My first apartment in Panama was next to a modeling agency and I walked past it everyday for about four months until one day the owner of the agency was outside and stopped me. He said I should come in for a casting sometime because I would be great for commercials in Panama.
I had never been in a commercial, zero acting experience, and I don’t perform well in front of an audience so I had no idea how this would work out. But at the time I was going to college in Panama and only able to work part time so this sounded like the perfect opportunity to make some extra money.
I went to the agency a few days later and they took my picture and gave me a three year contract with them. Then they began emailing castings for me to go to which has lead to some interesting experiences. Here’s three of my funniest stories during my Chollywood break:
I went in for my first casting and I had no idea what the hell I was doing. At first it was just like the agency casting where they took a photo of the front and sides of me but I wasn’t prepared for the next part.
“Now make a surprised face!” Said the casting director.
I was not expecting to have to make facial expressions so when he asked me to make a surprised face, then sad, angry, and happy – I am pretty sure they all looked like this:
“Surprising” I did not get chosen for that commercial but I immediately searched on YouTube on how to make facial expressions so I wouldn’t look like such an idiot next time.
The strangest casting I ever went to was for a company that wanted to give away free eggs for an Easter promotion. The casting director had me put on some large fisherman boots and then explained what I needed to do. This is how it played out:
The casting director pressed play on his CD player and it began loudly emitting chicken clucking sounds. Then wearing the large boots and carrying a heavy bucket I walked across the room to my imaginary chicken coup and set my bucket down. Next I opened the imaginary chicken coup, looked inside, and then jumped back making a surprised face (thank god I practiced). The eggs inside were multiplying! I peeped inside the chicken coup again and jumped back in an even larger state of astonishment – there were even more eggs than before! I then fell backwards as imaginary eggs multiplied and filled the room.
I had to repeat this four times.
(BTW I was not selected for this commercial)
My New Family
After going to several castings I was finally chosen for a commercial! The interesting part is that I didn’t go to a casting for this commercial so that’s probably why I was chosen this time.
I arrived to the meeting point pretty nervous but excited to be in a commercial. There were two kids and another girl my age that would be in the commercial as well. We drove to Playa Veracruz, about 20 minutes from Panama City to shoot the first scene. They did our hair and make-up and explained what we would be doing in the scene: the girl was my wife and the two kids were my children.
I had to do a double take when I learned I would be a father that day. I was 21 at the time and just not ready to be a father and husband so quickly. But I think I took on the role pretty well and made it believable that I was the father of these children half my size.
After we shot the scene we took a “family photo”. I have height issues so they made me stand on a platform for the photo so that I could be of equal height to my new wife. This photo would eventually be plastered all over Panama for over a year.
In another scene for the commercial I proposed to my wife (standing on a platform) and also got married at a church in Casco Viejo.
The commercial actually turned out really well and my mom even said she cried a little bit the first time she saw it. Here is a video of the commercial so you can see how it all played out:
Since Panama is such a small country there are very few people that are famous on an international level so locals usually refer to people on the news, commercials, and billboards as Chollywood. It’s kind of like how in India local celebrities are referred as Bollywood. So now whenever I have a new commercial come out my Panamanian friends joke that I’m a Chollywood Star.
But I’m not going to lie, it was pretty cool to see myself on TV and billboards for the first time. It’s something that would have never happened back home in Kentucky and I am thankful for the cool experiences I have been able to have in Panama. I have a few more funny stories from doing commercials in Panama so I’ll make a “My Chollywood Break Part 2” soon. In the meantime you can watch this playlist of commercials I have been in so far: