A true actress of the 'ability faction'
- Last Friends, a drama that has captured everyone's attention. Ratings got from 13.9% in the first ep and kept rising till 22.8% in the last ep. Working together with other popular young actors of the same generation, Ueno Juri acts as a motocross rider that is uncomfortable being in a female body. A character that received a lot of empathy from viewers. Viewers have started noticing her through her performance in Swing Girls, her big break was Nodame Cantabile where her abilities as a comedian clearly shone through. But landing a serious role in Last Friends casted any doubts aside as to her abilities as an actress. It is a role that permanently sealed her position in the 'actress with real capabilities' faction.
- Ueno is an actress who challenges various kind of roles and solidly stepping up her game each time. With her new movie GuGu premiering soon, we ask her about the transformation inside her with each role and also looking back at events of the past year.
What does 'creating a character' means?
She acts together with Koizumi Kyoko in GuGu as a positive girl who dreams to be a mangaka. A totally different role from Last Friends. "'Creating a character', I don't really understand what it means", was what she said with a furrowed eyebrow when we ask her about her ability to create so many different roles so far.
"Somehow, on the set of GuGu, spending time with everyone, I just naturally became Naomi. Thinking too hard about it won't work. That's why the term 'creating a character' feels kinda strange(for me). Living in the world of the character and feeling what the character feels when faced with obstacles in their daily life. That's good enough."
Juri's glad because the movie turned out great. Under the supervision of Director Inudo, it became a gentle though at times melancholic world where Naomi lives her life. The atmosphere of Kichijoji, the honest depiction of the people who live there, their warmth, the freshness of it all becomes the core of the movie. A fact she's happy about.
Ueno, is the type actress that beyond one's imagination, deeply immerses herself in her roles. There's something interesting that pushes that point further. A while after the filming of GuGu ended, they kinda needed her to go in and record the narration part for the movie. But by then, she was already filming another drama and in a different role[I'm guessing Lost:Time:Life]. She had already detached herself from the character Naomi.
"In the end, we had to use the temporary narration taken during the filming itself. Even though when filming the movie, her mind and body is completely Naomi, after she gets into another character, she can't go back. That's really typical of Juri-chan(laughs)", said Director Inudo.
Not currying for favours
From last year's pure hearted and straight forward woman in Joudan Janai! to the girl with a shadow in her heart in Naoko, this past year, Ueno have been able to quickly and intensely submerged herself into each of these characters. For Ueno, being offered these roles, she said it's "something to be happy about". As an actor, it is said that their limit only extends to how far they can create the image of their characters. The chance to be able to challenge various things is indeed a blessing. But even if an actor wants to challenge a particular role, it still won't happen without someone who can offer you that role. It's often asked in her interviews, "What's your criteria for choosing a job/role?". They would have "What does 'choosing a job' means?" thrown back at them.
"You don't choose your roles, instead you're chosen for it."
Uttering strong, convicted words while being modest, it probably comes from what she has experienced before. Attached to a small agency during her first debut, participating in various auditions and gathering strings of minor roles/jobs in the process, she started to expand her career as an actress. Be that as it may, the last few years have seen her becoming an actress in great demand. As it is now, she should be at a standpoint where choosing a job is possible.
However, while being thankful for everything she has received so far, she doesn't believe in currying for favours.
"In order to create a great piece of work, it's fine if I'm disliked or misunderstood."
She does her job with that kind of resolution. Hoping that they'd use you again next time or worrying about what they think of you while in the creation of something, it's not what she's wants or is able to do.
"No matter who it is, if it needs to be said, I'll say it, I'll really go head to head with them."
I think this is probably compelled by the love she has for her work and the appreciation of the viewers.
During this interview too, she concealed nothing. Answering straight up, even the smallest questions. I think that the sincere feeling that one could feel from Ueno's one-track mindset and attitude towards her work is really good. On one hand, in the showbiz world today, some misunderstandings could be born of that as well.
"But as honest as it is, speaking up too much about everything and anything, people will probably end up thinking you're a scary person(laughs). There was once where on the net, I read something that someone had written about me, "Ueno Juri is really scary". I was shocked. Malicious gossips are common today, there are some people who face it too seriously and ended up distancing themselves from everything..."
"But then it would be hard to work together with others in order to create something right? Whether it's drama or movie, it's not something created by a single person. Everyone has a hand in it. The people responsible to push for work to be done and the people who's supposed to be doing it is different. Me too, it's nice if I could be calmer and stay quiet a bit more but I always end up speaking my mind(laughs)."
It is because she has a strong conviction that a piece of work where everyone can confront with honesty and sincerity contains a 'special kind of strength'. The critically acclaimed 'Last Friends' too, whether it's between the director, staffs or the other co-stars, it's a work that was born out of many conflicts and discussions.
"I'm really glad to be able to work together with actors/actresses from the same generation in that drama. Watching each one of them sincerely come face to face with their characters and act even through the worries, through the conflicts, I understood something. "Ahh, it's not just me(that think that way)". It was encouraging."
"For me as well, for the whole duration of playing Ruka, I worried about a lot of things. It was a constant battle. For example, the scene in episode 9 when Ruka goes to confront Sousuke(acted by Nishikido Ryo), there was a line in the script where Ruka was suppose to say, 「あんたの偽物の愛になんか負けやしない」(Your false love, I won't lose to something like that). I thought to myself, 'This line, I won't be able to say it as Ruka'. The writer, Asano-san and the director, I understood the enthusiasm they were trying to inject into the lines. But Sousuke's love being imitation or false isn't something that can be decided like that. Ruka also can't be the only one that is always right. That's why I suggested 「あんたの愛なんか本物だとは思えない」(Your love, somehow, I can't think of it as being real love), saying it almost with a jealous tone. Because I wanted to protect this character named Ruka, I fought. If it's about Ueno Juri, anything is fine, but if it's for the sake of the role or for the work(drama/movie), I'll fight no matter what."
"Actually, towards the end, Ruka's scenes have been abruptly and drastically cut down. But alas, because they wanted to have the scenes at the share house, things have to be re-shot again. But that's okay. How many seconds(that was shown of her), things like that isn't important. The prove of Ruka living her life is there, so if people is able to see that then it's fine. Towards the final moment, everyone still had their worries; there was a time where we filmed 2 days straight without any sleep. But, being able to create a work together that everyone can sincerely and seriously come face to face with, and because of that bringing in a lot of critical acclamations, I'm really happy."
The awareness of being an actress
Through the years, actors are constantly re-evaluating themselves, confirming their own abilities. For Ueno, it's "Being more than just someone who acts, having things you can express yourself with, and having abilities to create". The strength in uttering those words can be felt.
"Working as an actress is interesting but even now, the awareness of 'I'm an actress' is almost non-existent. Originally, seeing SPEED on TV, I started admiring that kind of air surrounding them. Always thinking to myself, 'I want to be someone who can give that kind of energy to other people'. That was probably the starting point."
"Rather than films, I grew up watching variety shows most of the time(laughs). Refining or adorning myself, I still don't have much interest in that area. But in this era, the scope of what being 'an actress' is have widened greatly haven't they? In the olden days, being an actress means you have to be beautiful and ladylike else it won't be possible. Now, there are even roles like Nodame, and because of that, even someone like me is able to be one(laughs). Officially speaking, an actor is someone that can move freely in the world of the work itself(drama,movies, etc.). It's their job. But it shouldn't end there. They have to think and plan on their own and become a person that can contribute to the creation of something."
Thoughts about marriage
When it's needed for the role, she sprints. But whether it's about the role, or about the work, she sometimes forgets about herself in her single mindedness towards her goals. So, for someone who is only 22 years of age, yet harbours a determination that could last a life time, we posed this question: Just like other normal girls, don't you yearn to be in love and to get married?
"Not at all. I think it's fine if I stay alone for the rest of my life. Or rather, at least for the moment, it's better for me to have that kind of feeling I think. (laughs) Being married probably won't effect my focus towards work but at the moment the image of being alone is stronger. I don't know what the future holds. But regardless of whether it's work or private matters, good things or bad things, fate or chance, I think there would come a time where all these points would connect and a line would be visible."
But at this moment, no matter what kind of job it is, she goes into it with full enthusiasm.
Probably a lot of things worth discussing here. Last Friends one was particularly interesting. Looks like the rumor about the on-set conflict is true. And about Juri not happy with parts of it(like trying to make something 'more' out of Ruka and Takeru's relationship). She probably did more 'battles' other than what was mentioned above resulting in them trying to reduce her scenes? The SP episode was obvious. She only had a few seconds in the end. But I think Ep.11 was the one they had to re-shoot in order to have a happily together share house scene at the end. Hmm, all I can say is I'm totally backing Juri on this one. Of course there needs to be a viable reason for one to voice up his/her concern. Characterization is one of the important elements people look at in a drama/movie. The characters in Last Friends especially have become real people we can relate to and care about. So the kind of actor who voice out their concerns and providing suggestions to improve it (despite what other people might say) is worth our respect and admiration. Juri is one of them. Fighting to maintain the integrity of her characters. *bows* o(_ _)o
Gotta say that this magazine wins in terms of content. Kinda had enough of GuGu related interviews...^^; At least this one really has Juri as the main focus while relating about her works. The amazing thing is they dedicate a full page analyzing the huge increase of 'Ueno Juri's fangirls'(P.22), along with graphs! Lol~ XD The part about living her life alone is kinda sad though...
As for the private Q&A part and the interview with Director Inudo about Juri, haven't really check it out yet...will probably leave it for next time if there's anything interesting...In the mean time, comment and discuss~ ^^
Credit for the scans go to maggie@baidu.
EDITED: The Q & A have been translated and posted here by oviparous~