Java With Jamie: Australian actor Peter Thurnwald
Peter Thurnwald may not be a household name just yet, but he plans to be. While visiting Los Angeles he sat down with me and revealed acting has become deeply personal to him.
Paramount+ fans know the Australian actor as "Foresite" from "Players." And he's about to star in Netflix's "To All the Boys I've Ever Loved" spinoff "XO, Kitty."
Peter Thurnwald met us for coffee at the very colorful and historic Beachwood Canyon hotspot Beachwood Cafe. Thurnwald opted for black coffee and admitted the café reminded him of Sydney, Australia's "brekkie" spots.
Thurnwald is far away from home in L.A. in more ways than one.
You were born in South Korea and were adopted by Australians.
"I had a very Australian upbringing, with beach cricket and street cricket, and played a million sports," said Thurnwald.
He grew up on the Gold Coast in Australia with parents who were doctors. That initially drove him to pursue other interests than acting at the University of Queensland.
"I studied physics for a year, so I did want to be in the sciences," said Thurnwald.
He quit and applied to Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in Perth, the same school to produce actor Hugh Jackman and other famous Aussies.
"It's so far away, it's this little bubble," said Thurnwald. "And you do get some really great actors. I think our latest kind of notable alumni, which is like Sam Corlett, who is doing 'Valhalla' at the moment, and Dacre Montgomery, who is in 'Stranger Things' and he's doing amazing things for himself. And so I think being in that community as well just fosters more love for the craft, as well as being like, 'Yeah, I can do it.' Like, this isn't something that is big and scary."
While studying the craft he loves, Thurnwald got an education in self-discovery.
Right now you're trying to find your birth mother.
"Yeah, and that kind of all happened -- I had a very early quarter-life crisis, so when I was 18, I, like most 18-year-olds, they don't really know what they want to do with their life, and I was taking these few acting classes and all of the sudden just had this urge to go and look for my mother," said Thurnwald.
Were you almost drawn to acting because you don't have a full identity?
"Are you saying that my wound is causing me to express emotions on screen?"
I don't know -- has your therapist told you that?
"Every therapist tells me that," said Thurnwald. "I love acting because I get to explore people's identities and really get to the bottom of who they are. And I think maybe there's definitely a correlation in between that and my adoption, not quite really understanding who I was for a very long time."
Fresh out of school, Peter Thurnwald was cast in the Australian hit show "Bump." He then went on to the role of "Foresite" in the CBS/Paramount+ League of Legends show "Players."
And now fans can catch him in Netflix's "To All the Boys I've Ever Loved" spinoff "XO, Kitty."
"It's about Kitty Song-Covey, who flies over to Korea to attend the Korean International School of Seoul to basically be with her long-distance boyfriend, and it doesn't really end up as she would expect," said Thurnwald.
It may just be his most personal project yet.
"Going back to South Korea with 'XO, Kitty' was potentially an opportunity for me to begin searching again, which was scary, actually," said Thurnwald. "I kind of almost got cold feet."
So how did you get over that?
"Immersing myself in Korean culture again, I think healed a bit of that yearning, to wanting to find her. Seeing the buildings and the signs and everything, I felt this sense of pride being back, and seeing people that looked like me, we're talking Korean -- it definitely scratched the itch. A lot more than I thought it would," said Thurnwald.
Is there a hope that maybe your mom watches, sees it, reaches out, kind of has a memory?
"I don't know anything about her at all. It's hard enough to find anyone in the world. I definitely wasn't like a 'doorstep baby' on the adoption agency. I know for a fact I was given a fake last name. Maybe, hopefully she'll look at me on screen and just have that maternal, like, 'That has to be my son,'" said Thurnwald. "But if that doesn't happen, then I won't be upset. It just, I think it would be nice."
As for the future, Thurnwald says he didn't grow up with any Asian male actor influences and is excited that there are more roles. He has also started producing his own television series.
While in Los Angeles, Peter Thurnwald plans to do all the touristy things like hike to the Hollywood Sign and visit Venice Beach. He would love to go back and forth between L.A. and Australia.
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