Ayane Nagabuchi had been dreaming of working on a Hollywood production as an actress. She moved to New York and tried to become a working actress, but it did not work out at that time. She then built her career in Japan and finally took a first step into Hollywood with her debut movie, “Tetris” (Apple TV+).
I had a Zoom interview with her while she was in Tokyo. What I was most impressed by is that she is very honest and outgoing, as well as her sharp responses mixed with humor. These are very rare traits, I find, when speaking with Japanese actors/actresses. So I am pretty sure she will make her dreams come true, and in the near future, we will see more of her work in Hollywood productions.
Q: Have you played video games?
Yes I have. Since I am a part of the “Game Boy Generation”, I used to play Game Boy when I was in elementary school. Especially because I have two brothers, I feel like games have always been around me. I played “Tetris” a ton, but I also played “Super Mario Brothers” quite often. I also played “Mario Kart” a lot.
Q: How did you come to play this role?
There was an audition. First, they reviewed my profile, then there was a second screening with a video audition, and finally there was a third screening with an in-person chemistry check by reading with co-star Taron (Taron Egerton) and director John (John S. Baird). Then, the day after that, I received an email that said, “You got it!” It took me 10 years to get a role in a Hollywood production! My goal was to enter Hollywood at 22, so I made it at 32. Up until now, I have done so many auditions that I couldn’t say how many. I feel very strongly now that if I keep going, my dreams will come true. I am fully realizing that I am glad that I was able to believe in myself. But I feel this is only the beginning, and I feel that I have to keep going on, no matter what.
Q: How was it working with Taron?
We didn’t particularly have conversations like “because we are playing a married couple, let’s do something like this” or “these kinds of things are super important, aren’t they?” Simply put, the most important thing to us was our connection as a married couple. While rehearsing, during this one scene where we both couldn’t really feel that connection, Talon quickly said, “Ayane! Let’s do our lines together!” So we went to the corner of the kitchen, just the two of us, and worked tirelessly on those lines until we found our connection, and we said them over and over again, and the second we each felt that we had found it, Taron said, “Let’s do this!” and we started filming immediately. I feel like we were constantly caring about this “connection” while shooting.
Q: As Henk is often away, he also missed his daughter Maya’s recital. Did you feel lonely as your father (very famous singer-songwriter and actor Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi) was also often absent?
My father was not an absentee father. He came to my sports days, and he was the kind of father that always came to school recitals, so I didn’t feel lonely. On the contrary, I more often wished that he wouldn’t come! [laughs] So he wasn’t like Henk in that way.
I grew up watching my mother, and she had to put up with many things in order to support my father. (Author’s note: Ayane’s mother, Etsuko Shihomi, retired from acting at her husband’s request. It was also reported that she experienced domestic violence many times.) I was able to reflect on these things while playing and creating the character of Akemi. I feel like I was somehow able to understand how my mother felt supporting my father.
Q: In the beginning you wanted to be a ballerina, but you experienced the pain of having to give up that dream due to an injury you sustained in junior high school. You must have felt quite depressed and upset. Did you receive any encouragement or heartfelt gifts from your parents at that time?
As you said, it was pretty rough back then. My goal disappeared… because my parents hadn’t told me to study. Instead, they educated me to “find your dream”. In life, I think it is of extreme importance to run towards one goal. I feel like that is a gift I received from my parents. No matter what, I feel that finding a dream, setting a goal, and pushing towards it is one way to enrich your life, and I think that the fact that I was able to receive that education is a wonderful gift.
Q: It was a dream come true for you to appear in a Hollywood production. Please tell us your impression about your experience with Hollywood and the goals you have now.
I think that a debut may be something that you can do someday if you keep doing auditions. Because many Japanese people have made their Hollywood debuts so far, I think continuing from here on will be the biggest challenge. This is not the end, but the beginning, and I will continue to audition, and I think I will not be cast, but in the sense that I will continue to gain experience, and I will continue to audition without quitting.
When I saw the final product, I thought, “I should have done it this way” and “I should have done it that way”. I have never been fully satisfied with my acting, and I believe that I must constantly continue to grow. I discovered many challenges this time as well, such as the rhythm of working in Hollywood versus the rhythm of working in Japan is different, and I learned that I had to change various things. Anyway, I learned a lot. I learned so much that I can’t even tell you all about it, and because I have learned so much, I feel that I would like to use that knowledge on my future projects.
Interview English translated by Nora Rowan / Hollywood News Wire Inc.