After his breakout debut in F4 Thailand: Boys Over Flowers, Thai actor Dew Jirawat remains grounded and with a renewed attitude for what has yet to come.
“I never dreamt that one day I’ll become the actor I am today,” says the 22-year old actor who has amassed a legion of devout followers — seemingly overnight — a little over a year ago with the release of GMMTV’s F4 Thailand: Boys Over Flowers.
The series marks the fourth adaptation of the cult teenage phenomenon: its source derives from the Japanese manga of the same name (Hana Yori Dango), before its Taiwanese (Meteor Garden), Korean (Boys Over Flowers) and Chinese (Meteor Garden) adaptations cemented the series as an instant classic amongst young audiences. Each release is significant, considering that an adaptation signals the start of a pop culture renaissance in each country. In Taiwan, its regional popularity paved the way for its entertainment industry; while in Korea, it became a hallmark moment in the rise of the Korean wave — also known as the Hallyu wave.
What does it mean for Jirawat then, who only had his acting debut through the series? It represents a guaranteed hit. History has shown that every actor that has starred in the adaptations became household names, not just within their local industries, but in the region and beyond.
Likewise, it became true for him. With millions of fans, the actor instantly entered the public eye and into the pop scene at large, amassing a crowd of followers that has not stopped growing since. Jirawat also arrived in the Thai drama scene after a period of upheaval for the genre that has extended to social media and beyond, foreshadowing a regional shift in interest. The actor — who began his career in his late-teenage years as a model — always had his path on imprinting himself into the world. On his career so far, he humbly says that he felt like his journey has shifted into a different path.
“I never dreamt that one day I’ll become the actor I am today. Yet, I know for a fact that this was the right path. I have no idea what will happen in the future but I’m excited about the experiences ahead of me. There’s some part of me that still feels anxious about my performance because I can’t tell for sure if the responses to my performance and the delivery of my characters are well-received.”
Yet, it appears certain that the actor has nothing to worry about. In the Thai adaptation, Jirawat plays Ren, a character inspired by Rui Hanazawa who appears in the original manga series. This time, the 2021 series adapts the tribulations of teenage love and friendship as past adaptions had, but spins the development of the characters, their personalities and storylines in a way that addresses contemporary Thai issues. The development of Ren largely mirrors that of Dew Jirawat’s real-life personality, soft spoken, tender and creatively tuned — which was witnessed in the change of his character’s talent. In the original manga, Rui Hanazawa is a violinist, while the Thai adaptation sees writers taking cues from his real-life visual arts ability in the character.
Being more attuned to the current generation is what every adaptation of the series tries to achieve. While the love triangle remains, F4 Thailand: Boys Over Flowers brought the original story back to life, declutters the cheesy writing and developed Jirawat as one to watch alongside familiar co-stars (and real-life friends) Bright Vachirawit and Win Metawin.
“I think everyone has different characters and personalities in them depending on the people you’re with or the scenarios you’re in, but I’m really similar to Ren,” shares Jirawat. “When I’m with my close friends or even when I want to be alone, the resemblance is there. There are many aspects in life that Ren and I are similar, so I’ve used that in playing this character.”
Can you tell us more about the two new upcoming series you’ll star in this year?
I’ll be playing two distinctively different characters, which is quite a challenging experience. My character in the first and second series are totally different from each other because of their age and storyline, but both stories centres around the themes of love and growing up. I hope the audience will enjoy them and see how far I have tried to explore these new personas and bring them to life for the screens.
I’m sure your schedule has been packed these days. What is one trick you have to manage your time?
I’ll be honest. I can’t say I know how to manage my time, yet I do know what I need to prioritise first. Now my priority is solely on work, and it usually involves preparing for my roles and to keep my mind focused on that before moving on to other priorities, such as studying. But I’m not great at preparing and following a timetable. [Laughs] So I can’t do much in a day. It’s quite difficult to focus on many things at the same time.
What preparations or rituals do you have before becoming your characters?
I’ve attended acting classes before, and the technique usually involves things I’ve learnt from those lessons and thinking about how I would act in some situations if I were that character. For instance, It could be as simple as asking myself first thing in the morning, “what will that character do in the morning?” Or even as simple as thinking about the speed at which he would drive a car. I’ll keep my mind focused on that character until I can fully tune in and have a clearer picture of how I would like to express him.
Favourite moments on set?
It’s probably the moment when we were filming the scene when F4 fought each other in the show. We’re all very close, both on screen and in real life. So when it had to get physical, I had to imagine the punches as a real reaction, as though we were having a fight in real life. There were many emotional moments on set and our friendship helped bring them to life. The fight scene in particular was exhausting to film. We understood why we needed to do it — although some might not enjoy it — it truthfully showed the full extent of the friendship between the characters. I was satisfied with the outcome. It’s not every day that you get to do such an impactful scene like that with your best friends.
If you could write a letter to your younger self, what would you say?
Thank you for making mistakes, for being curious, for your failures, and for not being perfect. Because all these things push you to improve yourself and become a better person. If not for my younger self, I might not be where I’m at today. I just want to thank myself and tell myself not to be scared of how he’s going to be in the future. I want to tell him that he will still be himself and there’s nothing to be worried about.
Has there been any emotional changes as you begin your 20s? Any goals you would like to achieve before you hit your 30s?
I don’t think there has been any big change yet, but if I could compare myself now with the self I was when I was 19, there’s definitely been a lot of changes. I feel like I need to be more matured and grow up faster. I still have some childishness in me. I’m very excited about what is to come because being 20 is like having a door that will open up to opportunities I have always wanted to explore.
What do you love about yourself these days, now that you are in a new phase of your life?
I like myself for being myself. I like my character, and the stress, obsession and seriousness I have for something. Perhaps these traits will bring me further in my career.
Any goals you would like to achieve this year?
This year, I hope you will enjoy the series I’m in and see that a different side of me. I hope viewers will get to see that too and enjoy the character I play. I’m also keen to try new things or challenges this year.
You also share a lot of moments with your fans on Instagram, is there a moment that you would like to share?
Most of my fans will upload my pictures, tag me, edit some of my clips and upload them or be at events I’m attending to take pictures of me. They’re very cute and lovely. Sometimes I can’t see myself when I attend events so it’s nice to see how things are from their perspective, through their posts or when they combine all my favourite moments in the series as one clip.
Lastly, do you have any messages for your fans?
Thank you for your support and I hope you’ll keep supporting me in my future roles. It’s a long journey to go and I hope the work I’ve done makes you happy, even if it’s something that will make you smile and relax after a long day.
Photography Zantz Han
Creative Direction & Styling Izwan Abdullah
Interview Manfred Lu
Grooming Sukwasa Khadphab
Hair Yothin Chuaysri
Production Manager Aung Keng
Translation Akira Boonpakorn