Cover Story: Bible Wichapas Sumettikul on rejection and self-reflection

After his breakout role as Vegas in KinnPorsche: The Series, the 26-year-old mechanical engineering graduate turned actor is eager to take on more challenges. He talks to Zaneta Cheng about rejection, self-reflection and how not to be forgotten

Despite being named after the best-selling book of all time – as a reminder, he has said, for his born-again Christian father to read it more – Bible Wichapas Sumettikul didn’t set out to become a famous actor with millions of adoring fans.

The 26-year-old enjoyed a carefree childhood hanging out with friends before enrolling at Bangkok’s Thammasat University to study mechanical engineering. “We grew up in Chiang Mai, so we love nature. We would go camping, go to waterfalls, ride dirt bikes and go off-roading,” he says as we chat on the sidelines of his first #legend photo shoot. “It was a very fun, very adventurous lifestyle.”

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One indication, however, that Bible was destined for a life outside of the northern Thai city was the fact that his parents sent him to an international Christian school where more than 90 per cent of the student body was from other countries.

“All of my friends were from all around the world. My closest friend group had someone from the Philippines, Canada, America and one more Thai. And we had a halfie in there as well,” he says. “My parents always had the idea that they wanted me to have English as a skill and an asset. So they thought it was the best way to learn, the closest thing that I would get to being abroad but still in Chiang Mai. And then they would support it by having cable that had Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. Even as a kid they said that I would watch it non-stop.”

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Bible’s English skills – combined with his preternatural good looks – came in handy when he was looking to earn some extra money at university, and eventually led him down the path to a career in entertainment. “I actually did a lot of odd jobs during university. I tutored English and basic maths, and my senior was modelling at the time.

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He was like, ‘You know, why don’t you try modelling? You get good money on the side. You can do it on the weekends. It won’t affect your studies,’” he recalls. “So then I got in contact with an agency and they would send me on castings.” After being turned away as a model for being too short – just 5cm below the industry standard of 180cm – Bible was sent instead on commercial castings. Only this time, due to years of speaking English as his primary language, he was often passed over due to his Thai not being quite fluent enough.

“Because I wasn’t really pursuing it as a main career, I just thought this was a good opportunity. I was studying to be an engineer, to get my degree,” he recalls when asked how he got over being rejected. “I think it was easier for me to handle the rejection because like, ‘Hey, this is not what I’m focusing on; this is just something that I’m trying out.’ As for the language barrier, the only way was just to practise it, to use it more and to take actual Thai lessons to improve.”

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It wasn’t until his friend and senior, who was studying to become a director and helping Bible with his acting training, heard of the role of Vegas in KinnPorsche: The Series that things got a bit more serious. “He was helping me with my commercial castings and stuff like that. But then when he got the news of this role, he was like, ‘Hey, why don’t you try casting for this role? I think it would be good for you,’” Bible says. “So I said, ‘Sure why not, let’s try it out.’ When we went to the first casting, I got the callback and we were so happy. Then they gave me the lines that I had to do for the callback, and we spent like three days and two nights just hammering it out. We did the character background, we did all that, and I think that was a big part of why I got Vegas.”

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KinnPorsche: The Series, based on the web novel of the same name, tells the story of Kinn, the second son and de facto heir of a notorious crime family, and his tumultuous relationship with Porsche, a young bartender he hires as his bodyguard. Bible plays the eldest son and de facto heir of a minor branch of the same crime family, with a deep-seated inferiority complex and uncontrolled anger issues.

“The character Vegas is a very troubled individual. He’s not a good person actually,” says Bible, who continued to work with an acting coach after securing the role. “I felt like I just had to understand his motivations. He’s ambitious and he’s got a lot of pressure from his father and he wants to be great, but he doesn’t really know how to be great. So it comes out in lashing out.”

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Still a full-time student, Bible had to learn to manage schoolwork and his budding acting career at the same time. “Luckily it was still during online lessons. So there were times where I was on set and I had to do my hair and makeup while I was in the lecture, in the Zoom meeting. And there were times where I would have to go do an exam in the morning, and then go to set to get my hair and makeup done, and do a scene that day,” he says. “It was actually touch and go for a second because, during filming, I actually saw how much I was putting weight on the acting rather than my studies. Afterwards, I kind of reassessed, reevaluated and then I feel like I had a better handle on things after.”

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KinnPorsche: The Series premiered in April 2022, with a full uncut version KinnPorsche: La Forte airing one hour later. Bible graduated from Thammasat University the following year, by that time a bonafide star with more than 2.5 million Instagram followers and several high-profile fashion brand collaborations under his belt. But more than fame and the opportunity to meet people from all corners of the creative and entertainment industries, Bible says the move into acting has given him a chance to look within like never before.

“When I got to study the character and started to study acting, I started to realise how little I actually knew about myself. I guess I didn’t really do that much introspection or reflection. I was just on autopilot mode and kind of going through life,” says the self-proclaimed introvert who enjoys working on DIY projects by himself but also thrives on working with others towards a common goal like making a TV series.

“Being able to do this gave me a great opportunity to just learn what makes me tick, what motivates me, what makes me sad, what makes me happy. Especially the happy part because you can answer what makes you sad pretty easily. But I guess I didn’t appreciate or realise that I hadn’t really appreciated what makes me happy as much as I should. I don’t put enough weight or importance on it, and as an actor you really need to have both – to be able to portray what it means to be really happy and what it means to be sad.”

Bible is currently preparing for his next series, 4 Minutes, with the acting coach who helped him tremendously on KinnPorsche: The Series on board as director and popular Thai novelist “Sam” Isaree Siriwankulthon providing the screenplay. Bible is particularly excited to star alongside Jes Jespipat, an actor who has been in the industry for 15 years.

“I’ve worked with very few actors because it was my first role in KinnPorsche. But with this one, I could feel there was something different. I guess that comes with experience. When we did the workshop and had our first exercise together, I felt like wow, there’s so much more to learn from him, there’s so much more for us to explore. The script was there, the chemistry was there, everything was there.”

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Of all the actors in Thailand and around the world, however, Bible’s legend is Dolph Lundgren. “He was the bad guy in Rocky IV,” he says of the Swedish actor, filmmaker and martial arts champion. “He has a bachelor’s and a master’s in chemical engineering, and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study at MIT. So he was in academia and then he went into acting. He’s also very tall, muscular and handsome. He’s got the looks, the education, the smarts. For me, he’s everything.”

Lundgren made his acting debut at 28, so Bible is already a few years ahead of him. But rather than chasing international stardom like that of his idol, the Thai newcomer is focused first and foremost on honing his craft. “I think movies and cinema in the end are just stories about people, and these stories – no matter how grandiose they are – can be broken down to the most basic human elements and motivations,” he explains. “So I just want to be a good storyteller.”

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Nevertheless, with the benefit of the past few years’ introspection, Bible also knows what he wants out of life now as well as far into the future. “Right now my goal is to be an actor. I want to pursue it for as long, as far as I can. What drives me is that I want to improve all the time. So striving for improvement. I don’t need to win anything or go anywhere just as long as I’m improving from what I’ve done before,” he says.

“The ultimate goal is to become a father and start a family. I’ve said this before but people will ultimately forget who you are, they will forget your name. Maybe 10 to 15, 30 years from now, nobody will remember, no matter how famous you are. But your kids will never forget you. So that’s gonna be my legacy.”

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