The 5 of February was a busy night in Hollywood. While most of the city is buzzing with the glitz and glamor of the 65th Annual Grammy Awards, I’m sitting down to talk to a man who’s half a world away. Born and raised in the United States, Luke Ishikawa Plowden is currently in Bangkok, Thailand, building an impressive acting resume and (fittingly enough) is at the very start of his music career. Sitting down in the offices of GMMTV, the Thai entertainment conglomerate Plowden is signed to, he’s an energetic and effervescent young man with bright eyes and an infectious smile.
He was one of the first artists under GMMTV I started following after discovering the company in 2021. I was captivated by his story and how he went from being a statistics major at George Washington University to an internationally successful model and finally one of the hottest rising stars under GMMTV.
Born in Pennsylvania, Plowden’s globetrotting life started when he was just two years old when his father, Campbell, brought Luke, his older sister Marissa, and their Mother Yuri with him to the eastern Brazilian Amazon while he was doing fieldwork for his Ph.D. in Ecology.
“I was in a native village called Tekohaw, for nine months where I was speaking a mixture of Portuguese, English, and Tembé, the native language there,” he recalls, attributing the experience to having an important impact on the man he is today.
“As a kid, I was just very happy, full of energy.” he smiles. “ I had a very great home life. I’m very lucky.”
In school Plowden took his studies very seriously and was inspired by the documentary The Inconvenient Truth. “It inspired me to want to go for it and to want to make a difference in the world and do really big things. So I knew that he wanted to do big things and you have to take things really seriously. So in high school I just really applied myself to everything I did.”
Initially, Plowden hoped to follow in his fathers footsteps and attend the University of Pennsylvania, but found himself at George Washington University instead. “Everything happens for a reason. So it’s that it’s so crazy how different things in life happened throughout the course of time. But you if I got it down a certain path, like I wouldn’t be here,” he stops, chuckling in reflection. “Yeah, that’s really scary, actually. It’s really like my life!”
Thinking about what brought him into the entertainment industry, Plowden states that it wasn’t something he really thought about when he was younger. “I think it was something that sort of found me, almost quite literally,” he says.
“I got scouted for modeling and at first I thought it was a scam because nobody is like, Yeah, we want you to come to Asia and then be a model in Asia?” He laughs. “I was like, yeah there’s no way this is real. So I asked for sources for people that he represented so that I could then reach out to them to see if he was legit.”
Lucky for Plowden, he was.
“He got me modeling contracts in Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore,” he says, recalling that the first place the agency wanted to send him was to Hong Kong. Fate however, had other ideas.
“The person who got me on the phone, got me in front of a camera, and put a face to an agency was Area Management from Thailand and their head scouting agent said, ‘You should come to Thailand first.’”
While in Thailand, Plowden found his social media presence getting increasingly popular. Instead of just letting it ride, he pushed up his sleeves, put his shoulder to the grindstone, and started working on his next move.“Your shelf life in the modeling world is really small unless you can get into the top like point 1%. So I was like, okay, it’s going to be modeling and then going to acting and I’m going to make it happen. Like no matter what.”
Part of that work included hiring a tutor to teach him the language, with whom he studied four hours a week, giving himself homework every day, and immersing himself in the language. “It’s more about immersion than anything because it’s so fun to learn something and then be able to apply it immediately as soon as you walk out the door.”
While he was studying, an opportunity from GMMTV presented itself in the form of a guest star on the series Wolf. The role, which was in English, took him to Japan and set him as one of the love interests for the series’ female lead. A year later, GMMTV reached out again, this time to play the lead in a new series they were working on titled Oh! My Boss. It was a role he was handpicked for by the series directed by Golf Sakon Wongsinwiset.
Continuing to work on his craft, Plowedn took on two more starring roles. One in the cross-dressing Who-Done-It dramedy Drag, I Love You, the other in the emotional My Dear Donovan.
“Drag I Love You, that was definitely the hardest for me, acting wise. Definitely.” Luke nods firmly, a slight smile on his lips. “I love that character. It was such an incredible experience,” he sets up to explain. “So, Prabsuek (his character in the series) is a cop who’s undercover (investigating a murder) as a drag queen, Patti, so, in certain situations, I needed to accentuate that that over exaggerated feminine side for when I was in full costume, I had to bring it like 110%, like I was this proud beautiful, sexy woman, but then, there’s more. The other part of his undercover character, wasn’t in drag, all the time, so I had to be toned down and just be a regular gay man, but!” he laughs again.“That was only around certain people, because in his real-life, he was the complete opposite as a straight guy. There were so many levels!”
In his follow-up series, My Dear Donovan, Luke played the lead, Donovan, who came to Thailand to search for his sister. While the series started off lighthearted and fun, as the series continued, the characters got deeper, and so did the drama that surrounded them.
“I had to really think about Donovan,” Plowden confesses earnestly. “Just mentally like develop stories about his past, about coming from the states and about how being basically homeless would have affected him. I think me and the director really worked on how he would react in certain situations,” He continues. “He would tell me that Donovan had been through so much that I needed to really bring out that calmness and that almost deadness inside from having seen quite a lot in life. So developing that part of the trauma that he’s been through was definitely something I worked hard at.”
Taking a moment to think, Plowden smiles. “I think that sort of the joy of acting. That you get to just explore these different parts of yourself and let yourself become someone else.”
In his latest project with GMMTV, The Jungle, Plowden enters the ring with some of the company’s biggest stars, including Krist Perawat, Nanon Koropat, Off Jumpol, and (one of my personal favorites) Mix Sahaphap.
“The whole theme of the jungle is that there are five, strapping young men who all have different journeys and are all kind of jaded with the world. I play this guy named Nathee, which in English means minute, who in the daytime is a very nerdy guy, but” he stops, smirking mischievously. “We all have our daytime selves in our nighttime selves – and our nighttime selves are where we can truly, let go and basically be animals that we have in ourselves,” he smirk widens into a full on smile. “My nighttime self is a wolf.”
There’s no exact release date yet, but the series is currently in production and will air sometime in 2023.
While acting and modeling have brought him incredible success, he’s taking a step back into one of his earliest passions, music. Citing both Linkin Park and Lady Gaga as two of his influences, he’s already recorded several songs for GMMTV Music, including a cover of the Shawn Mendes hit “If I can’t Have You” for the GMMTV Cover Songs project, which has their talent covering songs, in English.
“I’ve been taking singing lessons for two and a half years with a private coach, to develop that side of myself,” he beams proudly. “I want to make rock songs. But like rock songs you can dance too, that has the potential to hit the masses.”
An incredibly genuine and humble individual Ploweden is that rare breed of raw talent mixed with drive and desire to develop it. He’s also not afraid to step into the unknown and try something new. I wish him success, and I am excited to see where the story leads.
For more Luke follow his social media platforms on instagram and Twitter.