A close-up look at Bangkok's dark side

The creators of a new Netflix series look beyond the glitz and glamour of the City of Angels

Sukollawat plays an emergency rescue team member. (Photos © Netflix Thailand)

The largest and most populous city in Thailand, Bangkok is well-known as a perfect tourist destination and street food paradise with plenty of friendly faces. But just like any other big city around the world, only people who actually live here understand that Bangkok can be a facade. On one side is a glamorous city, but the other side presents a very dark place.

To shed light on the City of Angels and to take a good look at different views and discover the city's darkest corners, people are invited to explore it in Bangkok Breaking, an upcoming original series from Netflix, set to premiere locally and globally on Sept 23.

Bangkok Breaking follows the journey of Wanchai (Sukollawat "Weir" Kanarot), who comes to the big city seeking big opportunities to save his family from poverty. Wanchai decides to join an emergency rescue team with hope to help others in trouble, only to find himself tangled in dark, big city secrets. Joining the cast alongside Sukollawat is Sushar "Aom" Manaying who plays Kat, a fearless journalist with an aspiration to fight against the corrupt and unravel a citywide conspiracy.

The six-episode series marks the first collaboration project between well-known director Kongkiat Khomsiri (The Gangster, 2012, Khun Phan, 2016) and novelist/screenwriter Prabda Yoon (Invisible Waves, 2006, Motel Mist, 2016). Bangkok Breaking is Thailand's second original Netflix series after the teen supernatural drama The Stranded. It's also the first Thai series to be shot in HDR for full visual immersion, with unique storytelling that promises to be a "fast-paced" and "gripping" suspense thriller that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

Life recently chatted with Kongkiat and Prabda in this exclusive interview via Zoom where the two filmmakers open up on their brave decision in making this controversial yet refreshing tale of Bangkok.

Director Kongkiat Khomsiri. (Photos: Netflix Thailand)

What's the inspiration behind the story in Bangkok Breaking?

Kongkiat:  We want to unfold the image of Bangkok as it exists in many dimensions. I think that Bangkok itself is no different from other capital cities in the world. It may have a bright and beautiful scene, but at the same time it is a complex city in and of itself.

Prabda:  We want the viewers to see every corner and every aspect of life in Bangkok. Whether it's a rich person's life, their luxurious lifestyle, or the lives of the villagers and the poor who live in the community. So we decided to have our main character working as part of an emergency rescue team because this group of people could lead us into every corner in the city.

Prabda Yoon and Sukollawat. 

The appeal of this series is that it presents a perspective on Bangkok in a way that has never been done before. I would like to know if most of the content in Bangkok Breaking is entirely fictional or is it based on true stories?

Kongkiat: In fact, most of the things that happen in the series are based on real databases, just that we didn't tell it straight out. These are stories that most Bangkokians have always known but few dared to say. In the past, Bangkok was often referred to as a liveable city. It is one of the top tourist attractions in the world. But we bring other perspectives, the secrets of Bangkok come out and we talk about it. This is where we think it's interesting.

Why did you decide to cast Sukollawat and Sushar for this series?

Kongkiat:  We aimed at Sukollawat since the pre-production as we all know that he's a great actor and he has a strong fanbase in Thailand. Plus, Netflix also wants to work with him, so casting Sukollawat is a no brainer. But we went through a lot of auditioning for the role of Kat before we landed on Sushar. We thought she was the perfect fit in terms of performance, and especially her physique. Sushar is a small person, which is quite similar to the character that we initially thought of as someone who looks innocuous on the outside, but is really brave and not afraid to rise up against injustice.

Apart from the action element that we see in the trailer, what's the mood and tone of the show? Is there anything that relates to politics?

Prabda:  It's a crime-action show with a strong element of drama too. Most of the action scenes are usually from the duty of rescuers who are at risk in dangerous places in order to help the victims.

Kongkiat: At the heart of the show lies the story of the bravery of a group of people who stand up to defend some kind of justice. Therefore, the content and purpose of this series is not aimed at attacking any kind of system.

How did this collaboration project first come about? And what's it like working together for the first time?

Prabda:  It was actually a project I've been discussing with Netflix for a while. And we all agreed that Kongkiat is the right person to direct the series. So, I called him about it and I was glad that he was interested in working together. We both have the same passion for films, so everything went smoothly.

Kongkiat: I'm a fan of the streaming service and also a fan of Prabda's writing style, so I didn't take long at all to decide to work on this project. Bangkok Breaking is a project that we intended from the beginning would not be anyone's personal work, or try to be a niche film. Therefore, the content will be quite accessible and not complicated, and is designed to create entertainment mainly.

How do you two personally define the word Bangkok?

Prabda: It's quite difficult to describe Bangkok for anyone who really lives here. I'd say it's a full flavour and has so many layers [laughs].

Kongkiat: To me Bangkok is surreal [laughs]. Personally, I think Bangkok has a very high contradiction in itself. It's a very fast developing city, which at the same time contradicts the concept of people who develop or understand something very slowly. Living in such a strange and diverse city, I think that to survive people must have a high level of self-awareness.

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