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Dante peaks

22 Comments
By Chris Betros

Not many people become famous from making TV commercials, but American actor Dante Carver certainly has. For the past three years, Carver, 32, has become known to legions of Japanese fans as Aya Ueto’s brother and Kanako Higuchi’s son in the series of “White Family” commercials which feature a popular white dog as head of the household. “I really wasn’t sure what the concept was, and I’m still not sure, but everyone seems to like it, and that’s great,” says Carver, sitting down for an interview in Meguro.

Born in Brooklyn, Carver spent half his early life in Europe and the U.S. with his father who was an interpreter at the time, and his mother, who is a government nurse. “I lived in Italy and Germany and traveled all over Europe,” Carver recalls. “Then I went back to the States to study international business at a university in Virginia. In my third year, I worked for a health insurance company and did acting at night. In 2004, I took a break and came over to Japan for a month or so to visit my friends from university. That was my first time here.”

During that visit, Carver says he was asked by four different modeling agencies at random to sign up. “Two of them approached me in Starbuck’s,” he says. However, he returned to the U.S. for a bit, before deciding to try his luck in Japan permanently in 2005. “My plan was to find a serious agency so I could work as an actor first and a model second. I ran into a lot of potholes. For the first few months, I was teaching English privately in Kyoto. I did some modeling and TV commercial jobs, but nothing steady.”

Then came his big break. “I was an extra on a Vodafone commercial (before it became Softbank Mobile), when the director heard me speaking Kansai dialect and took a liking to me. He then said the main character would be changed to me and now I’ve been at it for more than three years. Aya Ueto and Kanako Higuchi are like my second family, and the dog is one of the easier talents to work with, no complaining. His name is Kai. We also use his sister Nene for walking and running scenes. Sometimes, the commercials can take anywhere from 16 hours to 2-3 days to shoot.”

Besides TV commercials, Carver has been doing a “Sesame Street”-type TV show on BS Fuji, called “Be Ponkiki,” since last April. He is very careful about which projects he chooses. “If it is the stupid foreign character, I won’t do it because I don’t want to get typecast,” he explains. “For those foreigners who really don’t care and just want to do it for the money, more power to them. For myself, I am an artist and if it is anything that I couldn’t show my parents, I wouldn’t do it.”

Stereotyping can be a perennial problem in Japan where most African-Americans are typecast as being in the military, basketball players, musicians or drug dealers. “That often happens,” says Carver. “They want me to play this really bad guy, but I can do so much more than that.”

Carver will next be seen in the movie “Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru” (A Strong Wind Is Blowing), which opens on Oct 31. The movie follows 10 college students with completely different personalities and backgrounds, who go through rigorous physical training with the goal of securing a spot in the Hakone Ekiden, a famous annual university street relay. “My character is an exchange student from Africa who reluctantly joins the team. There is a lot of running in it. Fortunately, I am in good condition,” says Carver who practices kung-fu.

In his spare time, Carver likes to draw and writes music, “a bit of R&B or house,” he says. Earlier this year, he published a book in Japanese titled “Who Is That Guy?” In August, he launched a blog. “I enjoy it but it is difficult to write in Japanese. It has made me aware of my Japanese fans who range in age from 5-6 years old to one who is 82. That’s really nice.”

© Japan Today

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22 Comments
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Does he really believe he can make it as a serious actor over here? Maybe he can be the next mr james.

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Handsome and talented = a star in Japan.

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if it is anything that I couldn’t show my parents, I wouldn’t do it.

Wise words, that apply to every aspect of life. :-)

He then said the main character would be changed to me and now I’ve been at it for more than three years.

No, no, No!!

The main character is that commercial is, was and always will be, Otosan.

'the dog', indeed.

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Actor? I understand model? No way

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Why is everyone hating on him? It seems from your posts your jealous of his success. He is living his dream and not compromising his values at the same time. He has been a professional and treating this opportunity as a serious opportunity.

For others to respect you, you first have to respect yourself. That is why his career is flourishing. That is also why you won't see him as a over-hyper pink or green haired character on a Eikawa show. Or some out of shape geek selling hamburgers to be laughed at by Japanese all over the country.

Think about why so many foreigners who have tried make it in entertainment in Japan don't make it.

1)Usually no real talent 2)They compromise there own self-respect. 3)They relied solely on a gimmick and never try to improve.

@hellhound

If you are on commercials and doing movies then you are an actor, deshou?

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Dante Carver was the guest talent on a daytime variety show with Mino Monta a few weeks back and he was introduced as having attended one of the most prestigious universities in the US. I thought, oh this guy's a well educated tarento like Patrick Harlan (Harvard) and was intrigued. They asked him which university and he answered Old Dominion University in Virginia. I just about fell out of my chair laughing...

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Unlike the USA where you see Asian actors and actresses appearing in a variety of roles, foreign "actors" in Japan are pigeon-holed very quickly and their careers usually short lived.

In addition, working conditions are not so enjoyable in Japan and many foreigner actors pack it in after a while. Appearing in a high profile CM, for example, often does not lead to bigger and better things. It may result in a part in a movie etc to cash in on the actor's temporary popularity. It has nothing to do with talent. When a series of commercials finish then often do the phone calls as well.

Thane Camus was smart by starting his own agency. Maybe he knew something the other guys didn't.

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You're 32 so you better get a move on.

And don't do the Bob Sapp.

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I love that dog and especially the latest one, but to tell you the truth, I could not describe any of the humans in the commercial. I will have to look at more than the dog when one pops up.

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for those who dont know, the CM`s didnt start with the father, so it hasnt always been about the dog. do some research

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btw, he never said ODU

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1)Usually no real talent 2)They compromise there own self-respect. 3)They relied solely on a gimmick and never try to improve

same applies for Japanese "actors & models"

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He's playing the game and doing it well...people who knock him wish they were as lucky.

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he's not an advertising haw. he's an artist. i bet he's really sensitive too

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thepro...Serious actors in Japan, LOL!

There are some but on TV. Not from what I've seen. Maybe they're serious but the talent is not there.

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jorel

You're right. It wasn't ODU, he went to Virginia Commonwealth University, another Tier 3 school.

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I think it's great that he has been so successful; however, what I don't understand is why he was approached to do modeling. He's not particularly good looking.

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He's not particularly good looking.

He is very good looking and has extremely nice body. Models must have nice body and he has it. Face features are not that important but he is handsome too.

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You don`t have to be great looking to be a model you just need to have a certain look.

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That's absolutely correct. I got a job modeling in horror films. I found out later they only used me because I didn't need any make-up.

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He wants to avoid stereotype roles but he is going to be playing an African exchange student marathon runner.

No contradictions there.

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The truth is, any Joe Blow foreigner can "model" in Japan just because they look different and exotic. Most foreigners will be approached by modeling agencies especially in Tokyo when out walking in Shibuya, or even sitting in cafes like Dante was. But respect to him for refusing to play roles that stereotype foreigners. Ironic that he became famous as a member of the "White Family" though.

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