Exclusive Interview with Actress Fumi Nikaido

Article By Joy Chiang Ling
Photo credit Xue Liang

Fumi Nikaido is a young actress who has been featured in several films at the New York Asian Film Festival, including My Man, Au revoir l’été and Why Don’t You Play in Hell? Currently 19 years old, she has been involved with film since she was 12, and has been cast in a wide range of diverse roles throughout her career. On July 9th 2014, AsianInNY had the opportunity to interview her at the Walter Reade Theater. Garbed in a traditional Japanese kimono, Nikaido answered our questions with confidence.

AsianInNY: “What inspired you to act?”

Fumi Nikaido: “I think that what inspired it first of all was my love for film. My mother, a movie lover, took me to the movie theater a lot. As long as I could be involved in film somehow, it didn’t matter. I didn’t have to be an actor, I just had to be involved somehow in the film-making process. I think that’s what inspired it first. But in the beginning of my career, I got scouted while shopping at a vintage clothes shop. The agent that scouted me said I looked like I was having fun, and I was just 12 at the time. I wasn’t trying to be an actor, it came naturally.”

AsianInNY: “How were you introduced to star in Why Don’t You Play in Hell, My Man and Au Revoir?”

Fumi Nikaido: “In terms of My Man, director Kumakiri contacted me 2 years before filming began. Ever since I met him, I had a strong intuition that I should work with him. Luckily, he also felt that we were fated to work together.

In terms of Au revoir l’été, I have always been a fan of Fukada’s previous work. I had the chance to meet him at a local festival in Tokyo. I approached him and told him that I wanted to work with him.
For Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, the director called me directly. While I was working on a different film and eating dinner, he asked, ‘I’m working on shooting a film this coming August, would you like to be in it?’ And because I trusted him, I accepted. I thought it was a minor role at first but I was surprised to find out that it turned into a much bigger one.”

AsianInNY: “Of the three characters you played, which one do you relate to the most and why?”

Fumi Nikaido: “I don’t usually compare myself to my roles, so it’s hard to say but, as I stated in various other media, the film My Man is the one I cherish the most. As an actor, I cherish what I am feeling right now. The ‘now’ is extremely important to me in my approach to any role or as my craft as an actor. The role of Hana in My Man is very important to me because it is something that I can only play right now, and it is really special to me.”

AsianInNY: “How do you prepare for your roles?”

Fumi Nikaido: “At the very least I tend to focus on how I look because that’s something that I can control but on set it depends on the atmosphere provided by my coworkers and the instructions given by the director, and that’s how I craft my role. Gaining weight or losing weight is something that takes time. If I’m playing a rebel for instance, I dye my hair, or if I am a mass murderer, I shave off my eyebrows, and those things do effect me.”

AsianInNY: “So do you come up with the look of the character yourself or do the writers or other people in the film crew help come up with it for you?”

Fumi Nikaido: “It’s a process of communicating with the director. We come up with the look together but I do input my own opinion.”

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