‘Toyko Vice’ star Ken Watanabe on being awestruck by Season 1 surprising cliffhanger [Exclusive Video Interview]

Even “Tokyo Vice” star Ken Watanabe was left awestruck by the show’s season finale, which leaves almost every significant character – including Watanabe’s Detective Katagiri – on the edge of a surprising cliffhanger. 

“When I read the script for the end of episode eight, I was like, ‘Is this the end of the season? We need to talk about the next one or something!’” Watanabe tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview. But while nothing is confirmed, Watanabe says he has had informal conversations with showrunner J.T. Rogers. “We definitely need to show [what comes next],” Watanabe adds.

Set in Japan in the late 1990s and based on the memoir by journalist Jake Adelstein, “Tokyo Vice” tells a sprawling story about the Yakuza through the efforts made by an American journalist (Ansel Elgort) to cover the criminal organization. Watanabe plays a detective who forms a relationship with the journalist while also trying to hold onto his moral center. 

SEE over 250 video interviews with 2022 Emmy contenders

The actor, an Oscar nominee for 2003’s “The Last Samurai,” first heard about the project years ago while starring in the “King and I” on Broadway. Watanabe says he was reticent at first. “Gangs versus cops is a little boring story,” he says. “But the prospect of an American journalist looking at the dark side of Japanese society is very interesting.”

Watanabe lived in Japan during the era the show is set and says it was another reason he sparked to playing Katagiri. He was also interested in exploring the relationship between Jake and the weary detective, which evolves throughout the series. “We could live closer to the distance as a teacher, as a father, as a brother,” he says.

The pilot of “Tokyo Vice” was directed by Michael Mann, a filmmaker Watanabe praises for his consistency and attention to detail. But the actor says a scene in the sixth episode of the show was perhaps his favorite moment. After a tragic twist, Jake is left reeling and comes to Katagiri for support. The veteran law officer doesn’t sugarcoat his advice to Jake and ends their heart-to-heart with a bit of horseplay. But the moment of mutual admiration is short-lived because of a betrayal Jake will make toward Katagiri before the season finale.

“The scene ends, the camera looking at the two from the back. It’s a very good scene,” of the moment, directed by Josef Kubota Wladyka. “Jake tried to hug Katagiri’s shoulder. But Katagiri shakes him off saying, ‘Cut it out.’ The two of them laughing…. Because of this, their falling out stood out much more.”

“Tokyo Vice” is streaming now on HBO Max.

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