EntertainmentTokyo Vice Actor Ken Watanabe On The Duality Of...

Tokyo Vice Actor Ken Watanabe On The Duality Of His Character And Working With Michael Mann [Interview]

Can you tell me how you approached playing a character like this?

It’s been a long story. When I played “The King and I” on Broadway, director Bartlett Sher introduced me to J.T. Rogers. “He has a big and good project. Could you join about this?” And then I heard about the story. Cops busting gangs is a little boring, and the usual story. But there were two big points: A young American boy comes from United States, a newspaper writer getting underground to meet the gangs and the cops, and the hard experiences he has. It’s so good. And then, the background is 1990. It’s a big change of a society. Analog to digital, and feeling people’s feelings about society change, it’s like chaos. Those were the two big points [that convinced me] I want to join this project. 

And then J.T. Rogers wrote my character so he’s really mysterious. It’s color like a gray: Not white, not particularly black, where it’s a good guy or bad guy. It’s like in between. Really interesting.

I’m curious if the name Michael Mann meant anything to you in the ’80s and ’90s. When did you first become aware of his work, and were you excited to work with him on this show in that first episode?

Yeah. He always tried to hide unrealistic feelings on the set. And also acting and wardrobe and props and the art department, everything. Every department worked so hard and could not sleep well [laughs], but they always enjoyed working with Michael Mann. We actors, also. [The mentality was] there’s no need to act, just try to live on the set, live on the camera. In J.T. Rogers’ world, each character has a deep and big background of a life. And then we need to focus on my character. I enjoyed playing my role.

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