The overnight campus bus loop is never boring for Pineapple Tangaroa and Charlie Tahan. FilmRise

Movies

Gentle Giant: How a Dallas Piercer Breaks Down Big-Screen Stereotypes

Pineapple Tangaroa's juicy role in Drunk Bus, inspired by his own experiences, could help to change the perception of actors with artistic body modifications.

Before we go any further, yes, Pineapple Tangaroa is his legal name, a product of his grandfather’s disdain for his hairstyle choice as a teenager.

“One day I came home with a green mohawk. He said I looked like a damn pineapple,” said Tangaroa, who owns and operates body modification studios in Dallas and Austin. “All my friends laughed, and I hated it, so of course it stuck.”

In terms of acting, Tangaroa expects to be typecast, with his hulking frame, tattoo-covered bald head, and abundant piercings and body art fitting the usual thug and henchman stereotypes.

It takes a role based on his own life for Tangaroa to showcase his true nature as a soft-spoken business owner and family man. In the low-budget comedy Drunk Bus, he plays a security guard who becomes a guardian angel of sorts to a neurotic student bus driver (Charlie Tahan) during their shared adventures on the graveyard shift.

The film — which is being released this week on digital platforms — stems from his days at Kent State University in Ohio, where he studied anthropology and worked an overnight job for the campus bus service because it paid better than cold-calling for alumni donations.

Tangaroa was next-door neighbors with Brandon LaGanke, who had directed several acclaimed short films in tandem with John Carlucci. About seven years ago, they were ready to transition to features.

“Brandon would always bring up stories of driving the ‘drunk bus.’ Something always went down. After a while, they decided to take all of those stories, compile them together, and make a movie,” Tangaroa said. “They approached me and said, ‘dude, I wrote a movie about us.’ I read it and thought it was funny.”

Tangaroa originally was going to be an adviser on the film, but LaGanke instead urged him to take some acting classes and play the role himself. A few years later, production took place in spring 2019 in Rochester, New York.

“Once I got into it with the other actors, and in front of the camera and the lights, it came pretty natural to me. Luckily my friends were the directors, and they stood behind me and backed me up the whole way, cheering me on. They really helped me get comfortable,” he said. “It was a lot more challenging and rewarding than I ever imagined it to be.”

Tangaroa’s previous acting experience consisted of bit parts in Texas-made films such as Puncture, with Chris Evans, and Terrence Malick’s Song to Song alongside Benicio del Toro, Michael Fassbender, and Natalie Portman.

“That one was intimidating because I didn’t realize that it was that Terrence Malick. I walked on set and was greeted by like five Academy Award winners,” Tangaroa said. “I was only on set for two days, but it was mind-blowing.”

Tangaroa estimates he spends about one week each month in Dallas, where he opened a Shaman Modifications shop a few years ago to supplement his two locations in Austin. He considers himself a walking ambassador for body modification, and not just because it’s good business.

“I already see the normalization of heavily tattooed people in current American culture. I hope it continues to grow. People with tattoos, body piercings and modifications are just normal people grinding away. They’re not just thugs.,” he said. “I love making people shine and feel happier in their own skin. I’ll never quit doing that.”

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