WOWOW has displayed a regular knack for assembling great casts for its dramas (granted that there have been a few unfortunate exceptions). But with Shitamachi Rocket, it has certainly outdone itself by bringing together Mikami Hiroshi, Watabe Atsuro and Terajima Shinobu.
Shitamachi Rocket revolves around the tussle between a small family-run factory and a large corporation over the patent for a space rocket component that the factory had developed, and which the corporation needs in order to manufacture the rocket in Japan.
Mikami Hiroshi, stars as the protagonist, Tsukuda Kohei, who was formerly involved in rocket development as a researcher but now runs his own small factory. “Although the universe is used as the motif, the drama centres on society. The background of each character and what they are shouldering is perfectly depicted. I think that is the highlight of the drama.”
Watabe Atsuro plays Zaizen Michio, the project manager in the big corporation who finds himself pitted against Tsukuda over patented technology for his rocket’s engine. Watabe humorously discloses that he watched instructional business DVDs for salarymen to prepare for his role because he had never taken the path of an elite in his own life.
Mikami and Watabe are co-starring again for the first time in 15 years since their 1996 movie, Swallow Tail. “We met for the first time in the movie. I realise that 15 years has passed. At that time, we were still youngesters. It’s a strange feeling to come face to face with each other now that we’ve become old men. I’m happy that we’re able to act together again,” Mikami says with feeling.
Actress Terajima Shinobu plays Kamiya Ryoko, a lawyer and patent court specialist who struggles to save Tsukuda’s factory. “It’s my first time taking on the role of a lawyer and the technical jargon was difficult. I made so many NGs on my first day that I thought I would die. I’ve never had this many NGs before,” she laughingly recounts her difficulties at the time of filming.
Midway through the press conference, Terajima gets to the subject of co-starring with Mikami for the first time. “I tend to goof up when doing performances over again, and it turns out that Mikami-san is also that type. There were moments when I thought we were similar in our instincts as if we were fellow animals.” “When it was decided that Terajima-san would be my co-star, I danced with joy. There were times while filming where we just clicked with each other,” Mikami says in response, indicating their excellent chemistry. Watabe, who has acted with Terajima in the 2001 NHK period drama Hojo Tokimune, observes, “I’ve been surpassed in the blink of an eye …” His self-deprecating comment about his female co-star who has matured into an international actress draws laughter from the audience. Terajima, who comes from an acting dynasty, is the winner of the many best actress awards including the recent Silver Bear at the 60th Berlin Film Festival for the film Caterpillar.
The word “pride” is often spoken by Mikami’s character Tsukuda, but Mikami, Watabe and Terajima devote themselves to acting with the same strong feelings as Tsukuda even though their occupations are different. “It takes a lot of energy to make one scene, make a production. I think I’d take it on without even thinking about pride” Watabe says of his beliefs and passion as a actor. “I think I have a lot of attachment to things I can identify with and things that turn me on. I’m not the type who is able to do so many things, but I’ve the passion to put my life on the line for this production” Terajima speaks her heart. Then Mikami says with sincerity, “I live for acting. In order to thrive, there must be pride. Something other than money. In doing so, I believe I’ll be happy with my passion.”
The five-part drama will be broadcast every Sunday at 10.00 p.m. from 21 August.