Here’s the interview article with Juri Ueno, the star of Fuji TV’s new Monday night drama series, ‘Asagao - Forensic Doctor 2.’ She talks about many of her thoughts for the new series!
Q:The first season was very well received. The second season follows on from that, and what kind of reactions did you get from people around you?
As I was deeply involved with filming all the time, it was difficult to tell (laughs). However, I received much feedback from the director and producers who have always been supporting me. Like for example they were "impressed.”
Q:Were you able to watch the broadcasts in real time?
There may have been times when I could only watch the completed video data version, but as the filming for the drama series tended to end relatively early, I think I was often able to make it for airtime. I think all my co-stars were also saying that they were trying to watch it on-air as much as possible. But I always find it challenging to stay objective and comment about it when I’m watching my own work.
Q:Could you tell us about an episode or a scene that you particularly liked?
My character’s daughter Tsugumi, always creates a fun atmosphere on set, and the scenes with Asagao’s father, Taira too. Most of the time we only shoot one take only, so there’s this exciting feeling of a ‘realistic’ drama. Also like the scenes where everyone is having a meal together, or when we’re all in the lab working hard in a determined atmosphere are other ones to pick out. Asagao suffers from the reality of her mother's death, but despite this, she's still a woman trying to live her life positively. Other examples may include the scene when her mother's gloves were found, and when she gets married and asks her father if they could all live together. There are so many more examples like this and it's quite difficult to pick only one out of the bag.
Q:What’s the atmosphere like on set?
Well, everyone goes home quite early (laughs). I’m a fast one when it comes to getting changed, but so is everyone else! One of the reasons for this is because they all take care of their families. Many of the cast members are married. So, they also try to balance out work and home. But this is also an important factor for the drama. When everyone from the lab are altogether for the same scene, and like if someone starts talking about a recent topic for example, we all discuss about it, or something like that. For example, like the chats we had about how Akiyoshi Nakao recently started YouTube, and how Mirai Shida recently bought some domestic appliances (laughs). And when the scenes are focused on the Maki family, we usually shoot at the family home for a whole day, and as Tsugumi is always good at creating a homely atmosphere, we would ask her about her daily life and other things. Yuzuna, who plays Tsugumi, seems to be reading my SNS posts and often writes me letters, as well as cute drawings of my pet dog.
Q:What are things you are particularly conscious about for the shootings?
Every time we have a scene where the characters are explaining the causes of death to the families of the deceased, special guest cast members for this walk on to the set with a great sense of tension and an aura of preparedness. I hope that for scenes such as this, we can all cooperate in helping to create an atmosphere together, allowing for a variety of acting related emotions to come out.
Q:The last season was also very engaging, attractively conveying the portrayal of a family’s ordinary life. What do you value the most for the conversations and the meal scenes?
It's almost like we are being our normal selves without thinking too hard. Like Tsugumi is always different every time (laughs). When we would get words that suddenly pops out from her, we probably wouldn't be able to do it, if we were thinking about how to reply each time. I hope the drama is conveying the essence of the story, without losing the ‘warmth’ of the Maki family.
Q:So, for the meal scenes, it’s almost like Tsugumi is expressing herself truly and you guys are all supporting her along the way?
Shunsuke Kazama often tries to help her with the direction in some aspects. However, sometimes it doesn’t go strictly the same as planned, but it turns out well in the end. Above all, I think it’s really up to us adults to act flexibly on a case-by-case basis. Yuzuna is fun to work with because she really does it from her heart. I'll do my best to make sure that this kind of warmth is properly conveyed to everyone.
Q:The drama series also revolves around the ‘Great East Japan Earthquake.’ For the second season, you were saying that there are still more messages to be conveyed for this through the story?
We are all now in a difficult time not just in Japan, but also around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tohoku region, which was devastated 10 years ago, including the city of Rikuzentakata which I visited, are becoming restored. There are still some diggers and stuff around, but much more concrete areas than mud than it used to be after the disaster. So, the time is nearly approaching us when we can finally say "let's rebuild the city to be able to welcome our visitors!” When we say cities are on its course to restoration, it means it’s becoming something new. However, even if a lot of things may have changed over 10 years, people's minds will not be as such. In the first season, Asagao lost her mother suddenly in the earthquake, but she tries to overcome it, becoming a mother whilst also working as a forensic doctor. And, I think that life can be compared to the four seasons. You meet new people and there are also some goodbyes, as well as the happy times and the hard times. In the sequel, I think we hope to continue portraying these parts of the story too, making sure that it’s all properly expressed. Whilst playing the role of Asagao, I will continue to value her positive ways of living overcoming the hardships of life.