Midori Nagai, the wife and confident of Dr. Nagai was the epitome of the Japanese expression “graceful bamboo” – gentle yet filled with an incredible inner strength. Such an important role required careful and considerate casting. We found the perfect fit in London based actress, Yuna Shin – who, from her very first audition captured Midori’s essence in a performance of remarkable depth.
Below is a very interesting interview…
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I graduated from Drama Studio London in 2010 so I have been acting professionally for 4 full years now. Before that, I did an MA in marketing communications and worked for an investment company to save the tuition fee for a drama school.
Looking back, I could have gone to drama school straight away rather than doing the MA, which may have saved time and money. But it was valuable because I learned skills and experienced many different things that have been useful.
Being an actor is not always easy and I have had to learn to be patient and remain positive. But I’ve been really lucky to meet some talented people who trusted me and given me parts in their projects.
Every time I get a part, I feel so privileged and lucky, and of course getting involved with All That Remains has been really exciting and surprisingly rewarding.
What drew you to the role of Midori Nagai?
I remember Ian and Dominic telling me that Midori was the true hero of the story at the audition. Only after I read the script later and with some research did I understand what they’d meant. Midori is a strong person who gives unconditional love to her husband. In a way, Takashi is a little selfish. He is so dedicated to his work that he neglects his family and himself at times, but Midori is always there for him whenever he is lost. She is like a lighthouse for him.
I read from one of his books that on the day after Takashi tells Midori he has got leukaemia, Midori behaves normally and sees him off to work in the morning.
On the way, he realises he has forgotten his lunch box and he goes back to discover Midori crying like a child alone. I admire her strength and faith but also feel her pain and suffering.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to play the role of Midori Nagai in All That Remains.
How did you prepare for the role and what sort of research did you do?
Well, I did the usual things that every actor would do to prepare their role. For research, I used the internet and read the books of Dr Nagai. I also watched some Japanese TV dramas set in 1930-40s to get familiar with the period. Everybody was really helpful and supportive, too. Leo (Ashizawa) always shared his research with me and Meg (Kubota), who plays my mother, helped me move and dress like a Japanese lady.
What has been the most challenging aspect of the role for you?
I wanted to get the part so badly after the first audition. Then once I heard I had been cast for Midori, I suddenly became worried. Midori is truly good; full of love and faith.
It was amazing to think that some people, at least Ian and Dominic, had seen a glimpse of Midori Nagai in me, but I was still unsure that I could portray such a great person. On one level, I could connect to the emotional bits relatively easily, but understanding her true character was a struggle for me.
For instance, I became upset when I found out Takashi Nagai hadn’t come back home to Midori immediately after the bombing. Instead he helped the wounded first and came home after a few days. He seemed such a cold and unloving husband to me and it took me a while to understand that’s how they loved each other. Their love was much greater than I could imagine. It made me look at the way I loved the people around me. Playing Midori was a journey for me as a human being as well as an actor.
How did you find the experience of working with so much green screen?
I remember I was really embarrassed to see the set on the first day even though I didn’t tell anyone. Literally there was nothing but green walls! Working with green screen was challenging but also a lot of fun. It’s odd to mime opening doors at first, but you get used to it pretty quickly. There is definitely less worry about continuity and blocking.
Anything is possible with green screen. Ian and Dominic would show us some of the CGI footage that they’d worked on during breaks on set and everybody would be amazed and amused to find props and things we’d never expected to be there while filming. Ian and Dominic are truly wonderful. They are great directors but also brilliant set designers, creating such perfect images of early 20th Century Japan.
Do you feel this story is relevant for today, and if so how?
I believe All That Remains is the story of love, hope and courage. These values are always relevant to us and should always be relevant. After the atomic bombing, Takashi Nagai planted 1000 cherry blossom trees in the ruins of Urakami where people thought nothing could live ever again. The flowers still blossom every year till now.
I do believe in magic in life and I do hope a lot of people watch this move and share the magic of the story. Not everybody can be a hero like Takashi Nagai but we can at least watch the film and share in his sorrow and make sure his sacrifice isn’t forgotten.
Finally, what other projects have you been or are currently working on?
I have been really lucky to get some incredible parts in 2014. Earlier this year I did a feature film called The Wall (David Kinsella Productions AS) in Belfast. The movie is about a North Korean defector, Yonghee’s journey; how she became an outcast fallen from elite circle and how she escaped from North Korea and ended up in Belfast. Yonghee is a strong character who never loses hope, or her sense of humour.
I am currently playing Eunhee Choi in a docu-romantic thriller The lovers and the despot (Tigerlily Films). Choi was the biggest movie star in the 60’s in Korea and was kidnapped by North Korea in the 70’s. Wearing a wig and lots of retro costumes is really fun.
I have also been developing a solo drama based on the life of Yoshiko Kawashima, who was a Chinese princess and Japanese spy during WW2. I performed a 30 minute preview of the show at Tristan Bates in London this year and have been extending it into a full length play. My director Linda Miller and I hope to stage it somewhere in London in 2015.
Check out Yuna’s Spotlight profile here.