Photo Credit: Film Director and Mogul Spike Lee poses with Travel Writer Travis Levius on set of 'Da 5 Bloods' Movie filmed in Thailand
The Right Place At The Right Time: How This Black Traveler Was Cast In Spike Lee's Movie 'Da 5 Bloods'
Travis Levius was traveling to Thailand for a work trip when he heard about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Levius, who is a luxury travel writer, was invited to Phuket on a yacht press trip.
“I was in the middle of that and I joined a Facebook group for Black travelers and I saw a post,” Levius told Travel Noire in an interview. “It was my first day looking at the post and it said ‘Spike Lee is coming to Chiang Mai and he’s looking for people in his film.”
At first, Levius thought it was a scam. After following his intuition, he got hustled to finish his work assignment and flew to Chiang Mai in less than 24 hours.
Out of the more than 100 Black travelers who heard about Spike Lee’s private casting, Levius was one of few chosen to work as an extra on the film.
In an interview with Travel Noire, Levius discusses the life onset of Da 5 Bloods Movie and what he learned about taking a leap of faith to travel and manifest his dreams.
Travel Noire: What was the feeling like traveling to Chiang Mai knowing that you could meet someone that is an icon to the Black community?
Levius: It was just otherworldly to think that a true icon in Black culture could be in the midst of where I am – thousands of miles away from the States.
I’m originally from Brooklyn, and Spike Lee is Brooklyn all day. You would think I would have run into him or saw him at an event there but here we are all the way in Thailand. That was interesting and I think it made it more exciting to have that opportunity.
He was so chill and so nice to everyone there. Everyone got a few seconds of time with him as well, and of course, he was very excited to know that I was originally from Brooklyn.
Travel Noire: When you got to [Chiang Mai], what was that experience like to see so many Black faces abroad?
Levius: It was so surprising to see there were so many Black people in Chiang Mai. I had no idea that it is really one of the top places for Black Expats, especially Black American Expats.
That day was particularly special because even though there were a lot of Black people there in Chiang Mai, there were a lot of other Black people that were either visiting or living in Bangkok, Cambodia, or Vietnam, and they, like me, flew in time to Chiang Mai just to meet Spike Lee.
To see probably 100 Black folks all the way in Southeast Asia, and to have that common bond of knowing Spike Lee and knowing what he means to us as a culture was just incredible.
The energy was fantastic, everyone was just in good spirits and it was just Black love all over the place.
Travel Noire: Walk our readers through how was it being on set?
Levius: It ran the gamut, honestly. There was a bit of excitement. There’s a bit of overwhelm because there is so much that is involved with making a movie and I didn’t know until I was there in person to see the truckloads of equipment, people running around doing, you know, everything that needs to be done.
Also, a little bit of anxiety because as a stand-in, it’s not a very glamorous job. You are on-call and when you are summoned to be on set, it’s a very urgent situation. It’s very urgent for you to be there and do what you need to do so it was very commanding.
There are a lot of emotions but it’s also just amazing to see how much it takes to be in production. I have so much more respect for actors who have perfected a craft to be on the screens because it’s not easy. You have to repeat a lot. And on top of that, we’re in Thailand heat. I’m talking about 100-degree weather, with no rain, no cloud cover. It was pretty intense but all in all, just a fantastic experience.
Travel Noire: Would you agree that if it weren’t for taking a leap of faith and traveling that you wouldn’t have stumbled upon an experience like this?
Levius: I absolutely agree with that. It’s all about getting out there and I think that’s where you find the most serendipity in life is when you’re breaking away from the monotony of being in one place, and you get going. You challenge yourself to see something that you haven’t been used to and explore places that you haven’t done. I think that’s where really a lot of life’s joys are manifested when you are going out there traveling.
Travel Noire: After your experience, how would you pitch traveling to our readers who may be afraid to take that leap?
Levius: If you are thinking about travel and are afraid to do so, the best advice I can give you is, just do it. I think when it comes to fear, people think the fear has to go away in order for you to do something. And I say you have to act in spite of the fear.
Once you do that, once you take that big hurdle and book that cruise or book that flight, then now you know that you have enough bravery to just show up and figure it out once you get there. When you do, you’ll realize how rewarding it is for us to be out in the world and explore the world that belongs to us.
A lot of people think that Black people don’t travel but this is our world, too. If you have the opportunity to do so, it’s a way to make your ancestors proud. If you’re afraid, do it anyway.
Travel Noire: What was your biggest takeaway from this experience?
Levius: The biggest takeaway for me is the power of intuition and also the power of intention. For years, I’ve never traveled to Thailand beforehand, but for years I said that if I’m going to Thailand, I want to be there for at least two months. I’d say that over and over thinking about Thailand. The original plan was only for me to be there for a month and because of Spike Lee, I ended up being there for three months.
I’m very much a believer that your words have power and with a bit of positivity and also some goal setting, you can achieve the things that you want.
Travel Noire: Is there anything else you want to tell us that I didn’t ask you that you feel is important for our readers?
Levius: If any of you are looking for an international destination to stay for a few months or even move to permanently, I actually highly recommend Chiang Mai, because you do have a community there. I was again blown away by how many Black people were there, and it’s a very safe city. People are okay. A lot of them speak Thai but of course, learn the language to get by. If you’re on a budget Chiang Mai is an amazingly cheap place, so add Chiang Mai to your list of popular destinations if you ever see yourself living abroad whether temporarily or permanently.
You can follow Travis and his latest adventures on Instagram.