Nao Matsushita

Exclusive Interview Winter 2020

From “Alive: Dr. Kokoro, The Medical Oncologist ”

Nao Matsushita

Nao Matsushita is now playing a leading role in Fuji TV’s Thursday night drama series, ‘Alive: Dr. Kokoro, The Medical Oncologist’ alongside Yoshino Kimura. Her role involves a challenging journey in a world of cancer treatment.

Q What kind of a woman is Kokoro?

This time round, I’m playing a working mother for the first time. In the midst of her very busy schedule as a doctor, I’m sure that there are various occasions when positive things are happening to her. However, most of the time, she’s not being able to recognize this and make something out of it. She’s a woman with a strong mentality, but it’s often the case that she’s not sure who to rely on at the most challenging times, but then she meets Kaoru. Kokoro is a compassionate character who is able to understand the feelings of others and help people in need of comfort. Even though it may not be perfect, these kinds of qualities help her to be supportive at a person’s side.

Q What kind of role do you think Kokoro has as a doctor with therapeutic requirements to help patients?

Without performing actual operations, there are many occasions when Kokoro is talking to her patients to mentally comfort them. I think these areas of her job may be considered something attractive for her and quite different from other fields. And during these sessions, there are many times when Kokoro also learns things from the patients themselves. I think that these kinds of interaction are just some of the great things to watch out for as a doctor.

Q In the drama, how are you expressing the feelings as a doctor?

I think that getting into the role is not something that you could suddenly do in a day (laughs). One of the best ways we can learn is asking the doctors themselves. I completely understand that the actual job itself is an incredibly challenging one. However, I think that one of the main factors for which I’m basing everything on, is by figuring out by what kind of judgement I entrust myself to a doctor when I go to a hospital. By keeping this in my mind, it helps me to think more carefully about how my character should be portrayed or depicted. In the story, there are many situations when Kokoro has to let her patients know that one has been diagnosed with cancer. I think that one of the challenging things about being a doctor is judging how you should express these facts to them. It really is case by case and you have to think about how each of the patients is feeling at the time. It’s quite a sensitive moment, so I’m always seriously thinking and being over careful about it.

Q The role that you are playing must be full of challenging medical terminologies?

Since Kokoro is a medical oncologist, she doesn’t actually do operations. So, as far as these difficult terminologies go, I would think that words associated with medicines might be the most challenging ones. Memorizing all of it is like a challenging word game. I’ve been thinking during the filming sessions, that I wish for Kokoro to be an attractive and cool doctor especially in a tense scene. So, it’s important for her to be able to say the names of these challenging medicines without it looking too awkward and like an amateur. But above all, in terms of medical terminologies, I think it’s even more harder for Yoshino Kimura’s character who is a surgeon.

Q So your character is a close ‘buddy’ with Kaoru played by Yoshino Kimura?

Kokoro is a physician and Kaoru is a surgeon. One of the main facts about the world of oncology, is that there are many specialists required for just one patient. I’ve also been used to the term ‘buddy’ in detective dramas, but this is the first time to see it being used in a medical drama. The intriguing thing is that even though we are both doctors, our field of expertise is completely different. However, since they both have the same goal of treating cancer patients, it will be interesting to see how it all develops as the series continues.

Q Do you think that Kokoro’s relationship with Kaoru is a kind of like a friendship you get during adulthood? What do you think about forming new friendships when you’re adults?

Compared to how friendships naturally grow in one’s childhood years, the way we share life’s various experiences with one another eventually lead directly to the development of friendships and emotional ties when we are adults. So in this sense, I think it’s important to cherish friendship ties from adulthood. Even in situations when you feel that a friendship has been teared apart, the hope that it can be healed once again, may be different from our younger years. In this light, I think that the relationship between Kokoro and Kaoru has not developed to a point which they can refer to as a strong ‘friendship bond.’ However, I think their ties will develop as we move further into the story. And as they are women working in the same career field, who are sure to understand one’s situations, both of them can support and help out in the areas which the other lacks, whilst saving the lives of patients.

Q What are the areas you are excited about in the filming sessions?

I've worked with Houka Kinoshita several times in the past, and it always makes me feel excited, as it’s hard to predict at which kind of timing he will come out with his lines. It's also fantastic seeing the cast members in their white coats. In the first episode there's a line, "feel most at ease." I hope to be able to create a cozy environment at my character’s hospital department with the other cast members based on this image.

Q Are there any special messages that you hope to project out to the viewers through the drama series?

Before I was offered the part, I didn't know much about the world of medical oncology. I had always thought that the treatment of cancer was completely based on surgery. However, policies for treatment usually in fact gets decided by medical oncologists. I really wish that as many patients as possible will move a step closer to being successfully treated through medical oncology. And by recognizing about the existence of this field, I hope that people will further increase their knowledge about cancer in general, as well as about its patients and doctors associated with it.