Anna Sawai, Cosmo Jarvis looked to parents to portray 'Shogun' characters

Left to right, Cosmo Jarvis, Anna Sawai, Hiroyuki Sanada and Tadanobu Asano attend the premiere of the Hulu TV miniseries "Shogun" at the Academy Museum in Los Angeles on February 13. Photo by Greg Grudt/UPI
1 of 4 | Left to right, Cosmo Jarvis, Anna Sawai, Hiroyuki Sanada and Tadanobu Asano attend the premiere of the Hulu TV miniseries "Shogun" at the Academy Museum in Los Angeles on February 13. Photo by Greg Grudt/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Monarch actress Anna Sawai and Peaky Blinders alum Cosmo Jarvis say they found inspiration in their real-life parents for the characters they portray in the new Japanese historical drama, Shogun.

Premiering Tuesday on FX and Hulu, the 10-episode adaptation of the late James Clavell's bestselling novel takes place in 1600s Japan at the beginning of a civil war.


Husband-wife team Justin Marks and Rachel Kondo are the showrunners, while producer Hiroyuki Sanada stars as feudal lord Yoshii Toranaga, who enlists the help of marooned English ship pilot John Blackthorne (Jarvis) and translator Mariko (Sawai) as he battles for power against the local council of regents.

"She's so different from myself. I had to learn everything. I kind of went in with the physical aspects first -- learning to move and speak like her and, mentally, it might just be a Japanese thing, but I could easily see where we came from as women in Japan," Sawai told UPI about Mariko in a recent Zoom interview.


"I see certain elements in my mom and my grandmom that remind me of the place that Mariko was in," she added. "Just learning about the history really helped and having multiple conversations with Rachel, who lived with the character for so much longer, about what she meant to her, and receiving that [helped, too]."

Jarvis said he felt a strong connection to his character, as well.

"Blackthorne embodies something I felt responsible for, in terms of representing England," he said.

"It was important that he had a narrow realm of competence that was very specific, with regard to seamanship and I, oddly, drew quite a lot from my dad, who was a merchant seaman.

"I felt quite responsible for making him 'of the sea' in some way. I liked Blackthorne's forthrightness, which was sometimes detrimental to him."

Sawai said she knew from speaking with Marks that he would tell the story respectfully and from a Japanese point of view.

"I realized he really wanted to tell the Japanese history and culture in a very authentic way, and that mattered to me a lot because I have seen way too many projects and been part of things where I felt like the Japanese perspective was missing," the actress added.


"He wanted to shed some light on that and, so, that is what drew me to doing this project."

Jarvis said he hadn't read anything quite like this romantic story, with its political, religious and traditional themes, which the actor described as a "grandiose adventure."

"I hadn't come into contact with that before and that was interesting to me," he said, adding he was happy to help build a world "people will enjoy escaping to."

"Every character is so endearing and complex. Everyone will have a favorite," Jarvis said.

Mariko grows and changes as she works with Blackthorne and Toranaga.

"Mariko, when we first meet her, doesn't really want to be there, and then she is given the task to become an interpreter. Through her relationship with Blackthorne, she gets a better understanding of herself," Sawai said.

"Getting closer to the lord and hearing certain things that she didn't know about her father and what he wanted for her, she is able to find her purpose."

Blackthorne benefits from knowing Mariko, as well, because he sees her as someone who provides a very strong counterpoint to his own principles, according to Jarvis.

"He is intrigued by the discipline and loyalty and her character, in general. I don't think he will have come across somebody like her and spent so much time with somebody like her ever," the actor said.


"She herself is the product of a very different social system and places value on things that his culture doesn't necessarily place value on. It's sort of a mutual learning experience."

Anna Sawai, Hiroyuki Sanada attend 'Shogun' premiere in LA

Cast member Anna Sawai attends the premiere of Hulu mini-series "Shogun" at the Academy Museum in Los Angeles on February 13, 2024. Photo by Greg Grudt/UPI | License Photo

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