In the late 1990s and 2000s, tune into MTV Asia channel anytime of the day and chances are, you’ll find Utt Panichkul delivering the latest music news while captivating viewers with his boyish charms.
But ever since the Thai TV presenter left MTV in 2011 (after 14 years with the music channel), we’ve been seeing less and less of him on the small screen.
“I have a full-time job in Thailand. I work for a music app, Joox. I work behind the camera, producing video content,” Utt shares what he has been up to during a phone interview from Los Angeles with Star2.
“It’s like MTV. But now I have my own set of VJs. I have four hosts who work for me and I produce the shows on the app. I still host from time to time and take on short TV projects. I miss being in front of the camera,” he adds.
Utt won’t have to wait long. Come March 5, he’ll be hitting the Oscars red carpet and interviewing the who’s who of Hollywood as a social media correspondent for HBO Asia.
The video interviews will be available on HBO Asia’s website and social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube).
Utt has done his homework, having watched 90% of the films and acting performances nominated this year. He adds he is most excited to speak to Meryl Streep, Oprah Winfrey and Gary Oldman.
Utt gives us an idea of what he’ll be wearing to the prestigious award ceremony.
“I’m wearing Thai silk designed by a friend who specialises in suits and tuxedos in Thailand. I wanted to add some Asian element into it … It’ll be something that conveys that we’re from Asia,” he says.
Speaking of looking good at the red carpet, the 44-year-old, who looks like he hasn’t aged a day since his MTV days, shares the secret to his youthful appearance: “I have a very young spirit, very vibrant. I also keep myself hydrated throughout the day. I drink loads of water. I try to stay healthy both physically and mentally.”
1. This is the second time you’ll be at the Oscars as HBO Asia’s social media correspondent. What was the most memorable moment you had at the 2015 Oscars red carpet?
One of the memorable ones would be with John Legend and Chrissy Teigen. Chrissy happens to be half Thai. I didn’t expect them to stop by and talk to me. I was able to ask Chrissy about her heritage and ask John if he can speak a little Thai. So that was nice.
When we’re able to have them talk about Asia on the red carpet, it’s a special treat for the audience in Asia.
2. What will you do differently this time around on the red carpet?
I’ve learned that I need to yell a lot louder to get the attention of the actors.
Once you’re at the red carpet, it’s free for all. You can’t be like (whispering), “Denzel”. You have to go, “DENZEL! IT’S HBO ASIA!”
3. You haven’t been on TV much since you left MTV. Was that a conscious decision you made?
I’ve always loved being behind the scenes as well as being in front of the camera.
Back in university, I studied communication arts and advertising. I was in front of the camera earlier in my career and I dabbled in production in small ways along the way. I think it was a gradual transition, with my maturity, my age and where I am in life.
I love looking after a team. I love mentoring the new generation, being able to share my own experiences as well as learn from them because the new generation is very different.
My generation was the TV generation and we now live in the social media generation.
So, it’s good to fuse the old and the new and come up with something relevant and fresh.
4. With social media in the mix, do you think the job of a TV presenter is harder now?
I think the landscape has changed. I don’t see it as being more difficult or less difficult. It’s about adapting to a different type of platform that’s current in this generation.
5. What do you do in your free time?
I like watching movies, listening to music and I like being outdoors – anything from longboarding to biking and hiking.
Catch the live telecast of the Oscars on March 5 at 9am on HBO (Astro Ch 411) with encore at 8pm. Join Utt at the Oscars red carpet by checking out facebook.com/hboasia, twitter.com/HBOAsia, Instagram (@hbo_asia) and youtube.com/user/HBOAsia.
(Listen to an excerpt of the group interview with Utt below.)