Midway through his shoot, Nattawin Wattanagitiphat, or Apo as he usually goes by, requests for a song change. He scrolls through the Spotify playlist and, ostensibly not finding music that he fancies, proceeds to search for a particular song. As the starting bars begin to play over the speakers in the studio, the 28-year-old Thai actor breaks into a smile, walks back on set, and, without missing a beat, works the camera effortlessly. His song of choice is American R&B singer Joe’s 1999 slow jam hit song “I Wanna Know”. It is an interesting, curious pick for someone who would have only been four years old at the time this song was released. “He is an old soul,” offers his manager as somewhat of an explanation of the TV star’s music tastes.
Not disagreeing, Apo chimes in to add that he likes R&B because “you can feel the emotions in the songs”. In between takes, he gets lost in the moment. With his eyes closed, he grooves and dances across the floor, as if no one is watching. “I also like listening to Whitney Houston, Sam Cooke, and Elvis Presley. But my favourite kinds of music are those without lyrics, like Bach or John Coltrane.”
“Sometimes, I don’t want to hear a vocalist in a song because I like humming to the rhythm and melody. There is a resonance that reverberates in your head and that is very calming for me, almost like meditation,” he says.
Watching the young celebrity work the set, dressed in key looks and pieces from Cartier, Bottega Veneta, Louis Vuitton and Prada, one cannot help but to be mesmerised by his presence. Tall, tanned, handsome, with a perfectly tousled mane, and a jawline so sharp it looks like it can cut through glass, his are the kind of boyish good looks most often found in romantic young adult movies.
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It is small wonder then that the man who plays the character Porsche, one of two main leads in the popular Thai drama KinnPorsche: The Series (2022), has amassed a legion of adoring fans who are so supportive, they are willing to go the extra mile just to see him smile and wave at them. “When we were in Singapore for the KinnPorsche: The Series tour in October, some of our fans flew in from neighbouring countries, like Indonesia, just to come watch our show, and it was very heartwarming to see them,” says Apo the next day as we sit in his hotel room at the JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach. In town for the Harper’s BAZAAR Asia NewGen Fashion Awards 2022, Apo already knows that some of his fans will be gathering outside the show’s venue just to catch a glimpse of him. “They are all so nice, and it is an experience for me. I’m very grateful to have this. Most of the time, they just want to come up to you to talk to you and then take a photo. If I am not working, that is fine. But if I am working, then maybe next time,” he says.
This is not his first brush with fame, though. Born in the Hua Hin district of Thailand’s Prachuap Khiri Khan province, the middle child of three siblings began his acting career in 2015, after a few years of being a commercial model in Bangkok. He made his debut as part of an ensemble cast in the hit Thai soap drama, Sud Kaen Saen Rak (Most Hate, Most Love), and went on to star in various other long-running hit series over the next few years. These saw his popularity growing exponentially.
But Apo shares that while he enjoyed the attention he garnered from being a constant on Thai TV, he could not reconcile that with how his then-management company expected him to behave. “When you play a crucial character on screen, there are certain rules that you have to adhere to off screen,” he shares. “They wanted me to act like I am a very famous person; like I am untouchable to the public. I was not able to do anything else other than act—I couldn’t even cook. That is just not who I am, and I didn’t want someone else controlling my life.”
Thus, at the age of 25, not knowing anything else other than acting, Apo began questioning his future. “I started thinking then: Five years from now, I will be 30. Someday, fame will fade away and I don’t have any other technical or personal skills. So, if I cannot do anything else, what do I do after all this?” Which is why, upon the end of his contract with the management company in 2019, Apo packed his bags and made his way to the United States. He had no plans; just a mission to experience life, picking up random jobs as a waiter and a bartender—the latter coming in handy when he was cast in KinnPorsche: The Series.
The global pandemic hit six months into his journey of self-discovery and Apo was forced to move back to Thailand to be with his family. But it was also during those few crucial months that he realised how much he still loved acting, even though he enjoyed his mini career break and “picked up a number of skills”. “It was an experience that changed my perspective on many things,” he says.
Now, having fully embraced his life as an actor and entertainer, Apo is looking forward to the opportunities that have surfaced since the launch of KinnPorsche: The Series in April—not least a new film that he will be working on come January next year. While reluctant to share details on the project, he does let on that he will be playing a traditional Thai dancer—a role he has been wanting to play since he first started acting. “I am not a dancer, and I find it uncomfortable to follow counts. But this is the kind of role that I think will challenge my abilities,” he says.
For the last few months, Apo has been going through intensive training for the role, which includes choreography classes as well as muscle memory workshops to make sure his movements closely mimic those of dancers who have trained since young. “The elegance of Thai traditional dance is attributed to the movement and positioning of the hands and legs. So, every morning, I have to keep bending my fingers as far back as possible to stretch them.”
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Despite a gruelling schedule for the KinnPorsche: The Series tour, coupled with various appearances around the region, commercial jobs, as well as training for the upcoming film, the affable star takes it all in his stride, sharing that he meditates to relax. “Before I sleep, I will clear my mind and meditate by chanting mantras. It is my way of just letting go and connecting with myself. Plus, meditating calms me down instantly. And when I wake up, I feel good and am ready to take on whatever the day has to offer.”
Photographed by Reuben Foong
Creative direction by Windy Aulia
Styled by Gracia Phang
Grooming: Pakanat Poolsawat
Producer: Navin Pillay
Stylist’s assistant: Isabella Low