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The 1980 television adaptation of James Clavell’s historical novel Shōgun is one of the most celebrated and influential miniseries of all time, so it was always going to be a daunting task to bring it back for a new generation. Acclaimed actor Hiroyuki Sanada, however, was up to the challenge, as he not only takes on the central role of powerful 16th century feudal lord Yoshii Toranaga but also serves as producer on the new FX series. He is flanked on screen by Cosmo Jarvis as shipwrecked English sailor John Blackthorne, who forms an unlikely alliance with Toranaga, and Anna Sawai as Lady Mariko, the interpreter assigned to Blackthorne.

Ahead of the series premiere of Shōgun, Sanada, Jarvis, and Sawai chatted with RT correspondent Nikki Novak about their work on the series, covering the painstaking process of translating the script, the challenges and rewards of representing feudal Japan authentically, the need to balance action with drama, and more.


Nikki Novak for Rotten Tomatoes: What was your first impression when you walked on set and you saw the scope of it? Give me a little bit of virtual reality. What were you seeing, smelling, touching. I wanted to live in that world… except for the violent part..

Anna Sawai: Yes, yes, yes, we don’t want that. I just remember going on set and you can smell the tatami floor, and just with that alone, you’re kind of transported to this very Japanese world. And wearing the kimono and having all that weight on you, and that’s kind of fixing your posture and the way you walk and the way you sit. You know, it changes the way you speak. I think all of it together really just made it very easy to feel like we were in 1600.

Cosmo Jarvis: The manpower and the scale of what had been built and the efforts that had gone into manifesting the fiction into reality and how many professionals within so many different departments had built everything and everything was just perfect as far as the eye could see. Plane of vision would be a village that had been built or a town or a castle. And the greens, the work that the greens did to make these trees and greenery, and the SFX team and what they had built… Just phenomenal effort all around.

Watch the video for the full interview with Hiroyuki Sanada, Anna Sawai, and Cosmo Jarvis.


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