Hollywood has always been a clear destination for actors – it’s the “Hollywood dream” that many performers hope for, signifying the height of their career. However, popularity can also be gained in other parts of the world, including Thailand. Although success is measured differently, it is still a noteworthy accomplishment, especially in a country where English is not the native language.
Luke Ishikawa Plowden, a Japanese-American actor and model, is one of those people who decided to make the bold move of becoming an actor in Bangkok, away from LA LA Land. Luke began his career in 2019 when he starred in Wolf, a TV show. Although it was just a guest appearance, he swiftly drew attention and was cast in more shows, such as Oh My Boss (2021), My Dear Donovan (2022), The Three GentleBros (2022), and a recent production called The Jungle (2023).
Prior to acting, Luke set his sights on modelling. “I was doing my master’s degree in statistics at George Washington University. But I wasn’t really happy. I was exhausted and weak. I was working two jobs and studying [at the same time]. [One day] The lady that I rented a room from said to me ‘hey, you are handsome, you should be a model’. That was the first time I heard an American say that”, Luke tells me, then adds that he found this comment interesting, and asked his landlady to take photos of him so that he could upload them on his social media.
“She took photos of me around the Washington area, and then I started posting [the images] on Instagram while using hashtags. And from those photos, I got scouted by an international modelling agent who suggested that I should try modelling overseas”, he adds, then continues: “I didn’t believe him at first, but I checked my sources and did my own research to make sure that everything was legit. So, this idea of [becoming a model] has started at the beginning of 2017”.
This occurrence also made Luke open up to new opportunities, and he began participating in creative projects. “[I started with] a music video, and the more I let my heart open to more possibilities, the more it all became [achievable]”, Luke tells View of the Arts.
“But why Thailand?”, I asked the actor.
“My modelling agent got me three contracts”, Luke says with a chuckle, then continues: “His original plan was to send me to Hong Kong, Thailand, and then to Singapore to spend three months modelling in each country. The first person who got me on the phone and a Skype meeting was a guy named Shane, he’s the main scouter for men in Thailand. He managed to convince me, saying that I am a new model, a new face and that it’d be easier for me to start in Thailand”.
At that point, Luke made up his mind to go to Thailand and begin his career in modelling, later followed by acting.
“After modelling here in Thailand…” Luke pauses for a second, then carries on: “Long story short – I met somebody at a social gathering who said: ‘If you can learn Thai, you can do acting in Thailand’, and then the longer version is that somebody else, a person that set an example for me and who was a similar age to mine, showed me that [for instance], if you want to make a career in an Asian country, you must commit to it. And then you just put 100% into it”.
Therefore, when Luke arrived in Thailand, he decided to stay, as he had come to enjoy living in the country. “Everybody is so nice here, it’s a warm place, the food is excellent, and things are cheap. I lived in central Pennsylvania for 18 years, and Thailand turned out to be a paradise [in its own right]”, Luke admits. When the option of learning Thai presented itself, he decided to study the language intensively – four hours a week for two years. “Cultural immersion and a heavy desire to ‘make it’ in Thailand brought me to where I am now”, Luke confesses.
The Three GentleBros and My Dear Donovan are television dramas that attracted a sizeable audience in the UK. In the former show mentioned, Luke portrays Itch, followed by Dino in My Dear Donovan. What I find interesting is that the casting process varies from the one we have in the West, therefore, prior to discussing the aforementioned roles, Luke enlightens me about the process behind his GMMTV roles.
“First, we have to talk about casting in Thailand, at least the company that I am signed with. We don’t really do casting for the roles. They know the artists they have in their hands, and they know who would be good [for a story they have]. They generally say ‘here is a role for you’”, Luke explains, then continues that it would be unprofessional to refuse a role that you have been given. GMMTV often buys the rights to the stories and selects their own actors, the ones who they know would suit the characters and narrative the best.
When the roles of Itch and Dino came along, Luke admits that Dino’s character is closer to who he is in real life than Itch from The Three GentleBros.
“Dino is American and a model”, Luke laughs, then adds: “There are lots of similarities there, and the joy of bringing Dino’s character to life was his backstory”.
The actor was discussing the role in great detail, but to avoid spoilers, we will let you watch the show to learn more about Dino. But as Luke says, “it was fun to portray that character”.
“The challenge with Itch was that he is a real Thai guy. So, the mannerisms and the language had to be spot-on. I thought it would be more difficult for me at first, but playing Itch came naturally to me”, Luke tells me with a big smile on his face.
This year will be a very busy year for the actor as he will also have a new show, The Jungle, released. And again, to avoid spoilers, I asked Luke to describe his character in a few words. “The story is about a group of guys that Nathee is a part of. The challenge with them is that there are two sides to each of them; they have a night character and a day personality”, Luke explains.
“[Overall], the story is about these guys’ friendship, and how they develop this kind of secret society in a [local] bar where all of us let our animal instincts out. We have our own love interests too. I think that’s all [I can say]”.
While talking about his new series, the actor also discusses the topic of what makes a performance believable.
“You know, when you listen to the great actors of our generation or the past generation, and listen to what makes a great performance believable, they have always mentioned researching their characters. It’s all about the amount of detail you can put into every performance and committing 100% to believing in every situation you are in, the emotions have to come from the character, not you. The more you open yourself up to the process of internalising the lines, internalising what a director has to say [this all helps the character develop]”, Luke explains, then continues: “For me, what makes an actor a good performer is being a good team-worker. The more an actor on set can open their minds and hearts to constructive feedback, and letting go of their egos, the better they become”, Luke confesses candidly.
“We have been talking a lot about you as an actor, but have you ever thought of writing your own screenplay, and making yourself the main character?”, I ask.
“That would be amazing”, Luke laughs, then continues: “When I talk about my heroes from the entertainment industry, like Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, I can’t help but be amazed by them. As far as directing is concerned, I used to think it was something [I wanted to do]. But there is a lot of work involved, and you have to be incredibly passionate about it. I think something behind the scenes, like producing, would be within my skill set”.
While directing has been put aside, Luke often dreams of portraying a role in an action film, a film that would allow him to rehearse a lot of things, including, for instance, choreography.
“I am a huge fan of Keanu Reeves”, Luke exclaims, then carries on: “[I admire] legendary action stars. I am a big fan of long action sequences with no cuts. And that requires months of training just for one scene – it’s a dream of mine to [experience that]. And getting into fitness and a certain lifestyle for preparation for such a role [would be great]”.
Outside of modelling and acting, Luke is also learning to play guitar. On top of that, he recently did a cover of Shawn Mendes’ If I Can Have You.
“So, could you tell me more about singing, are you planning to become a singer?”, I ask.
“Yeah, and that’s why I idolise both of those people [Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga]. I have been carrying this around”, Luke laughs, showing off his guitar.
“My goal is definitely to play Pop-rock, maybe something a little bit heavier than that”.
“Just Pop-rock? Any other genre?”, I ask.
“Linkin Park”, Luke quickly adds, then continues: “Do you know Chester [Bennington]? I would like to play that sort of music, maybe less sad, but yeah, something like that”.
Although Luke is confidently reaching his goals, whether it’s acting, modelling, or singing, he does not forget others – those who are in need and require more attention than himself.
“From a pretty young age, I felt like my goal in life was to genuinely help a hundred million people. This motivated me my whole life to continue to push as hard as I can, and climb whatever ladder is in front of me. I have heroes who do incredible things in their lives; for instance, when I was younger, Al Gore was one of those people who really inspired me a lot from his documentaries about Global Warming [An Inconvenient Truth]”, Luke confesses, and adds that philanthropic donations, mentoring, and creating channels to help people are things he would love to do in the future.
“Figuring out how to help people is something that I want to do, it sounds difficult, but yeah… [that’s what I want to do]”, Luke concludes.
Aside from The Jungle, Luke also mentions that he has a big project coming up.
“I have a movie that will be out at the end of this year, or at least that’s what the producers say”, Luke laughs, making further comment: “The film is called Slyth, and it’s an action sci-fi production, right up my alley. I did a lot of work-outs for this one. The film should be available on Netflix”.
By the end of the interview, Luke managed to give me a great depiction of what it is like for a non-Thai resident to live in Thailand. Although he had to adjust to the country’s culture and habits, he definitely showed that with determination and passion, one can achieve their dreams regardless of the country they live in.
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, and art, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop / K-music, and Asian music in general, and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, music, and arts, worldwide.
One Comment Add yours
I just recently seen him in “Oh Donovan, and watching the episodes of Oh my Boss , he is talented, handsome and love his smiles. I seen a few of his model photoshots and his intense look remind me of this song” Aint Done with the Night” by John Mellancamp. I wish you the best in your career, happiness and long live. A fan from Chicago.