Chiyuu Magazine (知遊) 2009.01: Part 3
Talking with Kodama Kiyoshi (児玉清)*
Continued from (Part 2).
K: I have a deep respect for people who can play the guitar already. So when I listen to your CD, I would think you must be enjoying yourself tremendously to be able to play the guitar so freely. This is a bit embarrassing…..it’s just my layman’s view.
F: It’s not as easy for me as you think! But I’m really glad to hear that, thank you.
K: In spite of everything, you never really aspired to be an actor, did you? Yet now, you’ve achieved great success in your acting.
F: I never even gave a thought whatsoever to becoming an actor. Acting belonged to a totally different world from mine. When I had my debut, I never dreamed I would have a chance to act, let alone star in CMs. I couldn’t imagine what I would look like, selling products.
K: Yet, Shimada Shinsuke-san * has been saying this of you: “The one person with the most influence on Japanese women today is Fukuyama Masaharu”. (laugh)
F: No such thing, that’s just a gimmick that Shinsuke-san uses to stir up his audience. (laugh)
K: But all the artists who were present, at that time, had nodded their heads in agreement too! What is most amusing, is that whenever your name pops up, the ladies’ faces would immediately light up! What is the reason behind this? This charm you have that draws all the ladies to your feet, I think it comes from the clean decent feeling you project.
F: Clean feeling? Hmmm, I don’t get that feeling myself. (laugh)
K: You don’t? (laugh) So you don’t sense it yourself. But it’s true, you have an inexplicable feeling of decency about you. Regardless of whatever lifestyle we have, that’s very important, isn’t it? Ryoma too, he had that clean image. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to capture the hearts of the people.
F: Yes, now that you mention it, Ryoma probably had that too.
K: Up until now, Fukuyama-san has played a doctor; a scientist; a TV director. Regardless of the different roles, they have always given people a feeling of decency and transparency. I think that actually comes from inside you. In other words, the inherent charm that you possess, has come alive in the roles you play. Speaking about it, is Fukuyama-san the type of actor who creates and shapes the character of your role beforehand, or do you just play it by feel and improvise on-site?
F: If I must say, I would hope the director could tell me in detail what he has in mind and then I can act accordingly to it. Like building a house, if the master of the house is the director, I would like to be a part of the crew and build this “home” in line with the plans drawn up by the master. To be honest, you rarely hear instructions like “I want you to do it like this…”. So, in the absence of a detailed acting plan, it wouldn’t work for me.
K: Does that mean, the director is an important factor in your decision to take part in a role?
F: That’s right. That’s one thing I will definitely be considering: “If I work with this person, will I be able to do the job?”
K: But once you’ve committed to taking part, you’d try your best to accommodate the director’s wishes? When we were shooting “Bijo ka Yaju” (Beauty or Beast?), I’ve never seen you in any disagreement with the director. Was it because you had already discussed it in earnest with him beforehand?
F: If you don’t follow instructions, you won’t be able to finish the job. The reason why we have disagreements with people, is because we didn’t have the same view on things from the start. If it was someone I couldn’t get along with, I wouldn’t let us have the chance to work together in the first place! (laugh) If they aren’t able to give me that urge: “I wonder what picture he’s sketching in his mind, I really want to see it, to play it out”, I don’t think we can work together.
K: Ah, you’ve made it very clear and lucid. In other words, you’re really enjoying your work as an actor now? It seemed a bit different before.
F: Yes, I do indeed (enjoy it). Although it’s a bit strange for me to say, but I find it very amusing that people who watch my acting, actually get this misconception.
K: Is it our misunderstanding now, I see. (laugh) What a good way of putting it!
F: Most people will look at the personality of the role and project it onto the actor. When I first started acting, it seemed that I was boxed into a certain image, I hated it. Then, gradually I started to feel it was rather amusing. When I was playing the good guy, everyone would think that I myself was a very nice person. It’s like I can already deceive others, without needing to do anything wrong. It’s kind of fun.(laugh)
K: You can say it that way. This profession, it’s really very easy for actors to be misunderstood. (laugh) But I guess some people would enjoy this type of misconception, while some may find it loathsome. And in the face of such misunderstandings, Fukuyama-san seems to take it in a cheerful and positive way.
F: Once I was able to find the fun in it, I realized that a job as amusing as this, is really hard to find. I guess the people who misread me, probably feel happy in their misunderstandings too!
K: When did you start having this mentality? Say when you became hugely popular as “Chiinii-chan” (チィ兄ちゃん second brother) in “Hitotsu Yane no Shita” (ひとつ屋根の下 Under the Same Roof), were you already in this frame of mind?
F: Not at that time, I hated it then. Oh! There’s an anecdote from back then. “Hitotsu Yane no Shita” is a story about a family finding it hard to make ends meet. I was living in an apartment then and a neighbouring high school girl would frequently give things to me. She worked part-time in a sushi chain and she used to hang trays of soon-to-expire sushi on my door handle, with a note saying: “I’d like to give these to Chiinii-chan to eat.” (laugh) “So everyone thinks I’m really penniless!” I was very shocked to see this misconception at that time! (laugh). But of course I was really grateful too, the sushi was delicious!
K: What a lovely warm story. (laugh) And it is because of these experiences and the passing of time, that we have the Fukuyama-san of today. If you had to look back on the past 20 years, does it feel like another life to you?
F: Rather than talk about work, I’d like to be thankful for each and every wonderful encounter I had - because I had the chance to meet my senpais (elders) whom I like so much, like Kodama-san and Lily-san etc. I think Kodama-san is really cool, and to be able to speak with you at such close distance! Kodama-san is really a very strong-minded person! (laugh)
K: Hahaha! Have I blown my cover? I am a very stubborn person indeed. (laugh)
F: Well, your persistence has actually helped you thrive in this industry for decades, and you’ve been hosting the perpetual show “Attack 25″** all this time. In this fickle entertainment world, even if you have the capability, there is no guarantee for acclaim. To have to survive in this environment is no easy matter. In the end, you really have to rely on your own personality and amiability to help you find the way. This is what I learnt from Kodama-san.
K: You flatter me! All I did was to doggedly charge forward along the way and by the time I realized, I’ve already reached this age….
F: I feel my father was like that too! Although I had no idea how he actually spent his days, what was important to him was to just survive and keep going. (laugh) In a way, I’m attracted to that way of life too.
K: Oh, I’m so happy that you feel I’m like your father! In fact, we have the age gap of a father and son, but when I’m with Fukuyama-san, I can’t sense this age barrier at all. Usually, for a singer and a Top Star, you’d see some snobbishness, or thinking that “I’m different from the others”. Of course, I guess it might be necessary to maintain this attitude in front of other people, in order to show that you’re really a star. But I can’t see that in you at all. You’re the type who would appear unpretentiously next to someone without their noticing it and then comfortably carry on a conversation on irrelevant matters! Sometimes, because you’re so mature, I’d treat you mistakenly as my older brother.
F: No, no, quite the contrary, I’m the one who makes Kodama-san accommodate me in talking about unimportant things! (laugh)
K: It’s so easy to forget the time when we’re talking, we’re more like brothers than father and son. As long as I don’t look in the mirror, I am still a childish young man. (laugh)
F: (laughing as he speaks) You’re right. Kodama-san is still very youthful!
K: Thank you. We had a wonderful time today.
~ The End ~
* Shimada Shinsuke is a well-know comedian in Japan
** “Attack 25″ is a question and answer games show that has been on air since 1975