EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Actor & Kis-My-Ft2 singer Taisuke Fujigaya – Full Q&A

TheReviewGeek Interviews: Actor and Kis-My-Ft2 Singer Taisuke Fujigaya – read the full Q&A here

Taisuke Fujigaya talks to TheReviewGeek about his starring role in Unexpected – Love Story in Maison Ginseiso and his idol journey as singer of Kis-My-Ft2.

In an exclusive interview, 36-year-old Fujigaya, a self-proclaimed romantic, is now at a point in his idol career where he’s choosing things he’d like to do personally and confides that he’d be happy to offer love advice. For his international fans and TRG readers, he shares some of his ponderings on the nuances of Japanese vs. other countries’ cultures. He also discusses his current Viki rom-com Unexpected – Love Story in Maison Ginseiso.

© Johnny & Associates

Your background is incredible, having worked across different genres as well as stage plays, TV dramas, movies. What brought you back to a traditional rom-com such as ‘Unexpected – Love Story in Maison Ginseiso’ (Hamaru Otoko ni Keritai Onna)?

To be honest, it was for the group. The genre of this drama was different from the direction I’ve been headed, as there have been more and more roles where I played ‘the introvert’ on stage or in movies. I’m pretty confident when it comes to these kinds of roles, so I wasn’t sure if I should go back to a pop rom-com – especially since it’s been so long since my last one. I also felt it would be an opportunity for people overseas to get to know the group.

Compared to your role in ‘And So I’m at a Loss’, your role in ‘Unexpected – Love Story in Maison Ginseiso’ seems almost easy from an acting perspective. But was it? What types of challenges did you face to become Koichi?

When it comes to acting, there are various genres and directors, so each project is a brand-new experience. It’s never easy, and it was difficult to find the balance for (my character) Koichi. He’s a hard worker, but somehow also very silly. I tried to play him simply – not overly dramatic, but not monotone either.

I want to show my emotional range, so I recommend you see the movie And So I’m at a Loss as well. It’s a typical Japanese story and I often wonder how people overseas feel when seeing Japanese language subtleties or fluctuation of emotions. For example, in Japan, it’s rather typical for people to just avoid uncomfortable situations, but I wonder if such avoidance is the same elsewhere.

Koichi wants to apologize for his mistakes, but he doesn’t really recognize what was wrong with his behavior in the first place. I wonder if the way this plays out in the drama is as easily understood as it is to Japanese audiences. At any rate, it’s interesting to compare these two recent projects and their very different characters despite being played by the same person.

Now that you’ve played Koichi, if you lost everything, do you think you could run a boarding house? What would be your specialty?

I’ve heard that room-sharing culture differs from country to country. While sharing with roommates is pretty common here in Tokyo, I live alone, so I don’t have the opportunity to take care of other people that often. Still, I was able to have a simulated experience in this drama. In the scene where I served food for the first time, the younger woman said that it tasted bad. On the other hand, when the character worked at the company, my character was ranked higher than her, so there’s an interestingly flipped dynamic between them.

I actually love to cook and do laundry in real life, so if I did live with someone, those would be my preferred chores. Especially if I’m living with a woman I like! However, if I had to live with my fellow group members, things would get pretty interesting. Some are good at cooking, some have other skills, so I think it would either be a very exciting experience, or terrible! 

Tell us about meeting your co-star, Nagisa Sekimizu, for the first time. Is she serious, like Itsuka Nishijima? Like the (manga) title of the drama, did she want to kick you?

The first time we met was at the poster photoshoot. We just got to chat for 30 seconds before she had to straddle me and get her face really close to mine. I was embarrassed but tried hard not to show it. You have to take the time to communicate until you get to know each other, but since the photoshoot was done so quickly, it felt strange. And when I think about it now, it all seems very funny. It all worked out in the end! Maybe it was good to get so close at the beginning.

We’ve not yet been able to view ‘And So I’m at a Loss’ outside of Japan, but reviews have been quite positive – it’s been said that you were possessed by the spirit of the character. What were you able to relate to in order to bring Yuichi to life? What was it like to become someone who has nothing and is perhaps afraid of having something? What did it feel like to cut yourself off from others as part of the role?

I guess you can say I was kind of obsessed. I went all in for this role, which the director also kind of demanded. He didn’t want a character that I just played on the surface. I tried dozens of times – hundreds. I became this character, whom I played before on stage in 2018. Because of this, I thought it would be easier when doing the film, but that wasn’t the case. Since it’s a story written by director Miura, he had a lot of specific input on the character. It was difficult to tune into exactly what he wanted, but honestly, that made it all the more worthwhile. As an actor, it was a great environment where I could really immerse myself in that world.

I understand the DVD release will include bonus footage of you interviewing your co-stars on ‘And So I’m at a Loss’. How did you prepare for it and what questions do you wish you would have asked them?

The interview is more than 120 minutes, but I don’t remember it at all. I don’t know if it was taken after filming wrapped or before, but during filming, I was so immersed in my character that I often wasn’t in the mood to talk about anything else. In fact, the only times I would jolt myself out of that mindset was when I would check the script just to refresh my memory on the next day’s lines.

Whether it be the film itself or the DVD bonus footage, I do hope a lot of people are able to watch and enjoy it. I know it unfortunately was rather restricted in its mostly domestic release, but I’d be very curious as to what people outside of Japan think. I have an image that in other countries it’s important to say Yes or No clearly while in Japan there is Yes which is a bit close to No. While this flexibility contributes to a lot of what is good in Japan like politeness and always taking others’ feelings into account, it can be a bad thing when you want a clear response from someone. I really want to hear the reaction of people overseas.

With your robust career as an entertainer, what are some of your observations on how the industry has changed in Japan? How have you evolved as a performer?

The Japanese admire Hollywood and a lot of overseas music, theater, fashion, food, and more. At the same time, I’m touched that so many people love Japanese culture including idols, manga and games. When it comes to the major differences between the two, I think artists from other countries tend to focus on the fruits of their training and accomplishments, whereas Japanese artists prioritize involving their audiences in their growth and development and kindling an intimate two-way sense of connection and mutual support, which requires a little more time and attention to become a fan.

However, I’m very happy that there are fans around the world who are willing to take that journey. For example, when we performed overseas a few years ago, at first, we thought it would be better to sing in English or Chinese, but when we sang in Japanese the fans sang along too, having taught themselves so they could be a part of our show.

It’s important to admire and absorb from the outside, but I want to cherish the goodness of Japan and share it with others. To me, the entertainment industry is not a collection of rivals, but fellow performers trying to brighten up people’s lives.

Of your entire body of work, both in music and as an actor, of what are you most proud? What’s the piece you wish you could do over/differently? What’s the next great frontier you’d like to conquer?

When I was in my twenties, Johnny’s gave me so many opportunities to explore what I wanted to do by helping me get acting work and on variety shows in addition to my music work with Kis-My-Ft2. I really enjoyed acting and loved engaging with other talents of the same age who were in the movies and TV shows that I personally enjoyed. But I knew that, for the group, it was better to focus on variety and music shows and not take away from that for more personal work.

Now, in my 30s, I have more freedom to express myself through various individual projects and appreciate Johnny’s helping me with them. In Japanese, there’s a saying that “you can’t catch a rabbit if you’re chasing two at once,” but to me, I’ve always thought that maybe if I chased 5, I could at least catch a few.

Variety shows have their own rhythm and speed, and stage plays and music have their own too. I’m the type who doesn’t want to have any regrets at the end of my life, so I want to try everything I can. There are a lot of roads I wouldn’t be able to travel if I were just doing one thing and I’m confident that thanks to everyone who has supported me, I will have gotten the chance to try everything I wanted once my time is up. That’s a great feeling.

In an interview a few years ago, you talked about having a sense of urgency and feeling rushed. Since then, you’ve done so many different things. Do you now feel more relaxed about the present? The future?

I made my debut at the age of 24 and when I was in my 20s, I decided to adopt a cool kind of persona within the group that the fans would remember. That was really important to me because if a person is not memorable you can’t get to know them enough to like them – or hate them. I was like that until I turned thirty, then I started to unwind. My world gradually expanded into musicals, which is not something that I had ever thought of doing. After that, things got a lot easier. I’m more confident now and can more easily convey when something moves me or touches my heart – or even when something is serious. Basically, I’m a lot less stressed and having a lot more fun now that I’m in my thirties.

In that same interview, you talked about wanting to learn many things. But if you were to teach someone else, what would you be confident in teaching?

I definitely don’t think I’m there yet, since I sort of just go with the flow of my emotions. Teaching is difficult. When I talk to my juniors, I don’t tell them specifically to do this or that, but rather offer advice, and say things like: ‘This is the way I did something, in my time, but it could be different now and I don’t want you to do something that doesn’t work for you.’ I fully admit I’m still developing myself. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don’t, but they’re on their own journey and they have to do what’s right for them.

Do you often consult with juniors?

I actually don’t spend too much time with anyone else from Johnny’s. I’m not often consulted, so I might not be very popular (haha). I would like to be asked for love advice, so if any of my juniors are reading this, come talk to me if you’re having romantic troubles. I like love stories because I’m secretly a romantic at heart. 

Do you have any last words for people getting to know you for the first time through this drama?

I’m one of the members of an idol group called Kis-My-Ft2 in Japan. I would love you to know more about us. If you’re interested in me, please check out some of my series and films. It may be difficult, but it would be great if you could come to our live performances at some point as well. I want you to feel the unique entertainment of Japan and Johnny’s first-hand. Also, if we have the chance, we would like to go overseas again to see our international fans in person.

To read the story, click here. To catch Taisuke Fujigaya in action, watch Unexpected – Love Story in Maison Ginseiso on Viki and read the drama review here.

What Taisuke Fujigaya movies or dramas would you like to see? Which (international release) would you like us to review next? For more reviews of Japanese movies and dramas, click here. For more interviews, click here.

Leave a comment