‘Tokyo Vice’ breakout Show Kasamatsu has a lot of questions about his character [Exclusive Video Interview]

Michael Mann loves a good anti-hero, so it should be no surprise to viewers of the HBO Max drama “Tokyo Vice” that there are more than enough grizzled loners to go around. Executive produced by Mann, who also directed the pilot episode, and created by J.T. Rogers, “Tokyo Vice” takes place in Japan during the end of the 1990s, where a veteran detective (Ken Watanabe), a young American journalist (Ansel Elgort), and a rising member of the Yakuza (Show Kasamatsu) cross paths to violent results. Of the three, it’s Kasamatsu’s Sato who maybe undergoes the biggest transformation – and who slowly reveals his thorniest contradictions.

“In doing a character so many layers, going through the storylines – as an actor, that is the happy moment,” Kasamatsu tells Gold Derby through an interpreter in an exclusive video interview. “So of course, it will be more challenging to act. But at the same time, it was so much fun.”

In some fashion, “Tokyo Vice” is a coming of age story: Both Elgort’s Jake Adelstein and Sato start out as wide-eyed youngsters before realizing the world isn’t as black-and-white as it might initially appear. The scenes between Kasamatsu and Elgort are some of the best on the show – particularly a moment where the two men debate the merits of Backstreet Boys versus *NSYNC. According to Kasamatsu, the brotherly relationship between the two characters somewhat mirrored his experience with Elgort.

“Because of the English-language barrier, I couldn’t tell when Ansel was being Jake or when he would come back as Ansel himself,” Kasamatsu says. “I was always trying to speak to him in English and Ansel was trying to speak to me in Japanese. So sometimes the conversation does not really make sense. But we are having fun, and we respect each other, and, for me, Ansel was Jake the whole time during this filming.”

As the series moves along, more and more is revealed about Sato. He’s estranged from his family because he joined the Yakuza. “That’s a huge question for me building a character and it is a looping question still: Sato left the family to become Yakuza. Does that make him happier? Or even unhappier? Or did it make him stronger? Or weaker? That’s the internal question he’s asking himself still.”

“Tokyo Vice” ends with Sato in a life-or-death situation among its numerous cliffhangers. But fans were greeted with some long-expected good news on June 7: a renewal for Season 2. Where the show goes remains unclear, and Kasamatsu isn’t sure what the future holds for Sato either. But, he says, Rogers promised to explore Sato even further. 

“JT was always talking to me about what he wanted to do if there is a Season 2 with Sato,” he says. “He’s really excited about it.”

All episodes of “Tokyo Vice” are now streaming on HBO Max.

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