‘Shōgun’s Hiroyuki Sanada Describes The Show’s Samurai Boot Camp

Mar 10, 2024

The Big Picture

‘Shōgun’ is visually stunning with attention to detail in its sets and costumes, creating an epic tale set in 1600 Japan.
Authenticity was crucial in making the series right, involving specialist crew and a lengthy script process.
Hiroyuki Sanada, a producer on Shōgun, did all fighting scenes himself, embracing his involvement in the series’ creation.

Based on the bestselling novel written by James Clavell, the 10-episode limited FX series Shōgun is an epic tale set in Japan in 1600, as a European ship piloted by the mysterious John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) is marooned in a fishing village at a time when Lord Yoshii Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) is fighting his enemies on the high-ranking governing body known as the Council of Regents. Connecting the two men is translator Toda Mariko (Anna Sawai), a devoted Christian who is trying to overcome societal barriers, a disgraced family lineage and an abusive marriage to find her own purpose.

Shōgun is visually stunning with impeccable attention to detail, elaborate costumes, and a scope that is both sweeping and intimate. Collider got the opportunity to chat with Sanada, who is also a producer on the series, about his lengthy involvement with the development, the scale of the sets, the process for making sure the scripts were authentic, how much of the stunt work he did himself, the extensive boot camp for the extras, and why he sees his character as a hero.

Shogun (2024) When a mysterious European ship is found marooned in a nearby fishing village, Lord Yoshii Toranaga discovers secrets that could tip the scales of power and devastate his enemies.Release Date 2024-02-00 Main Genre Drama Seasons 1

Collider: This show definitely would not be the same without you playing this character. Did this feel as epic as it looks, when you were there on set on the day?

HIROYUKI SANADA: Yeah. The scale was huge. They created the whole village and a whole castle stone wall that was the real height. They created the Osaka Harbor. The buildings were real. It was amazing. I’m so happy, as an actor, to have gotten to play in front of those real huge-scale sets.

Hiroyuki Sanada Had a Hand in Making ‘Shōgun’ As Authentic As Possible
Image via FX

The thing with doing something like this is that you want to get it right, especially when it has not been done as right as it should have been in the past. Do you feel like this series finally got it right?

SANADA: Yeah, I think so. I got involved with this show a long time ago, seven years or more. I just took the role as an actor. And then, after Rachel [Kondo] and Justin [Marks] joined this show, they asked me to be a producer. I said, “Okay, in that case, I can hire the Japanese crew, a Samurai drama specialist for the wigs, costumes and props, and a master of gestures.” I thought we should make this drama authentic, as much as possible, so we hired a specialist. The producers and the studio allowed me to hire those people and all the actors from Japan. That helped us a lot, in making it authentic.

Related ‘Shōgun’s Families and Factions, Explained: Who’s Competing for Power? Tensions are high between these rival groups vying for control.

I loved getting to experience the translation, not only getting to see how the characters talk to each other, but also how the audience experiences that, and also how they choose to tell things a certain way.

SANADA: Making the script itself was so much fun. The writer wrote an English script, sent it to the translator to create the best words, and it would go back to the screenwriter. I checked every process and put in the notes and changes. We tried to choose the best words that were historical, but not too difficult to understand. We wanted the best balance. The actors were asked for their ideas, and then it would change a little bit and get sent to Justin again. For each episode, to get the script correct, we’d go back and forth 20 times. We really enjoyed creating this.

Hiroyuki Sanada Did All His Own ‘Shōgun’ Stunts

How much of the stunt work did you do yourself? Did you want to be as involved as you could?

SANADA: Yeah. I did all the fighting, the horse riding, and everything by myself. Sometimes, for the long shot when you didn’t see me, I’d come back to the producer’s seat at the monitors to check it. That was the only time I used a stunt double. I did all the fighting by myself.

Do you still enjoy doing that?

SANADA: It’s never boring, especially this time, being involved with the creation, and not just as an actor. The responsibility is so big on my shoulders, but happiness and joy were much bigger than pressure. That’s why I could enjoy it the whole time.

Related The True Story Behind FX’s ‘Shōgun’ What sets ‘Shōgun’ apart from other historical novels is the inspiration its author drew from.

Did you have a favorite moment that stands out as really representative of what you did in the series?

SANADA: I was on set every day, so it’s hard to pick something. We used a lot of extras in Vancouver. All the Japanese extras had to learn a lot. We had a boot camp for a few weeks. Even the guys had to learn fighting or ceremony things. The ladies had to learn how to serve. For modern people, it’s hard to understand. But we had time for training, and they did very well. I’d like to say thank you to all the extras in Vancouver. The shoot was six months and I was so moved watching them. It was so interesting to teach them, and then they did a great job. I felt like a parent.

Hiroyuki Sanada Believes His ‘Shogun’ Character Is the Hero the World Needs
Image via FX

Do you see your character as a hero?

SANADA: He’s a big hero. He’s modeled after a real samurai, Ieyasu, who was a big hero because he stopped the war period and made a peaceful era for about 260 years, until we opened the country to the world. That’s why he became a hero. That’s why I wanted to play this role, especially for now. We need that kind of hero in the world. That was a big motivation when I started this project.

Related ‘Shōgun’ Isn’t Likely to Get a Second Season Justin Marks and Rachel Kondo are satisfied with ending the series where the book concludes.

Shogun airs on Tuesday nights on FX and is available to stream at Hulu. Check out the trailer:

Watch on Hulu

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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