Chiyuu Magazine (知遊) 2009.01: Part 1
Talking with Kodama Kiyoshi (児玉清)*
K: Kodama Kiyoshi Go to F: Fukuyama Masaharu
K: I’ve listened to your latest single “Sou ~ new love new world”. Besides being a musician, you actually have a lot of other roles! Singer, song and lyrics writer, TV and movie actor, producer, photographer, radio DJ….
F: But what I do is essentially the same, just the product is different.
K: I would think your main role is a musician, right?
F: Yes! Because the production company I belong to, operates primarily in the Music industry. How shall I say it…That’s “the family I married into”, the company I chanced to meet at that time. If it had been a totally different type of production company, perhaps I’d be expressing myself in a different way now.
K: At the beginning, you joined and passed the auditions for this “family you married into”?
F: Yes, a bit more than 20 years ago.
K: In the first live show you had upon debut, the audience count was zero. Looking at the numbers you have for your concerts now, that was a real classic!
F: Yes, everyone there at that time was a staff, zero audience (laugh).
K: Well, using that zero as a starting point, it’s been a bit more than 20 years. This time, you will be starring as Sakamoto Ryoma in the NHK Taiga!
F: That’s because Kodama-san is always telling me to “Play Ryoma, play Ryoma!” so under Kodama-san’s “pressure”, I decided to take the job (laugh). No, actually it wasn’t Kodama-san who said it.
K: Hahahaha! “Pressure” you, I wouldn’t do that. I’ve always hoped in my heart that you would be able to play Ryoma. But from your point of view, it must have been a struggle to decide whether to take on this role, since everyone has their own different image of Ryoma.
F: Naturally, I had also felt that this role of Ryoma is not an easy one to play. Because he truly existed. And he’s a person who is well-(known and) loved by people in all walks of life.
K: Several different actors have played Ryoma before. He must be the most loved character in the hearts of the Japanese people!
F: There are many different opinions and interpretations, it seems a bit like he is being “idolized” by everyone. So whoever is going to take on the role, is bound to be criticized as unsuitable in some way! Facing the fact that I too, will be deemed unsuitable by people, it will be my homework to determine how to play this unbefitting Ryoma in a way that people will eventually acknowledge. There is no way I can play the Ryoma (in everyone’s hearts) that will be accepted by every single person.
K: That is true. But you have hidden inside you a very strong mettle (heroic spirit) that people don’t see. I felt it when we were working together in “Beauty or Beast?”…”This person’s inner character and the exterior that is shown to people, are not the same.” This belief and the wish that you can play Ryoma are linked together.
F: Could you say I’m more like “going with the flow?” I mean, offering little resistance and following where the wind blows, that’s why my life is easy (laugh)! Having said that, I am actually very stubborn….
K: That’s it. “Going with the flow” is what you let people see, but in fact, you’re very headstrong (laugh) (he sticks to his principles).
F: Narrow-minded, narrow-sighted, ignorant…….
K: Is that what you think of yourself?!
F: When I came to Tokyo, at the time of my debut, I really felt I had nothing in me! At home, I had a band and I was so full of myself when people said, “That guy can play the guitar!” Then I saw the salesmen in the Music shops in Tokyo, and they were really awesome! (laugh) After I passed the auditions and met up with company officials, I had said, “I would like to be involved in music, please guide me.” “Then, next time show me the songs you have written!” was the reply. It was then that I realized I had never created any songs at all. I was a real idiot! (laugh)
K: That was stupid! But also very good.
F: I really had to start from scratch. That’s why I look at it differently now. I think of myself as a “box”, a receptacle to hold things, I can put anything in it. “I only want to do these type of roles…”; “I only want to do this type of music…”, I have to throw away such self-centered prejudice, in effect, I have to give everything a try! And so, holding on to the belief that “There’s got to be a way!”, I am ready to try anything. And somehow, along the way, I came onto “Ryoma” (laugh).
I have never performed in the theatre or in an epic drama, although I have had some experience in TV dramas and movies, but this time “Ryoma” is a totally different animal. That’s why, this time, I am not going to be just an actor to star in “Ryoma-den” or to act out the role of Ryoma. For me, I have to immerse myself in an enormous project that I have had no familiarity in. I want to try out this new experience.
K: You must have been really troubled and worried for a long time, before you came to this decision!
F: It took me a long time before I could really make up my mind. Sorry for keeping all of you waiting.
K: The producer for “Ryoma-den” this time is my son-in-law. When I learnt that he had been strongly hoping that “Fukuyama-san could play Ryoma”, I was very pleased. That was very much my preference too. I said: “Besides Fukuyama-san, there is no-one else”, and I even encouraged him to go and persuade you. But I couldn’t let you know my thoughts directly (at that time), so I could only pray - “Fukuyama-san, please just hear him out!” When I heard my son-in-law say “Fukuyama-san has agreed to do it”, I was really delighted!
F: The thought that Kodama-san feels that Ryoma should be played by me, was a major factor in my decision. Because in this entertainment world, this outwardly glittering city of Tokyo, Kodama-san is one of the few senpais (seniors) whom I respect and trust.
K: I’m so happy I could cry.
F: When your son-in-law first approached me and asked me to play the role, he tried to persuade me by saying: “You must agree to take it on”, “Besides you, there is no-one else”. At that time I had doubted, “Does he really mean what he’s saying?” Because the director is Kodama-san’s daughter’s husband, Kodama-san’s feelings were communicated to me through him and I was able to understand the director’s fervent expectations. It led me to feel that there was a lot of “destiny” involved. At the same time, the fact that Nagasaki is going to be an important stage for the drama, was another factor that attracted me to it.
K: Your birthplace Nagasaki!
F: The older I get, the more I think about my hometown. I’ve noticed the feeling has become stronger day by day. Because my parents and grandparents are there; because I spent part of my life there and because of the many political and economic constituents, I am what I am today. Through what I inherited in my blood, I shall be connecting it to the future. Now that I am almost 40, my perspectives on a lot of things have changed.
(Editor’s note: From this point on, Fukuyama-san talked about his life in Nagasaki, his extremely charming parents & family matters and the stories that happened after he came to Tokyo. Although it is a great pity, but due to limited article space, we have no choice but to cut it.)
~ Continue to Part 2 ~
* Kodama Kiyoshi played the news anchor in “Beauty or Beast?”. He is a close friend of Masha.
(Afternote by izumi 2010.05.12 - Kodama-san plays the role of Ryoma’s father, Sakamoto Hachihei, in Ryomaden.)