Interview: Chris Tashima & Ikuma Ando [actors, "Lil Tokyo Reporter"]




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by Elizabeth Chan | staff writer

Chris TashimaLil Tokyo Reporter is a short film based on the life of 1930s reporter Sei Fujii. It was created with support from the Little Tokyo Historical Society and Visual Communications, and grants from the California State Library, the Aratani Foundation at UCLA, and the Terasaki Foundation.  You can read our full review of the film here.

Chris Tashima is an award winning actor, director, screenwriter, and set designer for both theater and film.  He is probably best known for the short film version of Visas and Virtue, which he directed, co-wrote, and starred in, and yielded an Academy Award.  In Lil Tokyo Reporter, he plays the part of the main character, Sei Fujii.

Ikuma AndoIkuma Ando is a Japanese actor from Osaka who is currently based in Los Angeles.  One of his most notable roles was as the character Ozawa from the Academy Award Winning Film Letters from Iwo Jima.  In Lil Tokyo Reporter, he plays the part of the yakuza boss, Yamada.

Inside AX:  First, I would just like to say I really enjoyed your performances in the film.

Chris Tashima:  Thank you.

Ikuma Ando:  Oh thank you very much!

IAX:  How did you get involved in the film?

Tashima:  I met Jeffrey at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival the previous year.  Jeffrey was working previously with another director, Quentin Lee, who was an Indie film maker who was sort of mentoring Jeffrey for awhile, and Quentin had suggested me for the role.  Since we had already met, he just sent me an e-mail to tell me about the project.

Ando:  Actually, I found this job through an audition.  It was posted on Actor’s Access.  You know that internet actor’s site and I submitted my CV for it.  For my character, there were maybe 7-8 people who came for the audition.

IAX:  Had you heard about Sei Fujii before?

Tashima:  I hadn’t heard about Sei Fujii before.  Jeffrey came over and he was explaining about Sei Fujii and I didn’t know who that was.  So when I started to hear about all his accomplishments, I felt it was all the more important to make the film.  He was really active and I think made a really big impact on the history of Little Tokyo and our community, so I was just surprised that I hadn’t heard of him and most people hadn’t.  He had died in the mid-50s which was a pretty long time ago.  Most of the people that knew him are  gone.  There were no biographies or novels to keep his story alive, so thank goodness for the Historical Society for uncovering this mystery.

Ando:  I didn’t know about Sei Fujii, but I knew about the yakuza guy I was playing.  Because I had heard that he came before the second World War and he was involved in extortion, prostitution, gambling, and other underground activities.  I was reading about it at the Japanese library before, so I was so interested in the part and the film.  When I was in Japan I didn’t know that much about history, like that they had internment camps or people like Sei Fujii, but when I came to America I heard about these events from earlier generations of Issei and Nisei.  Really, I’m a new first generation and I never had that experience, but I can hear the story from them and oh my goodness!  I feel a real appreciation for what they went through 60 years ago because they laid the foundation and paved the road for us.

IAX:  Do you see that a film like this could help to create more opportunities for others in the future?

Tashima:  I see it as part of a movement with a mixture of talent that is working together and supporting each other.  It takes a lot of people and even just one filmmaker needs a lot of people  for support, so I see it as a part of a really positive change that’s happening.  So I think we can point to this and other films and say that we can make quality work and tell important stories, people will come to see our films and they will sell out, and those kinds of things are all part of the change that’s happening and in that sense it can help a lot.

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If you would like to be able to keep up with the latest news on the film or help with the project, please check out LTReporter.com for updates and to donate to the film.

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