With his quiet smile and calm voice, actor Hiroshi Mikami doesn’t seem an obvious choice to portray a kidnapper. But the actor has made a name for himself by taking on challenging roles, ranging from a wish-granting fairy godfather to a transgender rock star.
Mikami’s latest project, "Yukai," is a TV movie based on a novel of the same name by Takahisa Igarashi. The suspense thriller opens with a historic visit by the president of Korea to sign a treaty of friendship between Korea and Japan. As the Tokyo police cope with the heightened security, the Japanese prime minister’s granddaughter is abducted.
Mikami stars as the kidnapper Kosuke Akizuki, a former salaryman whose demand that the PM put a stop to the treaty negotiations makes the crime seem politically motivated. It’s eventually revealed, however, that the true mastermind has an entirely different agenda. “I’m giving something away here.” Mikami says. “Kidnapping is usually something people do for money, or other criminal reasons, but this wasn’t done to try and hurt anyone.”
"Yukai" marks the second time Mikami has collaborated with Igarashi. The two also worked together on the 2003 TV adaptation "Koshonin," a project helmed by famed director Takashi Miike in which Mikami won accolades for his role as a hostage negotiator.
Growing up in the 1960s in a family with strong ties to the entertainment industry — his mother was an actress and an uncle is a film producer — Mikami, perhaps inevitably, followed the same path. The Tokyo native went to his first audition in high school after a close friend recommended he give it a shot, and he snagged the lead role in the film "Kusa-Meikyu" (Grass Labyrinth). Directed by one of Japan’s most provocative directors, Shuji Terayama ("Fruits of Passion"; "Saraba Hakobune"), the movie won critical praise in France when it debuted as part of producer Pierre Braunberger’s omnibus trilogy "Collections Privées." Mikami became an internationally recognized talent from the moment of his debut.
The actor went on to star in a variety of projects, ranging from the popular TV comedy "Kimi no Hitomi wo Taiho Suru" to "Tsuki no Sabaku" (“Desert Moon”), which was screened in competition at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. In 2004, he again showed off his versatility — and his vocal talents — playing the titular character in the original Japanese cast of the Broadway rock-musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."
Mikami says the biggest lesson he’s learned is to accept whatever each day brings. “I don’t know to what extent things are predetermined and to what extent they’re changeable,” he explains. “But I believe that things we never though possible can happen. People think, ‘This is all I’ve got, this is the only way to live.’ Lately, I’m reluctant to box myself in like that. Now I just shout, ‘It’s all good — bring it on! Take me wherever you want.’ It’s much easier that way.”
So what’s next for the prolific and in-demand actor? “Producers often mention this, but it’s important to think about your target audience, and what they want,” he says. “But next time, I want to say, ‘Let’s not think about anything or anyone else, and just do it.’… Sometimes, you need to forget about the data and the rest of the world and just create.”
"Yukai" debuts on WOWOW on Sunday Aug 2, at 10:15 p.m.
This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).© Japan Today