BL drama is getting more mainstream lately, thanks in part to the rise of dramas (and films) that focus on male-male relationships. While the concept of BL has been around since the 90s (in manga), it wasn’t until about 2018/2019 that it made an impact in the drama world thanks to the proliferation of Thailand’s BL dramas like TharnType (2019), Love By Chance (2018), and Theory of Love (2019).
While these dramas were immensely popular, it’s the actors who are the true anchors – even outside of the drama series. These gorgeous guys are also often seen promoting their dramas or endorsing products as a “couple”, so it’s only natural that they’re around each other a lot, which leads to fandoms dedicated to them as a pair.
Meet the famous BL couples
The most famous BL couples are often the leads in their dramas, and the most popular ones have excellent chemistry both on and off screen, leading fans to *speculate* if they’re a couple in real life (no, they’re not).
BL fans would refer to these couples by the combination of their names in the series they’re in – some couples are so popular that they’re also referred to by their real names. Here are some of the most popular BL couples:
“KornKnock” | “TanBun” | MaxTul
Max Nattapol and Tul Pakorn were first introduced as a side couple, KornKnock, in Bad Romance (2016) before getting their own series, Together With Me (2017). In the series, Korn (Max) has always been in love with Knock (Tul), but the latter has been yo-yoing in his feelings for his bestie (the fact that he has a girlfriend complicates things).
MaxTul are besties in real life (for 6 years and counting – they met in university), having filmed 2 seasons of Together With Me and recently, Manner of Death (2020) – as TanBun – together. They’re well-known for their muscular physique, and while it seems that these very close friends love to joke around off-screen, their chemistry on screen is sizzling and intimate as they’re very comfortable around each other.
“TharnType” | MewGulf
Mew Suppasit and Gulf Kanawut from TharnType (2019) and the sequel TharnType 2: 7 Years of Love (2020) are very close and clingy in real life, as can be seen in their behind-the-scenes, workshop practice vids, and live appearances. Their on-screen chemistry is off the charts, and they definitely aren’t shy with each other in their intimate scenes either! The series sees them start off as enemies before Tharn’s persistence and affection manages to soften Type’s hardened personality and weave his way into his heart.
While Mew has a fanbase (they’re called MewLions), MewGulf’s official fanbase is called ‘Waanjai’ which means ‘sweetheart’ in Thai.
Other famous pairs
Thailand has a number of “couples” from the dozens of BL dramas they produce, and the actors are mostly from one large entertainment company that churns out a lot of BL dramas: GMMTV.
Thanks to the popularity of the 2021 hit Tale of a Thousand Stars (or 1,000 Stars), we’re seeing more of EarthMix, who are Earth Pirapat and Mix Sahaphap. The story is set in Thailand’s rural, mountainous region where Tian (Mix), a recent heart transplant patient, goes to be a volunteer teacher – there, he meets a grumpy but kind chief forest officer, Phupha (Earth).
A very popular ‘BL’ pair is BrightWin (Bright Vachirawit and Win Metawin) who play “SarawatTine” from the hit series 2Gether: The Series (2020) and the follow up, Still 2Gether.
OffGun – Off Jumpol and Gun Atthaphan – have been in Senior Secret Love: Puppy Honey 1 & 2 (as “PickRome”) and most famously, Theory of Love (2019) as “KhaiThird” where they play besties-turned-lovers. In real life, they’re both close to each other, as can be seen in their multiple live videos.
Also up there in popularity are TayNew (Tay Tawan and New Thitipoom), or “PeteKao” from the popular series Dark Blue Kiss (2019). In both dramas, the boys started off as annoyed friends-turned-lovers.
The popularity of the series “Lovely Writer” has also seen the shipping of KaoUp (Kao Noppakao and Up Poompat) who play the role of Nubsib and Gene. In the story, Nubsib is an actor who’s set on pursuing his childhood friend Gene who’s a writer of the series Nubsib stars in. In the real world, these two actors – who happen to be great friends – have now named their fandom ‘KupAo’ which is an amalgamation of their names.
Even secondary couples in BL series get some love from fans. Case in point, Mii2 (Jimmy Karn and Tommy Sittichok) who play “SaifahZon” in Why R U? (2020) – they’ve also appeared in SaifahZon Story and will be in 2 other BL series to be aired in 2021 (Middle Love and Peach of Time). Another secondary couple is BounPrem (Boun Noppanut and Prem Warut), or “WinTeam” from Until We Meet Again (2019), who are getting a lot of attention recently as they’ve been in several events and campaigns together.
With so many BL dramas being churned out across Asia currently, there’s bound to be more fan favourite couples with new actors. Last year’s surprise hit, Ingredients, introduced us to JeffGame, or Jeff Satur and Gameplay Garnpaphon.
In China, the most famous BL pair these days is undoubtedly “WangXian” from The Untamed (2019) series – aka Wangji (Wang Yibo) and Wuxian (Xiao Zhan). These gorgeous boys hit it off so well in their flowy costumes that fans just can’t get enough of them!
Also popular pair from China are Gu Hai and Bai Luo Yin (Johnny Huang and Timmy Xu) – from Addicted Heroin (2016) which is still a popular title among BL fans thanks to the chemistry between the leads.
With the Philippines producing a string of BL dramas in 2020, there’s bound to be popular couples. For instance, there’s “Karl/Vlad” (Paolo Pangilinan & Ian Pangilinan) from Gaya Sa Pelikula who have been very popular with their offscreen appearances on social media.
From Taiwan, the biggest title of 2021 was undoubtedly We Best Love, which was split into 2 seasons, and feature the romance of Shi De and his crush Shu Yi, played by Sam Lin and Yu respectively. Both of them – and SamYu – have appeared off-screen in many promos for the series.
With 2021 promising so many more BL titles from Thailand, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Korea, there’s no doubt that we’ll see more popular ‘couples’ being shipped.
BL fanmeets and variety shows
While Korea has exported its music and dramas to an international market, Thailand has done the same with their BL dramas! When a new drama is released, the stage “couples” will promote it by appearing in fanmeets or special events/shows.
Thai BL actor fanmeets are huge. As BL dramas gain in popularity, you can find fanmeets and online shows – for shopping sites, online games, etc – with BL actors promoting them.
Unlike in K-pop, boy x boy ships are not only tolerated, their management companies are more than happy to keep fans fantasising about their relationships.
While the fan events are usually there to promote their latest series, sometimes the boys are made to play games not unlike those you’ll find at university orientations. This usually includes cheeky routines like ‘pass the paper with your mouths’ or the ‘kiss-your-partner with a Pocky stick’ routine.
This variety game show is promoting Taiwan’s BL web series, History 3: Trapped with their gorgeous cast members:
Sometimes, these actors would put on musical performances (for some reason in Thailand, a lot of BL actors are also singers!) and sometimes they also appear as part of corporate promotions, like the case of MewGulf:
Long filming sessions doing BL scenes together would no doubt bring two actors closer. No wonder they fuel a fan’s imagination!
Do you have a favourite pair?