Exclusive Interview: Nao Nagasawa – Actress, Singer And Idol – Super Sentai And Kamen Rider Heroine
“I want to be in a Hollywood movie in the future.” Nao Nagasawa
Nao Nagasawa (長澤 奈央 ), best known to her fans for her roles in various Super Sentai and Kamen Rider TV shows, is someone with more than just a pretty face and a gorgeous body. She’s been a recording artist, releasing singles like “Kiss, Kiss” and “Game”, and a dancer. But it’s her skills as an actress were she excels and has even led to her winning the Best Actress Award at the Myrtle Film Festival for her English-speaking lead role in the 2009 thriller Hotel Chelsea. Her diversity as an actress has resulted in her playing both heroine and villian. She could play a distraught victim one minute, and a malicious manipulator the next - and that’s all within the same film.
Never before has Miss. Nagasawa given an interview in English… until now! Therefore, Diverse Japan is both honoured and thrilled to be able to share with you here an exclusive interview with Miss. Nagasawa as she talks about her role as Hurricane Blue in the 2002 Super Sentai series Ninpuu Sentai Hurricanger, her stint in the music industry and her time as a popular gravure idol, among other things.
Interview took place via webcam on Monday 30th, January 2012.
Interviewer: Spencer Lloyd Peet (Diverse Japan Administrator)
Okay, let’s start at the beginning. What was your childhood like, was it a happy one?
Yes, I was a happy child. I was a tomboy – everyone thought I was a boy because of my short-cut hair and I used to fight a lot (laughs).
Do you have any brothers or sisters?
I have one elder sister. She is one year older than me.
Does she work in the entertainment business too?
No, she does not.
How did you get involved in the entertainment business, was it something you always wanted to do?
I wanted to be an actress from childhood. It all started with my profile I sent to a talent agency when I was in junior high school. My debut was in a CM (commercial).
What was the commercial for?
It was for a music CD. I was a model in the commercial.
How old were you?
I was 15 years old.
How did you get to play the role of Nanami/Hurricane Blue in Ninpuu Sentai Hurricanger, did you have to audition?
Yes. I had to audition four times. I had to show action moves and some posing.
How old were you at that time?
I was 17 years old.
Were there many other girls auditioning for the part?
Many other girls also auditioned for the same role, yes.
Why do you think you were chosen from all the other girls?
I don’t know, maybe because Nanami and I are the same. We are quite similar in character.
Had you had any experience in martial arts at that time?
Yes, I did shorinji (kempo). I tried to do a shorinji pose at audition, but it was no good, not powerful. Everyone saw it and made fun of me (laughs!). But they had a good impression of me.
When your character Nanami transforms into Hurrican Blue, are the action sequences performed by a stunt actor?
I did the fight scenes myself. They measured my head for helmet and my body for the costume, which was a tight fit.
Normally, the fight scenes are performed by a stunt double, aren’t they?
Normally, yes. But I was able to do them myself.
What was the most enjoyable thing about being in Hurricanger?
I gained knowledge from playing Nanami for one year, and grew up whilst playing her.
Did you enjoy reprising your role of Hurricane Blue in the cross-over episodes where you team up with other rangers in various Super Sentai shows like GoGo Sentai Boukenger Vs Super Sentai?
Oh yeah. I had not played the same character for several years, so I had a great experience playing her more grown-up.
Were you ever allowed to keep any of the props from Hurricanger, such as Natsumi’s blue jacket?
Oh, yes. I got jacket, suit and helmet. I have them on display at home.
There are many “tokusatsu” (Japanese live-action super hero-type shows such as Ninpuu Sentai Hurricanger) toys and collectables produced to tie-in with the shows. Do you have any?
Oh, yes. I love action figures.
How many do you have in your collection?
Maybe 30 figures… I put them all together in a line in order on a shelf.
2012 marks the 10th anniversary of Ninpuu Sentai Hurricanger. Are there any plans this year to make a one-off Special to celebrate?
Maybe. This is very wonderful year for me.
Do you enjoy watching tokusatsu shows?
Yeah, I watch them every week, Super Sentai and Kamen Rider. I’ve been watching for about 10 years.
So you are actually a fan yourself?
Yeah, I’m fan.
Which do you like better, the Super Sentai series or Kamen Rider?
I cannot choose. Both were very important for my career. Super Sentai discovered me and Kamen Rider was important for my skills. I appreciate both and keep them close in my heart.
You gave a great performance as the character Natsumi in Ultraman Max. Was it difficult playing a character that was both good and evil?
Yes, it was tough.
That wasn’t the only time you played a villain on screen, was it? Do you prefer to play the part of a heroine or a villain?
I enjoy playing both.
Are there any plans for you to appear in other tokusatsu shows?
I will be in Kamen Rider Fouze. My role is teacher and kickboxer [Ms. Haruka]. It was very fun to make.
The fight sequences in these shows must be very physically demanding, and in your films like Hard Revenge Milly: Bloody Battle. How do you keep your energy up?
If I have time to rest in between the fight scenes, I rest. I believe my energy force is key for the film.
Once you’ve been cast in an action film, on average, how many hours a day would you be expected to train?
Oh, it depends on the work. But usually I start working out alone and then there’s one month of training. During that time I train all day long.
Have you ever been hurt during a fight scene?
Oh yes. During the filming of an episode of Hurricanger, I cracked several ribs – it was very ouch. Whilst I was fighting a monster, it hit me in the jaw and I fell down and started rolling back and cracked my ribs.
Were you taken to hospital?
Yes. For two, or maybe three weeks I couldn’t do anything. Very ouch!
You were very convincing in the role of Emi in Hotel Chelsea and you had to show your character being very upset by the murder of her husband. As an actress, did you find it difficult to cry, did you think of something sad from your own life to help you cry or did you use eye-drops for the tears?
At first it was very difficult to cry. But once I got into the character, it wasn’t so difficult.
So you cried real tears?
Yes, they were my tears.
The filming took place in the real Hotel Chelsea in New York. Was this your first time in America, what were your first impressions?
Yes it was. I liked it very much. It was very cold, but I love New York, very good place.
Both actor Anthony Laurent, who played NYPD Detective Smith and the film’s writer and producer Hiro Masuda speak highly of you in their interviews for Diverse Japan, not only of you acting skills, but also as a genuinely kind and warm person. What was it like for you working with them and the other members of the international cast and crew?
It was a great experience for me to work with people in a different environment. I learnt a lot from the crew and working with small details.
You won an award for Best Actress at the Myrtle Film Festival for your part in the film. Since winning the award, do you feel that people take you more seriously now as an actress?
Maybe a little. But myself, I haven’t changed.
Are you able to tell us anything about the TOEI film Rebellions, which will be directed by Koichi Sakamoto (Kamen Rider W and Kamen Rider Fourze), and the character you play?
The name of the role I play in this film is Rin. She is cool and uses a gun. Even during the action scenes, I express my cool character of her.
Idol Saaya [Irie] and actress Minami Tsukui are also in the film, aren’t they? You’ve worked with Ms. Tsukui before on Geisha Assassin (aka Geisha vs Ninja). What was it like working with her again? Do you get on well with each other?
I was really pleased to work with Miss. Tsukui again, we get along well.
Has production for the actual film started yet?
They’re still waiting for financial backing?
What type of character would you like to play, that you haven’t played already?
I would like to play a role in a jidaigeki (period drama) film.
Which Hollywood director would you most like to work with?
Clint Eastwood. He’s a great actor and director. He makes a lot of great films. I respect him very much.
You also do a lot of theatre work. What skills as an actress do you bring to the stage that you don’t, or can’t particularly use on film? Is there much of a difference for you between performing on film and performing on stage?
On stage, I use my whole body to express my feelings. But on film I try to play it more natural.
Which is more enjoyable for you as an actress, film or theatre?
I prefer film. I want to be in a Hollywood movie in the future.
Would you like to perform on Broadway as well?
Many people also know you through your previous work as a gravure idol. At what age did you start?
I was 17-years-old – same time as when I started being in Hurricanger.
As a gravure idol you were filmed and photographed in many beautiful locations. Did you ever come to Europe for a photo shoot?
I’ve been to Spain and Paris for a weekly magazine photo shoot.
Were your parents very supportive of you during your time as a gravure idol?
In the beginning my parents were not very supportive, but then they changed.
What did you learn most from being a gravure idol?
I learnt how to express myself in the videos and photo books.
Will you be releasing any more photo books soon?
Ah, sorry no photo book.
Have you now stopped being a gravure idol?
Yes. I have stopped.
How and why did you get involved in the music industry?
My character Nanami in Hurricanger was a singer so I sang in some episodes. After the series ended, I continued to make music for a while.
Was the video for the song “Game” filmed in a real church?
Yes it was filmed in Japan in a real church. It was very beautiful.
Can you play an instrument?
I’ve started to play guitar now.
Will you be making any more music in the future?
I would like to, maybe.
What projects do you have coming up in 2012?
Now I am making TV drama. From March I will be going to Taiwan, shooting a movie. And in April I will go back to Japan to do stage.
What do you like to do in your spare time, do you have any hobbies?
I like travel and calligraphy. I have a license for calligraphy – I am professional, grade 5.
When did you start learning calligraphy?
From childhood, I studied in school.
Where would your ideal date be, somewhere romantic or somewhere fun?
I love both.
How would you describe yourself?
I am an optimistic person.
Are you someone who is ambitious and makes plans for the future, or do you take life as it comes?
I make plans, but it is not easy to keep them. So I accept things faced to me.
Are you aware that you have fans outside Asia, does this surprise you?
Yeah, because I didn’t know about it. But it is so lovely.
What message do you have for your fans?
I make a film in Taiwan now, so maybe you watch me in the future.
Before we conclude, is there anything you would like to ask?
Oh, yes. Do many people in England watch Super Sentai and Kamen Rider?
Yes they do, and people in other parts of Europe and of course America. There are many websites in English dedicated to the shows, and forums where fans come to discuss episodes and their favourite characters. You are often mentioned.
Oh, thank you very much.
Thank you, it’s been a real pleasure talking with you.
Thank you. I enjoyed it very much.
Special thanks to Ace Crew Entertainment.
See Nao Nagasawa in the critically acclaimed film Hotel Chelsea. Writer and producer, Hiro Masuda, has made Hotel Chelsea free to watch online in order to help raise money for the Ashinaga Education Fund to support orphans of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011.
Please note: This interview is protected by copyright and cannot be republished without permission.