Born and raised in Kyoto, Japan, Kiki first made her acting debut in Japanese television before making her way to Los Angeles. Now, with her new series regular role, her home country is cheering her success.
We were able to speak briefly with Kiki this week about her character, Miko Otomo, and what it’s been like to be a part of such a highly anticipated television revival. Keep reading to see what she had to say!
You’ve been pretty busy, haven’t you?
“Well, I just got back into L.A. yesterday after finishing up shooting.”
The show films in Toronto, doesn’t it?
“Yeah. We’re shooting in Toronto.”
How do you like Toronto?
“I really like Toronto so far. The summer time it’s really nice up there. I lived by the lake and it’s beautiful.”
What’s it like to play a character that’s back and forth between reality and a video game?
“(laughs) I really like it. I mean, for the game world, we shoot motion capture. So we actually fight in the studio so the movement you see in the game, I actually move like that.”
So they’ve got a lot of special effects involved with your character.
What kind of a process is there between you doing your thing and then making it look like a video game? Do you know?
“I don’t know about the details of what they do, but what I do is, I put a facial camera in front of me, a little camera that goes in front of my face, and then I put a bunch of dots on my body and they also put dots on my sword so then they can scan it. Then there are all the batteries and the machines that are all around my belt. So that’s kind of how they scan my motions. Basically, for motion sensor we shoot in the studio and there’s like 500 cameras. Or maybe there are 100. I’m sorry, but I can’t remember. (laughs). I think 500, let’s just say there are a LOT and they’re all around the studio because they want to shoot from over and, like, 360 degrees.”
How did you end up with this character? Was it a typical audition that you would go in for or…?
” (chuckles) It was sort of funny. I didn’t have an agent or a manager at the time when I got this role. I went to a Japanese sword fighting class in Santa Monica and there’s a boy who’s a student and his mother is a friend of the casting director. So the casting director was looking for a Japanese girl who could do sword fight and then she asked the boy’s mom if she knew someone who could do sword fighting and the boy’s mom asked me if I had an action video or something. I sent my action demo reel to her and then she sent it to the casting director and the casting director really liked me so she invited me for the audition.”
Oh wow! So you really just got lucky, huh?
“Yeah! Well, yeah. That’s how I got the audition! Then I went like three days later and I got the role.”
What type of martial arts do you do?
“Well, actually, I don’t really do martial arts except for Japanese Samarai sword fighting. It’s called Tate, T-A-T-E. But that is for…not for fighting. What I do is only for TV or film.”
Did you watch the original series?
“Yes, I did. When I was in high school in Japan. I think I watched season one and two when I was in Japan and then after I got this role, I watched everything. When I first watched the original, I was in high school and it was pretty cool.”
There’s a lot of speculation that your character may end up being Hiro’s daughter. Is there anything you can tell us about that?
“Well, from episode one and two, I thought they showed my father a little bit…?”
He was all dressed up in armor so we couldn’t tell who he was.
“Oh, I see. But, well…(laughs) Ok, I better not tell you. But yeah, we’ll see. We’ll see.”
What made you decide to go into acting?
“I started acting when I was 20 in Japan. And…kind of long story short, I wanted to do work like Angelina Jolie. That’s kind of the easier way to explain, I think. That’s what I wanted to do (laughs).”
How is the industry different between the U.S. and Japan?
“It’s really, really different. In the U.S. there are so many auditions so there are more chances for all of us to be a part of the big show like I did for this one. But in Japan, it’s more…like you have to be in a big company or with a big agent. You already have to have a name to be in a regular role.”
So you almost have to come to the U.S., make a name for yourself, and then go back to Japan?
“Yeah! It’s really different. You need to have a lot of connections at home. There’s not really auditions for regular roles. Like roles to be a series regular. Like the main characters. There’s no audition for that. They pick someone who’s famous. Well, maybe in Hollywood they do that a little bit as well. Like they pick who they like…well, I don’t know, but I’m guessinf Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie, don’t do auditions. I don’t know. (chuckles) But in the U.S. there’s more opportunity for us to be in a big show. In Japan you have to really have the right connections and also you have to have a big agent. So it’s kind of really different. Now I can go back to Japan and do whatever I want (laughs).”
Right! Because now you’re known! Have you had any culture shock since being in the U.S., with things being so different?
“Yes. In episodes one and two, there are the scenes where the Japanese guy steps into Miko’s apartment and the door is unlocked, but in Japan that’s not really weird. During the daytime, people don’t really lock the door. So you can probably get in if you knock on the door and then try and open it. You can open it actually. In the U.S., you always want to lock the door, right? But in Japan, well, Japan is a pretty safe country so if you go to the countryside, there aren’t even locks on the doors. I don’t know. I find it interesting. I know that on twitter there are lots of people who say, ‘Lock the door!’ like it’s kind of really…like an American, a very American point of view? This country is so different. Once you know the Japanese culture, you can understand why I don’t lock the door (chuckles).”
Yeah…it’s kind of one of those things where the people watching are looking at it from their own point of view and not thinking about the fact that the people they’re watching are from another culture.
“Even when I was shooting, it was pretty interesting that, well, the Japanese guy and I are the only Japanese [on the show] so we are the ones who really know the Japanese culture. Sometimes we could tell the director or producer that we should do this or we shouldn’t do this. You know? So that’s pretty cool.”
And they took your notes?
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, they did! One we had was…we never wear shoes in the house or apartment so the first time, they kind of tried to make us wear shoes inside of the apartment. And we said, ‘This is supposed to be Japan, so, no.’ So that was interesting.”
It’s very nice that they listened! So are you wanting to go back to Japan now that you have a name for yourself there?
“No, I’m going to stay in the U.S. (laughs) I want to work in Hollywood (chuckles).”
Work on some movies, some more TV…maybe even at some point work with Angelina Jolie…
“Yeah, yeah, yeah! I’ll try to! Then I will go back to Japan after shooting for Heroes just for press for Heroes. It’s gonna be fun, too. In Japan it’s gonna air in October.”
Will you be done filming by then to be able to be there for the premiere?
“No, not for the premiere, but I will be done in the beginning of November. Right now, someone else is doing press with all the TV channels, so that’s good. That way the people will know that Heroes Reborn is coming back.”
Do you know what you want to do after Heroes?
“I’m going to auditions right now. Nothing for sure yet.I hope there will be soon (chuckles).”
Tune in on Thursday evenings at 8pm EST/7pm CST on NBC to keep up with what’s happening on Heroes Reborn.