Success has come spectacularly for American actress Charlotte Kate Fox. But it has not been by chance for Fox who shot to fame in Japan as the first foreign actress to star in NHK’s morning serial drama “Massan,” that ran from Sept 29, 2014, to March 28, 2015. She followed that up with a complete change of place to star in the musical “Chicago,” first on Broadway and then in Japan.
An enthusiastic and affable performer, Fox has shown her talents at acting, singing and dancing. Born and raised in New Mexico, she completed a Master in Fine Arts (Acting) at Northern Illinois University.
Her latest work is the Fuji TV drama, “Our House,” which will be aired Sunday nights from 9 p.m., beginning April 17. Taking time out from a hectic shooting schedule, Fox sits down to chat about the drama and her last two years.
“Our House,” which co-stars precocious 12-year-old Japanese actress Mana Ashida, tells the story of an American woman named Alice (Fox) who marries a Japanese widower half a year after the death of his first wife, unaware that he has four children. She returns to Tokyo to live with him and his extended family in Japan.
“It’s about coming together,” Fox says. “Because of her past – and I don’t want to give away too much -- Alice is inclined to stay. She is the sort of person who is not prepared to be a mother but she learns pretty quickly. It is also about her interaction with the daughter Sakura (Ashida). There is grieving involved since she lost her mother and it is learning how to accept.”
Alice is a change of pace from the character of Ellie that Fox played in “Massan.” That drama was based on a true story that dates back to the early 20th century about Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of Japan’s whiskey industry, and his Scottish wife, Rita. The drama, in which Rita was named Ellie, portrayed how the selfless Ellie and her husband coped with the difficulties of an international marriage, as well as Ellie’s struggles to get to grips with Japanese culture.
“Ellie was very sweet and playing her for six months was easier,” Fox says. “But this character of Alice is very direct and very American. I have to be sure of everything I am saying, which is scary, because I am still learning Japanese.”
Fox is full of praise for Ashida. “She is wonderful, almost scary smart. She’s very giving and sweet. I think she’s going to have a really long career. She is 12 and has had a job longer than I have. With so many kids on the set, it’s a lot of fun.”
Fox says she enjoys the atmosphere of “Our House” because the director lets her ad-lib. “We’re getting to know each other and how each other work. Ad-libbing keeps things alive. It makes the actors feel they have a voice, it gives the director new ideas and there is more communication.”
Fox acknowledges that “Massan” has opened a lot more doors for here. “Everything I’ve done since then was because of that. It was a sort of birth by fire. Each job has its own challenges. With TV dramas, you can do more than one take if you mess up. Doing ‘Chicago’ is more on stage – it’s one straight shot. I had to sing and dance and take on a famous role.”
Based in Japan, Fox says she gets a lot of fan mail from Japanese. “When ‘Massan’ was on, I got recognized by a lot of people. I’d get letters from people who had translated their message from Japanese to English. They said how watching certain scenes made them feel good and thanked me for it. From an older person, I got a letter handwritten in Japanese on a scroll. It was wonderful.”
Fox says she wants to keep challenging herself with different roles, including hopefully some work in the U.S. She even has a desire to play someone really evil, like Medea (the character in an ancient Greek tragedy written by Euripides) who kills her children.
When she is not working, Fox says she likes to chill out by watching Netflix. “I love watching really good TV shows. I can just get lost for hours. I also love yoga. In America, I used to go rock climbing a lot but can’t do that in Japan.”
She also takes an interest in current affairs. “Of course, I’m following the U.S. election campaign and I’m into veterans’ issues because there are a lot of veterans in my family. In Japan, I’ve found myself getting interested in the fact that there are many children needing to be adopted and yet, Japan has a low adoption rate . I had no idea about that issue until I came here.”© Japan Today