Anna Akana Talks Blade of the 47 Ronin, Mixing Action and Comedy & Her Love for Martial Arts

Dec 18, 2022

“Man, I thought I was in shape!” Anna Akana said in our interview while discussing her upcoming movie Blade of the 47 Ronin, which is a sequel to 47 Ronin, the 2013 film starring Keanu Reeves. More specifically, Akana recalls being astounded by the sheer athleticism that some of her co-stars brought to their roles as expert martial artists. “Teresa [Ting] and Mike [Moh] are actual Wushu warriors, and Yoshi [Sudarso] used to do stunts, so it was awesome and humbling to be in the presence of people who are so athletically capable.”

Directed by Ron Yuan, Blade of the 47 Ronin, like its predecessor, tells a story about the ancient Japanese Ronin warriors. This time, however, the story is set 300 years after the original film, in modern-day Budapest, where Samurai clans now exist in secrecy. Deadline first reported on the film’s development in August 2020 — which came as surprise for many as 47 Ronin failed to make a splash, critically and commercially, during its initial release — and then, by April 2021, AJ Lee and Aimee Garcia were hired to rewrite the original script from John Swetnam. “I had watched it ages ago, so I was familiar with the property,” Akana said of 47 Ronin. “I really love action and anything based in samurai- or fantasy-land.”

Landing the Role of Luna

Whereas the original film offered a historical and fantastical action epic, Blade of the 47 Ronin, while still providing plenty of those elements, isn’t afraid to lean into its more comedic sensibilities. In fact, Akana’s character Luna brings much levity to the film, which is only natural, considering the actress cut her teeth performing stand-up and creating a multitude of videos for her hit YouTube channel. “I first auditioned for the role of Onami [Ting’s character], and Ron had seen my tape and recognized the natural edge that I have as a performer,” Akana said of how she eventually came to audition for the role of Luna. “From there, it was all about how to make Luna the skeptical audience because we’ve all seen that movie where there’s a chosen one [and she’s going to save the world]. We really wanted to play up [those tropes] and comment on them.”

Akana credits Lee and Garcia’s script for “setting [Luna] up as this very dry, very edgy, almost Daria-esque character,” and, while on set, she would pitch jokes to Yuan as certain moments came up. “Most of my jokes that ended up making it into the film were things that I either improvised or tried to write based on what we were witnessing on set.” One of her favorite jokes — without spoiling anything — plays on the trope that “in a lot of action movies, everyone kind of forgets all the people that have died. There’s no emotional impact, whereas I watch the ninjas be gunned down, and I’m like, ‘Oh, no, that man had a family and probably had children, and his wife will never know what happened to him.'”

Related: 47 Ronin Sequel Gets Netflix Release Date, Trailer & Poster

Being Part of an Ensemble Cast of Asian Actors

Universal 1440 Entertainment

Akana’s career began over 13 years ago, during a time that she recalled as being “super racist and sexist,” with the characters being offered to her largely rooted in harmful, and sometimes degrading, stereotypes. Naturally, following the Crazy Rich Asians boom in mainstream cinema (which was followed by Parasite making history at the Oscars and Squid Game’s stratospheric success on TV), we discuss the shift she has experienced in her acting career. “I’ve been very lucky. Every movie that I’ve ever headlined has been an all-Asian cast, so it’s been opposite ends of the spectrum,” she said. “Getting to be with everyone on [Blade of the 47 Ronin] and talk about the state of the industry — we had Mark Dacascos and Dustin Nguyen, who are like titans and old-school Asian actors who have dealt with the worst imaginable — it was great to hear how much things have changed from the 80s and 90s.”

“It was refreshing to be surrounded by fellow Asian women,” Akana added. “The guy in the story is not the main focus. It’s about our battle of strength and wit, and our ideas of tradition versus contemporary values.” Indeed, towards the end of our interview, the actress boasted about the “good culture on set,” with everyone, in addition to getting along and enjoying production, diving into each other’s feelings, and supporting each other in every scene. Going back to the aforementioned physical demands of her role, with respect to the experts around her, Akan said, “Having everyone just be [at a high level] really inspired me to up my game. I’ve continued with martial arts after the film because I don’t ever want to be the worst one on set again.”

Blade of the 47 Ronin is available on Netflix, digital, and Blu-Ray on October 25.

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