Joichiro Fujiwara EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW (Full Q&A): Meet ‘Pending Train’ Actor & Naniwa Danshi Singer

Joichiro Fujiwara Interview: Meet Actor and Naniwa Danshi Singer

Joichiro ‘Jo’ Fujiwara talks to TheReviewGeek about his role in global Netflix release Pending Train, desire to stretch his wings as an actor and responsibilities as the oldest member of his group, Naniwa Danshi.

In an exclusive interview, 27-year-old Fujiwara is ready to embrace every opportunity, more than happy to give anything a try to build his way up to his dream as the leading man of a romance story. He’s made a start by establishing himself in strong supporting roles, including Netflix’s global release, fantasy/disaster drama, Pending Train and soon-to-release film ANALOG.

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I loved Yonezawa in Pending Train, the one person who is ALWAYS positive. How is that character both the same and different to the real Jo?

Yonezawa’s bright personality is very similar to my own, and so is the fact that he’s caring and kind – which I always try to be. The major difference is just the unreal situation he’s in. Expressing the importance of life and communicating that with the other characters was difficult, especially with all the drama and emotions going on in any given scene, but I hope I do it justice.

Pending Train has a huge variety of cast members. Who was the person you looked up to on set and why? Who gave you the best advice and can you tell us about it?

Yuki Yamada, one of the main cast members who plays Naoya Kayashima, gave me a lot of great advice. One of the things that stuck with me was, ‘perform to the fullest – share Daichi Yonezawa’s thoughts and feelings with everyone.’ So, that’s what I did.

Your character in Pending Train was delightfully uplifting through all the dramatic turns of the story. How did you maintain your energy – a different energy to most if not all of the other characters? How does that persona compare to your role in Naniwa Danshi?

Thank you! Everyone talks about how my character is so cheerful and I’m really happy that’s the takeaway. The most important characteristic of this role was to behave cheerfully, both in spite of and because everyone around me was angry or depressed, so I was always conscious of everyone’s emotions in the scene. In parts where everyone else was down or overwhelmed, I would turn up my energy and be as bright and cheerful as possible so the energy overflow might help fill them up a little.

I do the same in real life – for example, when Naniwa Danshi perform live, the dancing is intense and we can get pretty tired. I try to keep everyone going and the atmosphere fun. Of course, dancing on stage is different to acting and certainly a far cry from the terrifying situation Yonezawa finds himself in but it’s a commonality that really allowed me to connect with him as a character.

I loved your scene in Episode 4 when you figured out how to make medicine for Mr Kato. If Naniwa Danshi were stranded, what would be your personal ‘special survival’ skill?

There’s an expression in Japanese – ‘first penguin.’ It refers to something scientists in Antarctica observe when a group of penguins are standing on a ledge, none moving until one jumps. When it comes to Naniwa Danshi, I am that first penguin. If we were in a situation as in Pending Train, I would be the first to check things out – like an unfamiliar food or an unexplored cave – to ensure it’s safe for everyone else. It’s the protective nature of the big-hearted older brother.

There’s an array of interesting personalities on Pending Train – which one is your favorite and why? If you could recast, who would you want to play? If you were writing Pending Train Season 2, where would you go with it?

I think that would be my counterpart in the series, Shodai Kato. They were working as a pair, so I wonder what it would be like if we switched roles. It would probably be educational to interact with Yonezawa as someone else.

If I were writing a Season 2, I would like to explore Yonezawa more, maybe flesh him out to become more of a leading man like Yamada’s character. Now that would be fun!

The tone of I Fell in Love with the Girl who gave Me an Eraser was quite different to the disaster-themed Pending Train. Even though you play a comical character in both dramas, did the older and perhaps more experienced cast in Pending Train change the way you prepared for the role?

Perhaps a little. Thankfully, both characters have the same kind of personality, similar to my own, so I didn’t have to shift outside my own head too far for either role. However, the dialect and accent were very different. In ‘Keshigomu,’ I was conscious of the Japanese standardized Tokyo accent used by the character – so different from how I naturally speak. In contrast, I was a lot more relaxed with Yonezawa, since his rough Kansai dialect and his informal jokey sense of humor is similar to my own way of speaking. It helped me become Yonezawa more naturally.

Tell us about your favorite piece of work (in any part of your portfolio) so far – what’s been the most fun? The best learning opportunity?

The time with the Pending Train cast is definitely up there as some of my best memories. We had to make a two-hour journey each day – up a mountain to the set – from where the transport bus could drop us off. It allowed for a lot of time to really get to know one another. We also spent time together when we were off camera or not shooting. Not just the cast, but the crew too. We formed very deep bonds and we’re still close, even now.

We’re looking forward to your upcoming film ANALOG. Can you tell us something about your role? Do you think you could live without a phone?

(In English) No phone, no life! I can’t live without my phone.

A fun connection between my characters in ANALOG and Pending Train is that both speak in a Kansai (Western Japanese) dialect, though that’s the only similarity. I play Shimada, a corporate suit, trying his best to be upstanding. On the other hand, Yonezawa is a student, still unaware of how the world works. While filming ANALOG, I was very conscious of my posture and way of communicating, especially with characters that are superiors or seniors. I had to make sure I was coming off as a real adult, compared to Yonezawa where I could appear relaxed and less concerned with how the other characters perceive him.

You seem to be playing younger characters. Are you keen for your next role to be someone who’s more in line with your real age? Or is there something else you look for in a character?

I never really thought about it but I guess I have played a lot of roles where the characters were younger, so it would be interesting to play someone who is married or has a family – basically, someone who is a little more mature. That may be why I want to try a love story, or if that’s not possible then something like an action role. For Pending Train, Yonezawa was thrown into a sci-fi situation but had to act and engage with the rest of the cast in a calm, soothing, friendly way. Next time, I want to pick up a sword and go fight alien zombies or something.

Now that you’ve acted in several different types of roles, what’s your next dream/goal for your acting career? Can you share what you’re about to work on next?

(In English) I have a dream – and that’s to have a starring role.

It can be a drama or a film, big or small. As for genre, I really want to try everything including action, horror, zombies, fantasy – anything! But if I had to choose one, I’d say a love story. I’d love to be a leading man in a romantic drama. But would my fans actually watch that? I’m kind of worried they don’t see me in that way.

 


If you can’t  get enough of Jo, read the story here. You can also check out our review of Pending Train or catch Jo in action by watching Pending Train globally on Netflix. For more reviews of Japanese movies and dramas, click here. For more interviews, click here.

To catch Joichiro Fujiwara introducing himself as ‘Jo,’ see his video intro here or on any TheReviewGeek social pages! #PendingJo

2 thoughts on “Joichiro Fujiwara EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW (Full Q&A): Meet ‘Pending Train’ Actor & Naniwa Danshi Singer”

  1. Hi Marina,
    I’m so pleased you enjoyed this story. Jo was so much fun, I hope we get to speak to more of his members as well. You never know who we’ll get to speak to next – perhaps if there are other Naniwa Danshi members with content that streams globally, we’ll get the opportunity. Hope you liked the second story too 🙂
    Thanks for reading and for commenting!
    Kristen

  2. Thanks for the awesome article!! I usually read all the Japanese articles so it was a nice change to get to read in English! Looking forward to more like this and hopefully of other Naniwa Danshi members too..!!

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