Girl From Nowhere directors on show’s controversies, real-life inspirations

KITTYCHICHA is the enigmatic ‘new girl in school’ Nanno, who has the power to expose hypocrisy and misbehavior in the Thai fantasy- thriller series Girl from Nowhere
STAR/ File

Since it premiered on May 7, the Thai fantasy thriller show Girl From Nowhere Season 2 has consistently ranked high, if not highest, on the daily list of most-watched content on Netflix Philippines.

The anthology series tells the story of this “new girl in school” named Nanno (played by Kitty Chicha Amatayakul). She’s neither ghost nor human but suddenly appears from one high school to another as some appointed agent of karma, exposing various levels of hypocrisies and transgressions within — and even beyond — school grounds.

In 2018, the debut season became a hit in Thailand and overseas, the Philippines included, owing also to its lead star Kitty who deliciously owned the character — peculiarities, full bangs, “evil” laugh and all.

From the looks of it, Season 2 is set to replicate if not outdo Season 1’s success and the stir it created for exploring another round of difficult and provocative themes such as sexual harassment, bullying, teenage pregnancy, among other social issues. However, other viewers might argue (yet again) that the enactment of “revenge” as too extreme and the depiction of violence can even make the most desensitized audience flinch. On the streaming platform, it has a recommended maturity rating of R-18.

Director Jatuphong Rungrueangdechaphat

People behind the show are aware of these controversies and concerns over Girl From Nowhere, and two of its directors, Khomkrit Treewimol and Jatuphong Rungrueangdechaphat, got to address them ahead of the Season 2 premiere during a roundtable virtual interview with The STAR and other select Filipino press.

“I think there is no reason not to watch this (laughs),” Jatuphong said of Girl From Nowhere.

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Director Khomkrit Treewimol

The filmmaker believes that the show can instead be used to open discussions between parents and children.

“Watching this series will help raise questions and create an exchange of family debates, which requires viewing the show together. That is the core message of the series. We do not have a formulated answer ready, as the questions posed in the series are controversial. Several solutions can be drawn and sparking debates with discussion can help.”

Khomkrit, on the other hand, acknowledged that parental concerns may have emerged following Season 1, with scenes portraying violence, sex and other issues and “kids may lack the maturity to understand or analyze these issues well enough.”

However, he noted, in Season 2, the series isn’t just holding back but is also offering more. “The reason for it is because we want to mirror society — to show that these issues exist. What should parents do if they cannot watch this together with their child? Try watching it alone on their own first. As Jatuphong said, some topics are worth talking about and (should) foster more understanding of each other about the things that have happened.”

Both directors also opened up on real-life experiences that grounded the episodes they directed. Asked what it was like to helm a controversial series, Khomkrit said they enjoyed working on Girl From Nowhere as they got to present “things happening in society that no one would really dare mention, except in the news.”

If you’ve watched the series already, Khomkrit helmed Episodes 2 (True Love, which is about what happens when an all-girls school and all-boys school merge under an uptight, fiercely anti-coed principal); 5 (SOTUS, about absurd hazing practices); and 8 (The Judgment, about the dark secret of a disabled daughter and her devoted mother). Jatuphong was behind Episode 7 (Jenny X, which is about an Internet star who Nanno convinces to leave her influencer life behind).

KITTYCHICHA with co-star Teeradon Supapunpinyo as Nanai from the fi rst episode

Here are more excerpts from our interview:

Why did Girl From Nowhere Season 1 become successful?

Khomkrit: “At the time, the series was considered very new in Thailand. Here’s an eccentric character, people don’t know who she is and where she’s from, although she appears to offer perpetrators a chance by giving them choices. But in the end, humans tend to choose a self-serving and selfish path all the time.

“For Thais, Nanno is a very refreshing character, with the stories based on actual events adapted with a fantasy style and it was therefore successful. It added new depth to Thailand’s entertainment industry.”

A scene from the eighth episode, which is about the dark secret of a disabled daughter and her devoted mother.

Jatuphong: “This series was new to Thailand and new in terms of its production methods. It helped create a perception about new types of work for Thai people with the main character like Nanno, whose actions do not fall into any norms or Thai traditions.

“But deep down, I feel that this was a success because it was in sync with the story of ‘karma’ that everyone can relate to — it is relatable to Thai people, including other Southeast Asian viewers. However, religion is not the approach used here; instead, the approach came from a human combined with a fantasy based on actual events. That is why I feel it has been a fantastic concept since the start.”

What surprised you most while directing Kitty Chicha as Girl From Nowhere lead star?

Khomkrit: “I’ve worked with Kitty Chicha for quite a while, from Season 1 to Season 2. She constantly surprised me by being the person who would remember all her lines for every episode on set. There was one episode that we were very short on time for filming. I had to film other actors beforehand, with only Kitty Chicha left. When it was her turn to be on set, her parts were about 10 minutes long, but she could remember every line. That was truly incredible.

“For Nanno’s character, Kitty Chicha and the acting coach tried to create this character through a workshop for quite an extended period as this character was relatively abstract. It was something that did not exist in this world before — someone who challenges different problems and offers humans a choice by handing them ‘poisoned apples’ to see who will eat them...

“Each director gets to direct one or two episodes, but because Nanno is the main character, her identity must be clear, strong and consistent in every episode. The shooting process for Girl From Nowhere 2 (was) we filmed in order of the episodes. Nanno goes through various stories with character development. As a director, we have to consult Kitty Chicha because she is Nanno herself. Speaking from the perspective of Nanno, she has the experience from the previous episodes. So, if Kitty Chicha says Nanno thinks like this, I believe her.”

Jatuphong: “Kitty Chicha is a professional actor. I feel completely relaxed and comfortable working (with her) on set. Kitty Chicha would also be at ease because she has done enough preparation. When filming, she would not sit down and feel concerned with her parts. She is an actor who has already infused her identity with the character and blended in with this series. When the series would pose questions, Kitty Chicha would question them as well. She would ask questions to understand her role, so I had a lot of fun working with her.

“It’s a two-way communication where we share our perspectives — like, as a director, I think like this. She, in return, provides her feedback as Nanno’s character. This style helps us work collaboratively (and better).”

How was your own school life and did you have certain student experiences that somehow helped you direct this series?

Jatuphong: “It has a considerable impact. When I was studying in high school, I was living in the countryside. Thai viewers will notice that the art direction in the episode I directed has an upcountry vibe because I relate more to this. The other thing is the personalities of the characters in the story are from my preferences. These are based on the seniors I have seen before or people that I have met. When it is about high school life, most Thais have experienced this before. There is something that people can relate to, and I got to use these elements without overthinking them.

“Overall, it came out naturally even though the writing structure of the stories came from the creator’s team. But the taste and various details were blanks to fill in. I can say with almost 100-percent certainty that it came from me.”

Khomkrit: “During high school, I was well-behaved. I would be polite and orderly, and would not do anything immoral. When I was in junior high, I was in an upcountry all-boys school. I experienced being the ‘new student,’ having transferred to study senior high in Bangkok from my hometown, which happened to be a co-educational school.

“For this series, I had drawn on my experience of being the new kid to help (me direct the episodes). Back then, everything that happened was a new experience for me. I had to gain new knowledge and I had to think all the time about fitting in, blending in with this new society.

“That approach was the opposite of Nanno. I had to use my perspective back then and do reverse psychology on this experience. I influenced the various styles and directions, which came from my previous experiences of meeting people, friends and teachers. I thought about how I treated them. Each director would draw from their own experiences for the episode they directed.”

Is it really “Bye, Bye, Nanno”?

Khomkrit: “In Season 1, the series consists of independent episodes. When it comes to Season 2, each episode remains separate, but there is a storyline that connects every episode. There is a new character that links every episode together. So Season 2 needs to be watched chronologically from Episodes 1 to 8 to see the development of Nanno’s character and her attitude gradually changing in each episode.

“During Season 1, Nanno was questioning other people on various things. In Season 2, Nanno herself gets questioned by a new character until the final episode, The Judgement. There was a particular incident, let’s call it Nanno’s fatal mistake, but whether this is the end of Nanno or not is something viewers will have to watch and see.”

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