Many varied opinions and definitions come to mind when people see this word. Professionally, to act is to pretend, to successfully convince other people that you are someone else.
And that’s not a simple task.
As a fiction writer, I spend a lot of time acting on the page, stepping into roles through words, descriptions, and dialogue. From antagonist to protagonist, there’s a desperate need to build each character from the ground up, to understand each person I bring to life, even if they aren’t easy to relate to. Sometimes these characters break me. Other times, they transform me. Ink is blood, and I bleed it into every word I write.
And that’s only on the page.
Imagine stepping in front of the camera to take on one of those characters. To take on whatever makes them good or bad. To receive whatever feelings viewers have about them. To lose sleep over long hours on set. To physically and mentally tax yourself in that character’s place.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time on television and movie sets. Each one is different, each one demanding in its own ways depending on the story. I once watched two actors spend five hours in a car built inside a water tank, bringing to life a heartbreaking scenario: a car accident on a bridge where a child loses her father.
Imagine spending five hours inside that scene. Five hours inside a water tank meant to mimic an actual situation. The tears. The fear.
Both actors received a standing ovation in the end. It not only marked the end of the scene, it also wrapped filming on that episode. The exhaustion was real.
Now imagine being an actor inside the BL industry.
As a bisexual author, I’ve actively sought out and enjoyed a variety of gay films and dramas. And while they all have their own professional appeal, I’ve discovered Asian BLs, in particular, come with added pressure and dedication. Not only are the actors tasked with bringing these characters to life, they spend a good deal of time being asked to be these same characters off the screen.
There’s a fine line between fiction and reality in the BL industry. One many fans have no issue crossing.
This fine line brings me to the acting growth in the industry.
From shows like KinnPorsche to I Told Sunset About You to Not Me to Dear Doctor, there’s been a driving need to provide a variety of stories with mature characters that offer more nuanced storytelling and emotional depth.
And nowhere is this more noticeable than with the actors selected to portray them. There has been a marked improvement in the casting process.
Especially in Thailand.
Gone are the days when watching a BL was like watching a skit done to promote the idea of a same-sex relationship. In no way are older series or the actors involved bad; the acting has simply grown into an era where the actors themselves are focusing less on appearing in a BL and more on focusing on the story they need to convey on screen, gay or otherwise.
Recent prime examples of this are I Told Sunset About You, Not Me, and KinnPorsche. The actors, even the rookie ones, were cast to play parts they embraced. Their passion for their roles leapt off the screen.
It’s key to remember that gay series are the same as any other series, and they deserve the same respect given to non-BL series when it comes to production and casting.
Appearance has played a considerable role in the entertainment industry, specifically the BL one. But I appreciate the shift many dramas are taking from focusing only on appearance to concentrating on skill as well.
I came into the BL scene early, and it’s been interesting to go back to earlier productions before delving into some of the recent ones to see the difference. Some older shows/films were cornerstones to what we are seeing now, such as Love of Siam.
But the sudden need to produce many series created a chain of ‘quantity over quality’ dramas. Although I watched them all as they dropped over the years, it was a struggle to find ones that provided quality acting and story. But it also made the ones that did offer quality stand out.
And that’s what we’re seeing now. We’re moving back into a quality over quantity era when many companies compete to see who can release a series with better acting and story depth. The audience is winning for it.
It doesn’t take a seasoned actor to pull off a role in a splendid way. The way rookie actors Bible and Barcode have stepped into the roles of Vegas and Porchay in the currently airing KinnPorsche The Series is an example of that.
All it takes is a casting director with a good eye, a director who knows how to guide his/her/their actors, and actors with natural talent and determination.
Like the noticeable shift in the types of BL dramas coming to the screen, there is also a noticeable shift in the actors used for these parts.
And the talent is extraordinary.
There is a marked improvement in the chemistry between actors as well, leading to a comfortable rapport that brings the romance to life in a vivid, emotional way.
I am now walking away from many BL dramas feeling like I lived them with the actors. And that says a lot about what’s being offered and who’s being hired.
Pay attention, viewers. These actors are working hard to be remembered, and we’re getting the quality content out of their long hours and dedication.