Shogen modeled in Paris, Milan and London while backpacking in the world after graduating from college. He returned to Japan in 2004 and started his career as an actor. The debut film was “Bloody Snake under the Sun (2005)” which described the life in Okinawa in the postwar period. Shogen played the leading part as a sanshin player and the film itself was nominated for the Competition at the 20th Tokyo International Film Festival. The encounter with “method acting” in US in 2008 impressed him very much. He flew back to New York for further lessons and was trained by Susan Baston (the private coach of Nicole Kidman) and Roberta Wallch. In 2010, CNN chose Shogen for “The Tokyo Hot List : 20 People to watch 2010” due to his outstanding roles in the cinema clip “SEVEN SAMURAI” as well as in the advertisement of JT “SEVEN STARS”. He is now actively taking part in various films both in Japan and US.
You started your career in show business in modeling. How was the experience and do you think it helped you in your career as an actor?
I don’t know if it helped my career. But I could travel all over the world doing modeling. I’m sure that traveling experience made me less judgmental, which is one of the most important things for being an actor.
In one of your most well-known performances, you acted in “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist”. How was the experience?
That’s my unforgettable experience. We’ve eaten and trained together about 2 months. We were like family. I miss them so much. I hope we can get together for the sequel one day.
How was the experience working with Eric Khoo and Takumi Saito in Ramen Shop?
I had another movie shoot in Johor Bahru and stopped by saying hi to Eric. Then he offered me to be in his film. It was just a cameo but I enjoyed eating ramen with my friend Leslie Kee! I hope I will be able to work with Eric properly in near future.
I recently saw “Stay” and I found the film rather enjoyable. How did you end up in this film and can you give us some details about the way you cooperated with Darryl Wharton and Ana Tanaka?
I met Darryl first and was on board from the very begging. We did Skype casting with actresses around the world. As you wrote in your review, the chemistry was essential for this love story, and some improvisation. Ana had never acted before but she did a great job and got the role!
I think Tokyo Living Dead is your first zombie movie? How was the experience of working on a film like that?
I haven’t done B-Movies that much but I enjoyed a lot. The director said that I could just play around with my character so I did. Looking back now, I should’ve been more crazier. Haha.
“Okinawan Blue” takes place in the area you were born. What is the significance of the location for you and how important do you think it is to have films with such a local “flavour”? How was your cooperation with Tsukasa Kishimoto? Can you describe your take on Yuhi?
I’ve worked with Kishimoto san 6 times total in 13 years. Usually I live in Tokyo so when I go back to Okinawa for a shooting, I start to adjust my tempo with the locals, drinking with them and chatting in Okinawan dialect, and wandering around in nature. Especially the scent of nature brings my childhood memories back to me. These processes are very important. Making films in Okinawa means a lot to me.
If you could describe Okinawa right now, how you go about it? Why do you feel the need to leave such places and move to urban centers is so strong, for young people?
Even though It’s gradually changing these days, it’s not easy to make a living for actors in Okinawa. Since I’ve been working in Southeast Asia recently, I want to pave the way for going straight to Asia from Okinawa for the next generation. Could be another option for filmmakers, besides going to Tokyo.
Having acted in family drama revolving around food, a romantic movie, a horror film and a comedy/drama taking place in Okinawa, what kind of movies do you feel suit you the most and which parts do you enjoy the most? Do you find it difficult coming out of one role and entering another?
I don’t know. The more I face challenges, the more enjoyable it feels. Yes I need some time to come out of a role. Traveling helps.
Can you share with us some memorable experiences of your career?
“Bloody Snake Under the Sun” was the most memorable experience in my career. That was my first feature film and I played the lead. I didn’t have any acting experience and skills so I just put everything I had into my part. Still remember the details. Every moment was magical.
What is the situation with the Japanese movie industry at the moment, particularly regarding actors?
I feel like Japan is still isolated. I wish it will be more international and have more chance to make co-production films.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on a new project about a boxer based on true story at this moment so I’ve been preparing for the role. We will work with amazing crew in Philippine. I can’t wait to start shooting!!