camera. Ngern and August already have a whole bunch of fans hooked on them thanks to their charm and chemistry, whether on-screen or off-screen, so I’m probably not the only one who feels that way.
As for a hypothetical continuation of Lovesick with Earn and Pete as the main characters, I’d say my answer depends on how that would be executed. If that means more heavy censorship, excessive product placement, and an overall lack of interest in the story on the side of the creators – then I’d rather not see that come to light, to be honest. I’m still traumatized by the ending of their storyline in the series (in all of its fluorescent-lit, urine-filled glory. Yay).
What I’d like to see is a story that lets them have more of the depth that was taken away from them in the second season (especially Earn), and allows the fans to finally get to actually see them together (which is really the biggest crime of Lovesick, that we never got to see them cross that line of turning from friends to lovers). At this point, I think both Ngern and August have enough mainstream appeal to be well received, especially if they hang onto a non-threatening image (e.g. embracing the penguin/panda craze). I do believe they have enough fans to achieve some success, especially if they play their cards right and do a show together that will generate even more interest.
If they play different characters, I think they should still keep most of what they had in Lovesick since the close friendship was such a major part of what made their connection so appealing. My buddy likes to call what they have “magical platonic chemistry,” that’s ultimately what really made them shine in Lovesick – their reel-to-real bromance. That’s why I think a continuation of their storyline would work best if it utilizes that, rather than employing tired tropes or just throwing in a love triangle or two for the heck of it. There’s really so much that could be explored and done in a fun way as long as the story’s done with care.
Vera P: Do you think fanservice alone will sustain the fans’ interest in the long-term? As you mentioned, if the fans no longer buy the ruse then it would be hard to keep the show going.
Jed M: At this point, I think there is still so much to explore about them. I mean, with the two BL couples above, they have completed the cycle. Pchy and Mario are no longer viable and have moved on, though a recent role played by Pchy (his second gay role) for Club Friday The Series 5 is a welcome development, yet a singular one. With March and Tou, their characters actually had closure as they both parted ways, after some bitter, painful scenes. Tou’s character, Thee, initiated the end of what could have been a stormy, intense albeit “confused” relationship. I don’t really subscribe to the “bisexual” status, so I don’t buy it completely. I honestly don’t think a movie featuring both with the same scenario and relationship status can be successful either.
Ngern and August have yet to kiss or do a love scene together. This is where the tension and the suspense reign among fans – growing anticipation and demand for more of things to come, I think. There is yet no closure to their on-screen relationship, and the current development regarding the GTH meltdown can either advance this on-screen partnership into the stratosphere or they shut it down to oblivion. I would think it foolish if they decide to pair them with some other actors. The recent photos showing White Nawat making some moves on August is in poor taste. They don’t have chemistry at all and fans know it. If that’s a gimmick, then it works to spice up any upcoming Ngern-August project.
As you said, Lovesick was quite effective in making the fans invest emotionally in so far as the characters. You get to know them gradually, grow to like them (or hate them for that matter) since it’s shown on a weekly basis compared to a one-time affair in a movie. There were lots of opportunities to talk about the series and since the producers appear to be quite sensitive to what the fans say, some expectations are met.
I dunno how long Thai young actors can sustain fans’ interest since most of them would be “forced” back to studying, but I guess a 4-year run is good enough for their egos and pride, as well as numerous opportunities to save for their future. I also hope their parents are strict enough (and financially capable) to remind them of the importance of investing in their future, instead of relentless buying sprees.
I continue to follow what’s happening with Ngern and August and find the intensity of their fanservice to be very consistent. I still believe they have a bright future ahead.
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Vera P: What do you suggest as the best next step for the two of them? Should they play it safe or go bold?
Jed M: Firstly, we have to remember they have opposite personalities and this fact is the key why their on-screen love team clicked. As for future roles, I’m not really sure at this point since the playing field is very competitive in the Thai scene. There are a good number of other young actors who can steal the thunder from them:
Gun Atthaphan – who is in the Love’s Coming sequel and has generated a lot of buzz in the recent The Blue Hour;
Bank Mahayotaruk – who is making a lot of waves in Hormones Season 3
Fluke Pongsatorn – who is playing his 4th gay role in Part of Love and showed decent acting in Red Wine in the Dark Night
Peem Thanabordee Jaiyen – who is part of Hormones 3, and Stay: The Series, just hinted on having some intentions for Non (Bank) in Hormones 3
I mentioned these 4 since they have been paired in BL-themed projects, but Bank and Peem have the greatest potential since they have yet to be “declared” as BL actor candidates, if at all. In so far as the fanbase, I think Gun and Fluke both have loyal followings to speak of too. But to play a 3rd or even a fifth gay character, that may be stretching it a bit for both Gun and Fluke.
We both agreed that Ngern is more aggressive and pro-active while August appears to be more serious and takes everything in stride. I dunno if it has anything to do with the way they were raised, but Ngern is fearless in so far as accepting roles are concerned, which has resulted in a backlash as what happened in the recent Waterboyy and the fans’ reaction and reception right after. A fan pic has a description to the effect:
Our love is strong and can withstand any laser Beam
With an emphasis on Beam (Papangkorn), since he’s Ngern’s co-star in Waterboyy and some fans considered him a threat to the on-going Earn-Pete (Ngern-August) saga.
Unlike Japanese young actors who are protected by influential and powerful talent management companies, I think there is more risk for their Thai counterparts, though as far as the opportunity to explore characters who are daring and bold, as you said, can be numerous.
Lastly, at this point, establishing a solo acting career is, for me, counter-productive. Fans like to see them together, and capitalizing on that situation is the “savvy” thing to do rather than force moviegoers and their fans on something completely different and separate from the established persona.
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Another Question… I browsed your Tumblr account and there were two particular queries that really bothered me, in the sense that it puts some heavy-weight emphasis on the treatment of Ngern’s character Earn and of August character too. So I wanted to ask it also for a more detailed discussion between us…
I have the impression that Earn was a principled guy who has taken upon himself to defend the gay cheerleaders and that they should have the right to represent the school even with their sexual orientation. This character development is complemented by the fact that Noh was supposedly a very amenable and helpful guy who would go the distance for his friends. Thus, Earn fell in love with him. Season 2 ignored this character development and as you said they made him appear like a love-struck guy with nothing to do but immerse himself on finding ways on how Noh can fall in love with him. The producers and filmmakers had taken out his “spirit” and made him simply a love-stricken puppet – of course, he’s lovesick right? But come on!
August’s character could have been more than just a concerned friend (with hints of having deeper feelings) who did an about-face after discovering he likes a girl, but just how shallow is that? In my review, I thought they could have taken out Noh and Phun completely after the first 4-5 episodes of Season 2 and concentrate on Earn and Pete – they are, for a lot of reasons, more attractive (ie better looking, better actors) and has demonstrated fireworks in their relationship that we all know, there is more than meets the eye. The dilly-dallying with the Noh-Phun team has taken out a lot of substance from making Lovesick a superior coming of age drama with a lot of gay-ness and instead, they settled for cliche and the safety of the original characters. If I come to think of it, they made the series boring, except for the Earn-Pete scenes, and some of the more interesting supporting characters.
Jed M: What’s your take on Ngern’s Earn and August’s Pete character development? Could they have treated them better and offered them more scenes, thus allowing the characters to develop and grow further?
Vera P: Yeah, you’re right. The main problem was that Phun and Noh were the main characters in the novel, so the series couldn’t change that. There were probably also enough contractual obligations as to why making any alterations there was a no-go. The way I see it, right from the beginning of the season it was clear that the creators weren’t interested in taking risks and so they preferred to go for the lowest common denominator. Just look at the Phunnoh/Pang fairytale fantasy sequence from the beginning of season 2, that was an embodiment of how the writers saw their audience; the gay couples were always meant to be shiny, cheaply-made toys. That’s what I suspect will keep happening when BL becomes more mainstream in Thailand as political attitudes loosen up, gay storylines will become increasingly commodified in that way (for the better or for the worse).
I think that the writers of season one did a good thing by at least addressing some topics that naturally need to be talked about on a show that revolves around sexual identity. In the second season, it was either entirely ignored or rejected, and the inconclusive endings only emphasized that they never really planned on tackling any of those issues to begin with. On top of that, the writers really seemed to love using kathoeys as a punchline, depicting them as simple-minded and predatory creatures that were around to either bother the lead characters or act as the fourth wall (i.e. represent the audience as they saw it). There was too much that was done in bad taste when taking into account the issues presented on the show, and the fact that a large part of the fanbase was on the receiving end of those jokes too.
In the case of what happened with August’s character, you could say that they wanted to keep the conflict and mystery going since Pete was supposed to be interested in Yuri in the novel. The thing is, they solved that in the pharma camp arc when we found out that his reason for asking Noh about Yuri was in actuality just to get Earn’s attention – so it made no sense to keep that conflict going when it wasn’t explored or developed convincingly to begin with. I think that was an issue with the other stories on the show too, unnecessary love triangles were thrown in and took up time that could have been dedicated to building the characters and their relationships.
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Jed M: This is going back to the series since we have talked and explored some issues on Ngern and August. When watching Lovesick (both seasons), who did you like at first and did you like him until the end or you switched to someone else since he-is-the-best-thing-to-come-out-of-this-series sort of feeling?
Vera P: Ngern was the first one who caught my attention in the first season, he brought Earn to life and made him instantly likable. By the time, the Earn/Pete storyline began in the second season it was clear that Ngern had a lot of chemistry with August and that the friendship of their characters worked well with it. It’s a shame that Earn was changed so much throughout the show because he was an interestingly multifaceted character in the beginning, but by the end, he was robbed of some of his best-defining traits. Despite those issues, Ngern handled it like a pro and continued doing his own interpretation of the character well, so I think that’s ultimately what made him sympathetic to the viewers in the end.
Jed M: Yeah, that chemistry compelled me to start writing about them. To be honest, this is the first time I thought doing a fanboy diary is just fine. I also had the same reaction as you and it was Earn who I find to be a most intriguing and interesting character. He was with August calling Noh, and wears that black hoodie… Though at this time, I’m inclined to say I have switched to August in so far as personal bias is concerned.
So, that’s it, folks! If you have any reactions and questions, be our guest! What’s on your mind, let us know!