TheReviewGeek Interviews: J-pop supergroup Snow Man’s Ren Meguro – read the full Q&A here

Ren Meguro talks to TheReviewGeek about his role in J-dramas silent and My Love Mix-Up! as well as his upcoming film My Happy Marriage

In an exclusive interview, 26-year-old Meguro imparts his interest in acting and talks about his work on silent, a drama produced last year on Fuji TV, now available on Viki. He shares his process in preparing for roles and how acting has impacted him as a musical performer.

Why did you choose to star in silent? What attracted you to the story? What attracted you to the role?

From the moment I read the first script, I was hooked! It was so engaging and well-written. I genuinely wanted to know where the story was going to go and what was going to happen to these characters. If I didn’t take the role [So Sakura], it would be a long time before those questions would be answered. So, I knew I had to take the part.

What part of the character is most like you? What part of So Sakura’s personality is most different?

That’s something that the producer did a lot of research about. Me, myself, as a person – at least the person I am to the public; down to things I mentioned in interviews that I liked which they had right there on set. So, there was a lot of my public self in Sakura. Things that he liked and items that he owned are things I own myself.

I think that’s probably where he’s most like me – we like all the same things. So, it was very easy for me to step into his world as it was almost like a mirror of my own. We wear the same styles, drink the same drinks and we both enjoy football. Some parts are a little different from my private self, but for me, as the person everyone knows, we’re very similar.

silent is fairly melancholy – how did you feel while working on it?

It was an interesting process for me. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to be immersed entirely in Sakura’s world. In general, when I’m hyper-focused on something, I don’t always notice when someone says something to me. I’m lost in the world of whatever I’m doing, so I just kind of went to that place internally and let that surround me externally as well.

One of the things I thought about when I first got on set was how I would interact with the cast behind the scenes and how that could reflect in the performance. Remember, for a long time, Sakura had separated himself from his friends who could hear and he had a lot of emotions about reconnecting with them. Between takes, if I was discussing various things with the cast, the voice I wanted to resonate with the character might not be as convincing.

So, when I was on set, I entered a silent world, where I tried not to react to any sounds. Even between takes, I was working on better understanding sign language and thinking about how Sakura would respond to something – much like I think he himself would do. I tried to be him the whole time while on set.

I understand you learned sign language specifically for silent. What does sign language allow you to communicate that you cannot say aloud?

Sign language is very intimate. When I’m talking to someone, using my voice, I don’t have to look at them to get my feelings across – nor do they have to look at me. The other person will be able to understand exactly what I mean just by my tone. But – and I know it seems obvious – with sign language, that isn’t possible.

You have to focus on the other person – and you can’t just focus on one thing. It’s not about what they’re saying with their hands but also their expression, so you have to be very detail oriented. Also, one of the great things about sign language is that, no matter how far apart you are, even if you cannot hear each other, you can have a conversation as long as you can see each other. It’s a unique and fascinating way to communicate.

How did you connect with a character who can’t hear, when music (sound) is your career?

When it comes to music and the songs I record, I’m the type of person who not only thinks about understanding the words of the lyrics, but also the emotion and intent behind them. After I’ve internalized what they mean to me, I think about how to best emote those intentions to the listener. Fans are not in the studio with me when I record, so they don’t get to see my facial expressions or body language – including how I am using my hands. I have to rely solely on my voice.

Sign language is, in essence, the exact opposite. Sakura didn’t use his voice, so the only way someone could understand what he was feeling was through facial expression and body language – including how he was using his hands. It was the same when someone was communicating with him. He relied entirely on sight. Emotion is the key, and that’s how I found the connection between conveying my feelings as a singer and through sign language. It was one of the reasons I am very happy that we were able to include sign language in our newest music video AIKOTOBA.

How has the role changed you? Your perception on the ‘job’ of a musician?

I actually learned a lot from Sakura and the overall story of silent in general. Going off of what I said earlier about the feelings that you want to convey being essential, the series helped me realize that, whether I’m speaking my feelings – or singing them, or using sign language – the reason I’m doing it is because the message is important. The stronger that feeling, the more clearly it can be conveyed, even though the language is different. There’s more than one way to reach someone. The ability to speak the same language, or even not being able to speak at all, shouldn’t stop you.

Your role in silent is quite different to your role in My Love Mix-Up! How was getting into character different for you?

There was an established story with My Love Mix-Up! as it was based on a very popular manga. I read every volume and have a lot of respect for it. The story starts with Ida, the character I play, picking up an eraser from his classmate Aoki. It has a heart with Ida’s name on it. Ida is very confused at first, but then Aoki confesses that he has feelings for him.

Since Ida is very innocent and pure and wants to take care of Aoki’s feelings, he thinks very carefully about how to respond. Though it’s not exactly what it seems and there are a few comedic mishaps, eventually Aoki and Ida finally decide to start dating. It’s based on such a sweet and wonderful story with a lot of source material for inspiration. It was very easy for me to portray Ida in a way that I hope did the character justice.

Sakura was very different, as silent is an entirely original work. There was no original story or manga from which to draw inspiration. I mentioned earlier that the producer took a lot of my interests into consideration when creating him, but as far as portraying him, I was still building him from scratch. It was a very different experience.

What about that character (in My Love Mix-Up!) felt most relatable to you?

There is a lot I can relate to with Ida. We’re both active and enjoy sports. He has a mischievous streak to him and likes to tease those he’s close to. However, deep down, he cares very deeply for his friends and wants to make sure they can count on him for support. For instance, one of the characters wanted a pompadour haircut, even after her friends told her it wasn’t the best idea, so my character got a wig and he wore it to class so she wouldn’t be mocked alone.

Also, when Aoki was having problems with a teacher who mistreated him after finding out he and Ida were dating, Ida was ready to jump in and defend Aoki; not just because they were dating, but simply because he needed him. My friends and family are very important to me, and I’d like to think that I would do the same thing for them if they needed it.

Your role in My Happy Marriage appears to be another completely different persona for you to take on. Can you tell us a bit about what to expect when it becomes available to our readers outside of Japan?

Kiyoka Kudo is an interesting character. He is the head of his ancient family and the commander of the so-called Special Anti-Grotesquerie Unit. He has the reputation of being a ruthless soldier who drives away any woman who wants to be with him but it becomes clear that reputations built on rumours don’t really reflect the truth that is in someone’s heart. He also possesses the ability to control the element of fire – which is super cool and something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid! It was my first time playing this type of character and a lot of work but also very rewarding. I had a lot of fun with this role.

I think the element of ‘WA’ (the essence of Japanese-ness) is prevalent in this film, such as the clothing, food and even the sweeping, dramatic gestures made while wearing kimonos. I hope that ‘WA’ is something people will appreciate when they’re watching the film. I would be happy if people around the world could feel ‘WA’ as it’s very important to our culture.

Now that you’ve done several different types of characters, how does that impact your interest in acting?

I really love acting. It’s such a fun thing to experience feelings, occupations, types of people and situations that I might not get the chance to experience in my everyday life as Ren Meguro. So, I would say characters like Sakura, Kudo, and Kashiwagi (Meguro’s character in MAIAGARE!) have only helped my interest in acting grow even stronger and I’m very grateful to them for that.

What is your acting style and how do you prepare for a role?

I approach learning a new script like I do when learning a new song. I run the lines over and over again in my mind until I have every word memorized so that by the time we film, I don’t even have to have the script with me on set. That’s when I start internalizing; I start searching for the meaning and emotion behind those words. Sometimes it’s from the backstory given to me by the producer, writer, or director; sometimes, it’s something I have to create on my own – but I always want to make sure that there is a reason and a purpose behind everything.

What led you to a career in the arts? What are you most passionate about?

I’ve been dancing since I was little and it is something that I am very passionate about. All of us in Snow Man have similar stories which is what brought us together in the beginning. There’s something extraordinary about knowing that you had a part of something that makes someone smile, even if it’s just for a little while. I love music and I love being on stage with Snow Man, so naturally, I’m very passionate about what we do.

Outside of Snow Man, I would say acting is what I am most passionate about. Again, it’s about stepping outside yourself and experiencing something you wouldn’t get the chance to do otherwise.

For our non-Japanese readers who perhaps don’t know you as well, what would you like to tell them about your acting or music?

You only live once and I have this fundamental desire to live a life with no regrets – I want to have challenged myself in as many things as possible and have done everything I wanted to do by the time my life ends. I’m not the type of person who backs down just because something is difficult. I welcome the challenge.

Whether it’s through one of the films or dramas I’ve acted in, one of Snow Man’s songs or music videos on YouTube, or even one of the stage productions like Takizawa Kabuki ZERO FINAL, we always do our best and if that in turn inspires one of our fans in some way to do his or her best, I think that would make me happy.

What would you most like to tell them about Japan?

I don’t know if this is really ‘about Japan’ but during the filming of My Happy Marriage we were shooting in a lot of very old historical Japanese houses, which are always really tiny and have a lot of exposed beams. I’m about 185cm tall, so I kept hitting my head over and over and over again.

One time, I guess I hit it harder than I thought and got very dizzy while we were shooting. I think it was just because I kept hitting it – but I got checked out and everything was okay. So, I guess if anyone out there is planning a trip soon, the old traditional hotels with hot springs are great but please do watch your head!

To see the story, click here. To catch Ren Meguro in action, watch silent and My Love Mix-Up! on Viki. Would you like to read a review of My Love Mix-Up! or My Happy Marriage? Let us know in the comments below. For more Japanese drama and movie reviews, click here.

2 thoughts on “EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ren Meguro (The Full Q&A)”

Leave a comment