[Bookmark] INTERVIEW | “Be Yourself”: A Conversation With Emerging Star Yuri Tsunematsu
The bookmark is a JAPAN Before feature that gives you long reads for the weekend. Each edition presents a global thought that branches out to a wide variety of themes. Our hope is that readers find new depths and perspectives to explore and enjoy.
Last of 2 parts.
Part 1: [Bookmark] Actress Yuri Tsunematsu gives preview of Netflix’s “The Naked Director Season 2”
Yuri Tsunematsu is 22 years old, and if you meet her, as I did in early June 2021, she strikes you as a very calm person. It is perhaps no coincidence that she is one of the rapidly emerging young actresses from Japan.
Dressed in a delicate pink oversized shirt and trendy tie-up boots, she happily and candidly answered my questions about her most recent work, The naked director (2021), which begins streaming on Netflix on June 24. She plays one of the main roles, the heroine Mariko Nogiki.
Tsunematsu is far from a beginner in the world of theater. With a career spanning over 15 years, she made her debut in 2005 as a child actress in Ruri No Shima (Ruri Island), a television series broadcast on Nippon Television. Since then, she has played roles in several movies and many TV series on Japanese broadcast networks, such as NHK, TBS.
Her most recent roles include a role in the popular morning television series currently airing on NHK titled Okaeri Mone (2021) (“Welcome back Mone”). In this work, Tsunematsu plays the role of Asumi Nomura, a childhood friend of the main character.
The timing of the series is important, as the story centers on Mone, a young woman from Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan, an area that was devastated by the Great Eastern Earthquake. from Japan in March 2011. The series looks at children growing up with emotional baggage in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, and how Mone decides she wants to work in weather forecasting, in order to help the citizens of her hometown to Miyagi.
Among other achievements, the young actress also landed a supporting role in The wife of a spy (2020), in the role of Komako, the housekeeper of the two main characters in the story. The film won the Silver Lion at the Venice International Film Festival in 2020.
RELATED: A Conversation with Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa on “Wife of a Spy”
We sat down for an interview with Yuri Tsunematsu to learn more about the importance of playing a role in Okaeri Mone, in a year that also happens to be the 10th anniversary of the 2011 triple disaster.
The conversation then turned to the range of Tsunematsu’s work, her hobbies, how she coped during COVID-19 (spoiler alert: there was a lot of Animal Crossing!) And her advice to young actors like her. .
Let’s talk about Okaeri Mone. What do you think is the appeal of this series?
I think that Okaeri Mone is a work that truly manages to bind people’s hearts.
The main character of the story, Mone, and others, including the character I play, Asumi Nomura, are all from Miyagi and lived through the great earthquake in eastern Japan in March 2011.
What emerges is that there are those who clearly suffered a loss in the disaster, and those who did not. But even among those who did not experience a significant loss directly, everyone experienced the sadness of losing parts of their daily life.
I believe the series tactfully demonstrates the tenacity and resilience of the Japanese. It shows that whatever the obstacles and obstacles, people can recover and move on.
In the final part of the series, he talks more about what weather forecasting involves as a profession. What did you think of this part of the series?
Of course, I check the weather forecast every morning. But that is because people look at the clouds, the wave level, the wind, and then make predictions about the weather the next day.
I learned a lot from being on the show, and it made me very grateful for something that is part of everyday life.
How did you feel about appearing in this series, as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the disaster?
At the time , I was in sixth grade. It was graduation season, at the end of the school calendar. The disaster happened, but since I was still a child, there were a lot of things that I did not understand.
I came home and saw the news. There have been warnings, but it’s not something I’ve completely absorbed. My parents watched the news and acted on it. So, for example, I remember that they were gluing plastic sheets on the window.
When I grew up I researched things I didn’t understand when I was a kid. Therefore, I hope that by appearing in this TV series, it could be an opportunity for children younger than me to discover this story.
For those who are a little older than me and who remember the time very well, I hope this can be an opportunity for them to feel that they are not alone, that they were not the only ones to have such an experience. I hope they will remember that everyone in Japan realized that they lost something back then.
Do you have a message for overseas fans who might get the chance to see the series?
I think it’s a very happy series, which shows a lot of typical aspects of Japanese culture, like cultural festivals, Japanese incense and manju candies [typical sweets made out of red bean paste]. I hope this will be an opportunity for people to take advantage of it.
Humans Against Nature is a theme that is gaining a lot of attention lately. Do you think this is something that is reflected in the series?
I think the theme of humans living in harmony with nature is very important in this TV series, and maybe this series can become an excuse to think about it.
After all, we exist because of our environment, thanks to nature and the earth. If we don’t keep that in mind, we can’t survive, and I think watching this drama might be an opportunity for people to enjoy that aspect.
On the flip side, the series also examines science and how science can’t change nature, but gives us clues about what behavior is best suited to help us deal with it. I think there is tremendous value, even if it’s just learning a little bit more about this kind of profession.
Among your past experiences, working with Kiyoshi Kurosawa in The wife of a spy (2020), stands out in particular. What was it like working with the director and the cast?
It was my second time working with director Kiyoshi Kurosawa. The first time was in Before disappearing (2017). So of course I was very happy that I was asked to play a part in the movie again.
For me, it was an opportunity to discover that there were Japanese people at the time who led a more westernized life, wearing western fashion and clothing.
The film is based on Kobe during World War II, and the lead role, played by Issey Takahashi, is that of a Japanese man in an overseas business venture who travels overseas.
More generally, I think the film is quite provocative. He challenges ideas head-on.
Visually, the film is amazing, including performances by Issey Takahashi and Yu Aoi. I was even happy to have a small part in it.
As an actor since you were young, do you have a message for young actors?
The performance comes from you, and from you alone. I think you can do something meaningful by deepening your understanding and expression of the things you love. I don’t think you could try to be someone else even if you tried, so I would say that’s the most important thing.
What are some of your recent hobbies I heard you chose skateboarding?
I bought [a skateboard] with a friend, but I’m not very good! Besides, now it’s hot so I didn’t really do it.
However, I really like games, especially Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Too, THE Legend of Zelda, for a month, I have been playing these two games.
I’m playing Animal crossing every day, I even have a separate category in my Instagram stories dedicated to it, So if you get the chance, take a look at my island!
How has your life been affected by COVID-19?
At the beginning, the shooting stopped completely, there was no work for what seemed to me to be very long. At the same time, not going out at all was quite difficult. I think I might have been saved by Animal crossing.
I also like to watch international TV series.
Recently, things have returned to normal, and when we rehearse we wear a mask, but when we act we can take it off. I am very grateful that the work has started again.
What is your dream?
Since my childhood, I have always loved international television series. I was looking BONE, and Criminal minds. If I were to manage to do something like this, I would be really happy, and so would my family, because they watch a lot of foreign entertainment as well.
In addition, now Japanese series are very popular on Netflix. If I could participate in one of them, I would also be very happy.
I really like the series about crimes, detective and spies. I would love to do a really cool part like this!
Author: Arielle Busetto