22 Questions for Fukuyama Masaharu (2009.12)
From NHK “Ryomaden” Homepage 2009.12.20 and 12.27
■ (01) How did you feel when you received the invitation to star in “Ryome den”?
F: When I first heard they wanted me to play the Taiga lead Ryoma, I thought “Why me?” The image I had of Ryoma all along was rather rough-hewn and that was certainly different from my own image, it just didn’t fit.
■ (02) Was there anyone special who influenced you to say yes to the offer then?
F: In a nutshell, Chief Producer Suzuki Kei-san was very persuasive and I was moved by his sincerity. Yes, if it didn’t work out and we failed miserably, I’m going to push all responsibility onto him. (laugh) Just joking. I could really feel that incredible enthusiasm of his, perhaps that was what gave me the courage to accept the offer.
■ (03) You’ll be in this role for one whole year, do you feel any pressure?
F: Well, one year may be too long to carry on a series, but when it all ends, I’ll probably be feeling “Oh, that was too short”. Personally, I don’t really mind the one year duration.
■ (04) Has your impression of “Ryoma” changed now?
F: I first saw him as a rough, stout and hearty guy, but after discussion with Chief Producer Suzuki-san, screenwriter Fukuda-san, director Ootomo-san and other staff, my image of him has changed. I feel now that there’s a soft pliable side to him and it’s probably a significant part too. He is appealing on many different fronts, not someone you can describe in just one or two words.
■ (05) What does it mean to you to play the role of “Ryoma” in this present day?
F: When we look at the different times, we’re always saying “It used to be like this, it used to be like that”. But what is it like now, in the present day? On the contrary, I haven’t given it much thought. All I want to do is to be able to portray a person that people will like at first sight.
Watching the news now, it’s all so full of gloom and depression. Well, what we’re making here is a drama that is meant to entertain, so I believe it’s my mission to the best of my ability, to convey things that can help to cheer people up. That’s why I hope our team here can stand united to bring forth a “Ryoma image” that people will like.
■ (06) How did you feel when you first dressed up as Ryoma?
F: I didn’t find it particularly engaging when I first saw myself in costume. (laugh) I’m supposed to be playing a teenage Ryoma, and however I looked, I couldn’t pass off as a teenager, so I was thinking “aren’t we stretching it a bit here?” But then, it’s the same for Kagawa (Teruyuki)-san too, there was no way he’d look teenage either, so I decided to just let it be. (laugh) I was actually a bit concerned about this age issue before the filming. But I’ve stopped dwelling on it now, it’s because this is a story about a person and not about his age.
■ (07) Why do you think Ryoma is so popular with the women?
F: My guess is he’s probably quite capricious like a child. He must have got something in him which would lead women to think “I’ve got to do something to help him”. That’s how I’ve been playing it. And since he grew up in a household full of women, it’s probably second nature for him to gravitate towards them like a mommy’s boy? I’m the exact opposite, we only had 2 boys in our family. I always thought that “Men must be decisive and take the lead” but it seems this type of men don’t do well with the ladies at all!
■ (08) Why do so many people like Ryoma?
F: I believe there are many parts of Ryoma-san that people can relate to. He is the type of person that anyone can find a bit of themselves in. Say, we may have grown up in different environments, but Ryoma-san left Tosa for Edo with a dream “Can I achieve something here?” “Can I become someone who makes a difference?” It was the same for me. And it is because anyone can project themselves onto him, that he is so well-loved.
■ (09) What did you learn from Ryoma?
F: In short, I will try to “accept all that he is”. My first impression of him was “someone like a bulldozer pushing things forward.” After hearing about his various deeds, it seems to me he is more like a “soft sponge absorbing new things and relaying the best parts out”. When I’m very busy and focused on my work, I have a tendency “not to listen to others”. I hope I would be able to accept different ideas like Ryoma-san, to listen closely to other people and to retain a curiosity to different things
■ (10) Was Tosa-ben (dialect) difficult to learn?
F: I was told before that Tosa-ben is “quite similar to Kansai-ben”, but it wasn’t the same when I finally got to hear it, so it was not easy for me. I worked hard on it, but I guess I still can’t get it 100% correct. I’m so sorry about that!
■ (11) The story also takes part in Fukuyama-san’s hometown Nagasaki. What do you think about that?
F: When I was still in Nagasaki, I never went to the Kameyama-shachu (亀山社中跡). It was only my first time a couple of days ago. I never really saw this special city when I was still (living) there, this unique cultural and historical place. And I was finally able to appreciate all its distinctiveness now through Ryoma’s legend. While I’m feeling extremely thankful for that, I’m also shocked at what an ignorant high school kid I was before. (laugh)
■ (12) Did you find kendo training difficult?
F: I’m learning to fight with the sword, but the fight scenes are really challenging for me and I went through a lot of hardship. As for how to maintain my balance and how to move, the sword master said to me “Yes, you’ve got it.” That’s probably thanks to my gym training. The next step is for me to build on these basic skills and focus on the upper torso movements. *
(* From Ryomaden Chief Producer Suzuki-san’s interview “Traditionally the fight scenes are edited by piecing together a number of close-up shots. But with director Ootomo-san’s approach this time, the scenes are filmed in one go. I am totally amazed by Fukuyama-san’s ability to handle the kendo moves in continuity from the beginning to end of each long shot. He has a remarkable athletic sense.”)
■ (13) How do you find the team spirit (on site)?
F: Oh there is a very strong team spirit here, I can clearly sense it. Perhaps I’ve never experienced such a unity in a team before.** “We want to make a good film” You could see this enthusiasm in everyone - the director goes without saying, but at the same time, the camera crew, the lighting, the setting, the props…..you could feel it the moment you get on site.
(** Perhaps as leader of Team Fukuyama, he has had to work alone much of the time. And this is the first opportunity he’s had to be a member of such a large team?)
■ (14) What are the things you have to work on, going forward?
F: There is a lot! (laugh) Say, after we finished filming episode 7, we jumped straight into episode 11. That’s because we’re not filming in chronological order.….(when I asked the Producer if this was normal for taiga dramas, he nodded and said “Normal.”) That’s it, so now it’s my personal challenge. (laugh) I’ve got to get used to this way of filming, it’s a bit hard for me and this is what I need to work on from now on.
■ (15) What do you think about Kagawa Teruyuki-san who plays Iwasaki Yataro?
F: It’s very exciting to play opposite Kagawa-san. Yataro is a very low ranking samurai and to illustrate that point, he is dressed in rags most of the time. When we were filming in the North-East, it was freezing and he had to run about in the wilderness in sandals, so his feet were quite badly cut and bruised. When I said to him “It must be very hard on you”, he replied “If I keep thinking how difficult it is, it will only get worse. Because I’m not thinking about the acting, and I’m letting the character come out of me naturally, it actually feels quite easy.”
I think he is a great actor and I learn a lot when I’m working with him.
■ (16) What similarities do you see between music and acting?
F: Because I write my own songs, play the instruments and sing, you can call me the “actor-director-screenwriter” in music. What is most important here, is that whenever I come across doubts and issues, I have pull them out and deal with them one by one like bones in a fish (preparing sashimi). I use the same stance for acting.
I try NOT to let the situation happen where “I’ll try it out first even if I don’t really get it.” With regard to the “Ryoma” personality, his inner thoughts and feelings, even a single gesture, I try to think how “Ryoma would really behave”. Where I have queries, I’d ask, discuss and understand fully before performing it out.
■ (17) What are your plans on your music activities for 2010?
F: Well, there is practically no way I can hold a concert tour, so I guess that leaves song writing. How much music can I work on, even I don’t know. But lately, whenever I come across any instances where I’m doubting “Can I really get it done?” I’d go ahead and take it on, all of it. (laugh) It’s the same with Ryoma-san, whenever he thinks “I want to do it!” he’d go and get it done. I’m at this stage now and I guess that’s not a bad thing after all.
■ (18) You’re so busy, don’t you feel tired?
F: Not at all (laugh). Upto now, I’ve never collapsed because of fatigue nor has my body broken down from overwork. I guess the people managing my schedule at the talent agency must have thought “Oh, this shouldn’t be a problem” when they kept filling in the work. (laugh) If it were anything, I don’t think it would be my spirit but my physical health that I might be concerned with. But at the moment, it’s still holding up.
■ (19) If Ryoma were alive now, what do you think he would have done?
F: Personally, I’d hope…..hmm……..I don’t want him to be a civil servant. (laugh) Because I hope he can make it big in business. That’s my own view, or rather, my request.
■ (20) If Fukuyama-san were born in the Bakumatsu era, what type of person do you think you’d become?
F: Well even within the same Bakumatsu era, it’d be different depending on where I am. And we need to consider my age as well. I guess Edo or Kyoto in the Bakumatsu should be somewhat similar to what we see in the history books, but in country places like Tosa where, unlike nowadays, they have much less access to outside information, it’d be a totally different scenario.
If I were 18 or 19 in Bakumatsu Tosa, I’d probably have the mentality “if the foreigners come, I’ll fight them off with my sword!” But as a 40-year old in Edo or Kyoto during the same era, I think I’d be making use of the change in times to engage in business. (laugh) Foreign trade was very important in those days. Just like the recent years have been known as the IT revolutionary era. Whenever drastic changes occur in times, some people would be able to make use of that moment of opportunity to make it big.
■ (21) Will we get to see a completely different “Fukuyama Masaharu”?
F: There are quite a few emotional scenes which I haven’t done before in any of my dramas todate. In other words, there are expressions that even I haven’t seen before myself. When I was watching the replays on the monitor, many scenes caught me by surprise. My saliva dripping down as I was talking (laugh) But that was very natural and partly an expression of my emotion, so I felt it didn’t matter. At the same time, there were scenes of me dunked in water or covered in mud, I really worked as hard as those young actors. (laugh)
■ (22) During the filming, were there any lines or scenes which Fukuyama-san found particularly touching?
F: Fukuda-san’s script has lines or scenes in every episode which leave a strong impression. But one of my occupational weaknesses is that I will forget all my lines immediately after the scene is finished, so I can’t really tell you what they are, I’m sorry. (laugh)
Well, in Episode 1, there is a scene where Ryoma was consoling some children whose father had just been killed. There was a strong Ryoma-feel to it. I can’t disclose too much because it will be broadcast soon but that was a very touching scene. Please look out for it when it airs.
~ The End ~
This English translation was first posted on MashaPlus [dot] Info Forums. (Registration required to enter.)