Satomi Ishihara is now playing a leading role in Fuji TV’s Thursday night drama series, ‘Unsung Cinderella: Midori, The Hospital Pharmacist.’ Her role involves a challenging journey of being a pharmacist at a hospital.
Q How did you feel when you were first offered the part?
It really made me excited, when I first saw the content of what I was about to embark on. The role and the field of occupation itself is something which I had never really worked on before. Even though we are always helped by pharmacists, I never really knew the kind of work they were doing to be exact. But then, I read the original manga and it was so enjoyable. I was so convinced that I wanted to play the role. I thought that the job itself may be construed as something which may not really receive direct feelings of heartfelt gratitude from patients, and their existence may tend to be taken for granted. The drama gives viewers the opportunity to know and understand what really goes on behind the scenes in the world of pharmacists, so I think the general perception towards them will grow to something which expresses much warmer feelings of “thanks” and praise for their daily work. I hope that the drama is continuing to achieve these kinds of goals.
Q How did you first perceive the character ‘Midori’?
As the character ‘Midori’ in the original story is much younger than myself, I thought that playing the role would be a challenge at the very beginning. However, since I had always been keen on working on a drama series themed around “pharmacists” by all means, we discussed about these issues beforehand. And above all, from Midori’s passionate attitude towards the smell and taste of medicines, through to her determined attitude on studying about new prescriptions, I feel that these enthusiastic elements of the character, may be kind of similar to my very own. As she is someone who is always hungry for attaining new knowledge like me, I really love the character.
Q After reading the original story, what kind of things have you learnt about Hospital Pharmacists?
Oh, there’s a lot. Firstly, I didn’t know that they have night shifts. Also, ways in which they are consistently checking that the patients are taking the correct dose of their prescribed medicines. When I once had to stay in a hospital for 3 days, the pharmacists and nurses left me detailed instructions with memos on how to take the prescribed medicines. I was really appreciative for that. But it made me realize, that since I have not had the chance to get to know and talk to hospital pharmacists at a more deeper level in the past, I now know that they work side by side with the doctors, to care for and to make sure the patients are always on route to a swift recovery. It convinced me that if there comes a time in the future when I need to stay in hospital, they will be very supportive of me. Even in times if I simply just need to pick up prescribed medicine.
Q So you also worked on the uniform designs?
Until I attended the first production meeting, I thought that we’d be wearing white coats instead of scrubs. In reality, I heard that in order to make a clear division in terms of appearance with doctors, hospital pharmacists wear special white coats which easily crease up. Also, since doctors tend to have their white coats open at the front, pharmacists try to keep theirs closed, and are always trying to make sure that they are not mistaken as doctors. This is why we eventually decided with the production team that we should simply turn to scrubs! But even with scrubs, the designs may clash with operative surgeons or care-takers on duty at the hospital, so we decided to go with a design which wouldn’t mix-up with them too. I actually took part in the design process for this right from choosing the material. This was really fun! We discussed about materials which has functionality, usage of colors which may seem comforting but not too strong, positions of the stitches, to even the size and positions of pockets with the staff members and manufacturers.
Q So I guess there’s a lot of expectations for the drama series from real-life pharmacists?
I’m happy that we are receiving many positive feedbacks. Even my friend who is a pharmacist told me that doctors and pharmacists have been very positive about the series. So, I realized, there have been many people, who have been keen to see the drama version of the original story! This is why we have to make sure that this is something which truly depicts the actual realities of the job, and not just a “fantasy story.” We want to make sure that we are conveying what’s really happening in the work field, and also portray problems and issues associated with it too in the right way. Even if we don’t find the answers to these straight away, I’m hoping it becomes something which make the viewers to stop and think about the issues raised. I also wish that the viewers are seeing and discovering many of the joys of working in the field too! Moreover, I hope that that the drama is promoting more and more people to find their own pharmacists who they can rely on. And just the other day, I had a backache, so I contacted my pharmacist friend, and I received some good advice. It made me realize the importance of knowing a pharmacist who one can entrust him or herself to. Even if the series may be ‘dramatic,’ I am expecting that it is being something which projects out a sense of hope for everyone watching.
Q Learning many of the terminologies associated with medicine must be challenging?
The lines for the opening part of the first episode included two difficult terminologies. Since I knew that it would be tricky, I practiced so hard! But then in the final script, the names had been changed to a much easier one, so I was kind of relieved (laughs). We have to often say the terminologies of the actual raw materials used to make the medicines, since they tend to be replaced with actual product names for the medicines. I occasionally think how it would be so much simpler, just to be able to say the names, as they are sold at chemists and on commercials. Also, I have to know more about things like the actual effects of medicines after its been taken. So, I’m learning everyday about the correct dosage and effects for each specific medicine. I think I will become an ‘expert’ on the subject by the time we will have finished filming for this!
Q Were there any kind of special preparations you did before filming started?
I had talked with my pharmacist friends, to get to know more about the kind of feelings and the current reality of the job. Also, I do a lot of brief warm-up before filming, as Midori is a character who kind of walks very fast! The director also told me that pharmacists are often required to work whilst standing. So, I went out to look for some shoes which maybe more comfortable for the role.
Q What are the areas you are excited about in the drama series?
As most pharmacists are incredibly busy such as night-shifts, with hardly any time to eat, I heard that they often have to consume ready-made meals on a daily basis. Therefore, I want to help portray the characters in the drama, as those who try to take more time on thinking about what to eat during work. I hope we can all put forward new ideas about introducing light meals which are handy and nutritious, and something real-life pharmacists can eat during their busy working hours. I thought that gimbaps might be an idea, but will the odor be a little strong? (laughs)
Q What are the driving force pushing Midori as an enthusiastic pharmacist?
I think it’s her never-give-up attitude. I hope the viewers will begin to see why she became a pharmacist in the first place. From thinking in detail about how and when the medicines should be taken, to its follow-up care, she is always fully determined about all aspects of her job. I heard that pharmacists are even able to recognize whether or not the patients are properly taking the medicines. I think caring deeply about each and every one of the patients in areas such as this, is one of Midori’s special abilities. Portraying the ways that she is always thinking hard about the future of each and every patient is something which I am keen to continue focusing on.