A familiar face in local media tells of the winding path that brought him to Thailand and that now extends to points throughout Asia-Pacific.
It was 2006 when Justin arrived to Bangkok for the first time. He was coming to the tail end of his backpacking trip, which brought him through Australia and Asia. The truth was that he had spent all his cash and, so, did what most native English speakers do in this predicament: he became an English teacher. After teaching for about a month, he eventually came to the attention of a Bangkok modelling agency. In the blink of an eye, Justin started booking TV commercial work. It wasn’t long before he quit teaching and was modelling full time.
Justin began to realise how much he enjoyed performing in front of the camera, but he eventually felt the need to go further than simply starring in TV commercials. Justin and his friends started writing and producing their own material, and since then he has become quite entrenched in Bangkok’s film community.
You may recognise him from the Nescafe and Nestea commercials. Advertisements for LG, MasterCard, Colgate, Sizzler, Comfort, and Rejoice are just a few highlights from his growing modelling an acting portfolio. However, his acting career started back in his teenage years when Justin and his friends would make short movies just for fun. In university, he went on to study communications at The University of Texas at Austin, frequently making presentations and speeches to large audiences.
But aside from taking part in a couple of one-off acting classes and reading a few acting books, Justin says he’s learned most of his acting skills from doing and watching. One of his favourite pastimes is to watch actors and identify the little nuances they add to their characters.
After graduating from university, Justin moved to Monterrey, Mexico and worked in his uncle's store selling artificial plants. He even played some semi-pro football (or soccer as the Americans call it). While Justin enjoyed his time there, a case of the travel bug sent him out to see more of the world. He credits a university friend who not only convinced him to move to Singapore, but also pushed him towards his first modelling gigs in the Merlion city. After Singapore, Justin lived in Perth, Australia for a few months and worked as a door-to-door salesman. He describes it as one of the most interesting jobs he’s ever had because it exposed him to a colourful array of people in a short amount of time.
Since stepping into the acting industry, Justin has found primary inspiration among his friends, many of them whom are talented actors, writers, models, directors and musicians. He attributes his success to their guidance, support and ‘overall awesomeness’. In fact, it was his good friend and director Aaron Man who gave Justin a leading role in the latest music video by Thailand’s most famous hip-hop trio, Thaitanium. In the group’s video for ‘Come Alive’ Justin plays a character he describes as ‘everyone's favourite loveable nerd-hero’. He admits that not much research was needed for this particular role as most of his experience in TV commercial work has essentially been this kind of character.
Indeed Justin explains that a lot of acting is simply accessing certain parts of himself. ‘Let's just say that it has been very easy for me to tap into acting like a total nerdy idiot,’ he admits with a grin. So what does a loveable nerd-hero do? In one scene Justin drops all of his papers on the BTS Sky Train. Since all the passengers around him were not actors but real passengers, they actually confused him for being a poor ‘pathetic loser’ who had dropped all his paper work (which adds to the authenticity of course!).
While he thoroughly enjoys thinking of new ways to act like a complete idiot, Justin's actual character preference is the creepy, eccentric villain. He loves to take on the challenge of delving into a more sinister side of his psyche. ‘It just feels good to be bad!’ he exclaims. You can see this character in some of his short-film roles. In The Art of Living directed by Martin Landsburg, Justin played a heroin-addicted drug runner searching for his lost love. To research the role he actually spent time with a former heroin addict who disclosed some unbelievable stories of running drugs from Taipei, living on the streets, and being held at knifepoint. For the sake of his character research, Justin even ventured into the slums where the ex-addict used to live and shoot-up. In less extreme methods of getting into character and gaining inspiration, Justin will study YouTube clips of his favourite devilish characters.
His dream role is to appear in a provocative, dark thriller, a crime/gangster film set in some kind of surreal dystopia where he plays a sadistic yet lovable villain. Justin adds with a bit of cheek his preference is for a high-budget production so he can be well paid, of course. Not to mention Natalie Portman as the leading lady — that would be a huge plus.
Justin’s acting goal? To encompass the innovative charisma of Johnny Depp, the energetic presence of Robert Downey Jr., the mind-numbing subtleties of Gary Oldman and the refined sleekness of Daniel Day-Lewis. More importantly, Justin believes the ideal acting career is one through which he can simply do what he loves. Besides acting and modelling, Justin is also a director and writer. He counts himself fortunate to have worked with some incredibly talented and well-established directors and writers who have taught him invaluable lessons that have strengthened his skills on set, in the editing room, and in his writing.
With the combined talents of Justin and his friends, the young creatives are developing some truly original content and they look forward to getting it out there for everyone to see. Projects in the pipeline include something curiously named Creation Circus. Justin and his partner, John Dang, who is a singer, songwriter and music producer, have been cultivating the project for a couple of years now. The undertaking’s first two short films, Cupid and The Princess are just wrapping up and the duo can hardly contain their excitement. It's supposed to be kept under wraps, but Justin let us in on some of the details. Creation Circus also is developing a TV show here in Bangkok called Bangkok Connect, which will give viewers an inside look of what the city’s creative types do with themselves when at work and play. Justin also has been working with an online lifestyle channel based in Australia called ‘Unseen TV’, which will begin to feature content from Bangkok.
It would seem that there is never any shortage of projects coming up for Justin. He notes, ‘Everyone always has ideas and after that, all it really takes to get things going is just to press that record button!’
And that's exactly how he jumped into another exciting video production project: Hangover Asia. It all started with an email from a TV producer, something along the lines of: ‘We're filming a travel show about traveling and partying in Asia and we think you may be interested in hosting it.’ Travelling to exotic places, meeting cool people and partying all while starring on television? Well, Justin was interested. It pretty much summed up his ultimate dream job. The fast-paced show will hit up some of the vibrant party locales in Asia, such as the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan, and will also serve as a fun and entertaining way to educate viewers about the region’s countries and people.
To give an idea how outrageous the show can get, Justin tells that at one point after taking a shot of ‘cobra rum’ (rum mixed with cobra blood), he had a total of ten scorpions on his face and a cobra's forked tongue flicking at his ear! Justin is excited about moving on to the third episode, which may be filmed in Bali or Singapore.
But if you think that was enough to keep the man occupied, you are mistaken — there’s always room for more. Justin has also been selected by Samsung to represent Thailand at the London 2012 Olympics as a global video blogger. And proving he’s still an adventurous traveller, Justin has also been confirmed to host a travelogue webisode series for Heineken in August. In the series he’ll be travelling from Mongolia to Beijing to Hanoi and back to Bangkok using only Heineken as currency. Yes, odd, but that’s all we know for now. We can’t wait to see how he works that one out!
Anyone interested in keeping up to date with Justin’s projects can follow him on twitter @justinbratton6, or check out his website at www.justinbratton.com. We’ll definitely be keeping watch for videos of our loveable nerd-hero as he parties and films his way through Asia.
You also can catch Justin’s take on the London Olympics with his video blog of the spectacle at http://samsungglobalblogger.my.msn.com/blogger/1708/videos.
23/07/2012 - 10:17