- Actor Renan Pacheco blew up TikTok with his viral video about going on dates with American women.
- Having grown up in France, he was playing the character of a French man called François.
- He’s hoping to parlay his newfound fame into Hollywood opportunities.
The TikTok video was viral gold: a Frenchman, newly arrived in Los Angeles, tells the world about an “absolute disaster” of a date he had recently had — his first with an American woman.
“First of all, her name is Kimberley,” he says with a thick French accent. “Kimberley… oh la la… it’s not my favorite name, but it’s fine.”
The man, whose name is François, goes on to explain why he and Kimberley were not a good match: Kimberley didn’t eat gluten (“Gluten is my life, Kimberley. Gluten is croissant.”) Kimberley didn’t drink wine (“Alcohol is joy!”). Appearing baffled and outraged by these revelations, François ends up explaining he left the restaurant soon after without saying goodbye.
The video blew up, and has received more than 22 million views and 2.7 million likes since it was posted on TikTok on October 25.
But François — along with his exaggerated stereotypical French traits — isn’t real. He’s a character invented by a Brazilian actor called Renan Pacheco as part of a series of TikTok skits that parody the culture shock many Europeans might feel when they arrive in the United States.
Pacheco told Insider that the video’s popularity has surprised him, but he’s riding the wave of virality and hoping it will give him an even bigger platform to tell stories.
Pacheco invented the character of François to reflect his experiences with US culture
Pacheco, 26, was born in Brazil, and moved to Wales at the age of five. When he was seven, he and his family relocated to France, where they’ve lived ever since.
Earlier this year, he moved to Los Angeles for work, and said he’s been through “a lot of culture shocks.”
While François is “an invented character” designed to fill in time between acting roles, Pacheco told Insider it has roots in his own experience, and François represents the “little voice in my head when I went on dates with these girls.”
Pacheco never intended for his TikTok account to focus on comedy. Prior to his first François video in October, his posts mostly consisted of slick, model-style clips, and aspirational content, interspersed with a few memes and promoting his acting career.
Still, the character has proved extremely popular with TikTok viewers: a video showing him confused by the tipping system has received 4.4 million views, another discussing American fashion has received 2.1 million, and one poking fun at large portion sizes received 3.1 million.
Pacheco said the video that propelled him to viral success was not based on a single real-life date he has had since arriving in LA, but is a composite of different dating disasters in the six months since moving to the city.
“There’s not one specific girl that’s named Kimberley that I know of, or that I’ve met, that doesn’t eat gluten and doesn’t drink wine,” he told Insider.
“I didn’t expect it to go this big, I must admit,” Pacheco said of the mega-viral dating video. At first, the clip crossed a couple of million views in the first day. “The next day it went up to six or seven million, which I thought was going pretty fast,” he said.
On the third and fourth day after posting, it went to 12 million views, then 18. Two days after posting the TikTok, Pacheco was waiting to get an Uber from his apartment. “In the two-minute span of me waiting for my Uber, four people came and talk to me about the video or to ask for a picture,” he said.
After a meeting, he stopped off for a coffee — and another three asked him for pictures. “I was like, ‘Okay, wow, so I’m seeing there’s an actual pretty big impact going on here.'”
Pacheco wants to leverage his newfound popularity to help his aspiring Hollywood career
The response to his viral video, Pacheco said, has largely been positive.
“Almost 99% is people laughing and sharing and having fun and joking about it,” he told Insider. “People are sending me really positive messages about the content I’ve been doing and the other episodes that came out after it.”
Buoyed by the success of François, Pacheco began conceiving other episodes featuring the character. “François is going through a lot of different adventures, and the videos are episodes of the funny moments and how he reacts to it,” he said.
“I’m going to start him growing and continue being more and more open and vulnerable about his experience here in America,” Pacheco added. “Progressively, he’s going to meet other characters that are going to be more and more present in his videos.”
And there could be a TV series featuring François in our future too. “I will be developing a script and probably talking to a few channels to see if we can actually do a series about Francois arriving in America,” he said, adding that he thinks it would “have a lot of success.”
Pacheco told Insider he had so many ideas for characters and stories he wants to tell, and his journey is an example of why he loves social media. “If we use it in a healthy way, I feel like it’s a great way to share our ideas, what makes us laugh, and our emotions directly with our audience.”
For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider’s Digital Culture team here.