Karen Fukuhara made her debut film appearance in last year’s ‘Suicide Squad’ - not bad for for the young 25-year-old actress. She’s been involved in the world of film for a while though - and was previously a journalist, even interviewing the likes of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly.
We spoke to Karen Fukuhara while she was in New Zealand for Armageddon Expo, about asian representation in pop culture, working on ‘Suicide Squad’, and her acting career…
...I think that every character is somewhat an extension of yourself and so because of that, having different actors or actresses play the same role even if the character description is the same, you bring your own flavour to it, and I think that is what is so fun about doing this as a career, you can have so much freedom after allowing yourself to have that freedom...
COUP DE MAIN: You used to be a TV reporter, interviewing the likes of Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom. Do you find that has given you a unique perspective now that you’re the one being interviewed all the time?
KAREN: Oh of course, it’s interesting because now I’ve been on both ends, and I know how hard it can be to interview someone, especially remembering questions and sometimes you’re nervous. I think from that though I got a crash-course on not getting nervous around superstars, but yeah it was a really unique experience.
CDM: How long were you doing it for?
KAREN: I started off on a show on Disney when I was in middle-school, I think I did that for five-ish years. Then I was a reporter for a sports show in Japan and I still do that today, so that was starting when I was 18 and I’m 24 now. I love both sides of it, but right now I’m enjoying this side.
CDM: You said about Katana, "I hope that Katana is a hero that little girls can look up to." Do you think it’s important for young girls to have role-models to look up to, especially in an industry where female roles in movies are so often over-sexualised and degraded?
KAREN: I’ve said this many times, but I think it’s great to have a variety of different races and diversity, and seeing that on screen-- because growing up in the States I didn’t really have a role-model to look up to. Even on Halloween it was hard to decide what to be when none of the Disney Princesses are really… I mean you have Mulan, and that’s about it. It’s nice and fresh to see different body-types and different races being portrayed on TV. I hope that there is more of it to come. It’s an exciting time to be in Hollywood right now because there is a shift going on right now with the African-American actress and actor community coming together, and I think we need more of that for Asians as well.
BEST PIECE OF ADVICE…
CDM: Before ‘Suicide Squad’ you already had a brown striped belt in karate - did you find this helped you in preparation for the intensive training that went into the film?
KAREN: Yes! I used to fight in the forms division and that really helped out with learning the fight choreography I think, because a lot of the things that we learned it was about the intent behind every move, and otherwise it just becomes this dance-choreography kind of fight. I had a lot of fun filming all the action scenes because I had a little bit of training. I think I would have been so flustered without all of that.
CDM: I love that you have matching tattoos that Margot Robbie did for you guys! Was it nice working on a film where the cast-members became so close-knit and almost like a family?
KAREN: Oh yeah, definitely! It was nice because none of the female co-stars were catty - you hear scary stories on set but none of that happened, and Margot has been the most welcoming nice older sister role-model, she kind of teaches me the ropes of the industry because I’m so new to everything. Sometimes I don’t understand what I can ask for and what I shouldn’t ask for and it’s a whole new thing, so it’s nice to have someone to go to and ask for advice.
IF I HAD A DAY OFF IN NEW ZEALAND…
CDM: You went on to say in your Amuse interview, "I hope to see more Asian representation in future films." I love that you’re so outspoken about issues in Hollywood. Do you find it important to use your voice to speak about inequalities in Hollywood?
KAREN: Yeah! I think because I’m so new to the industry I think there are so many people that know the industry a lot more than I do, but from what I have experienced I can speak for myself, I can never speak for the whole community. I think you need more knowledge on the subject or you need to be in it more and I’m still so new to it. So a lot of people ask, “Oh how has it changed over the years?” And then I’m like, “I don’t know how it’s changed over the years.” But even still today it’s hard to find roles. How many magazine covers and how many posters of movies do you see with an Asian lead on the front? People say, “Oh no, there is a lot of Asians on TV, look at that supporting character or look at that," and it’s great that we’re getting these roles and sometimes it’s the best roles because it’s the quirky ones and I love to play those roles, but in terms of, 'Are we equal in distribution of characters?' Not so much, I don’t think.
CDM: What’s the #1 thing you’ve learnt about acting since beginning your career?
KAREN: Oh my god, <laughs> there’s so much! I think that every character is somewhat an extension of yourself and so because of that, having different actors or actresses play the same role even if the character description is the same, you bring your own flavour to it, and I think that is what is so fun about doing this as a career, you can have so much freedom after allowing yourself to have that freedom. A lot of times in auditions or things like that, I worry about what they want - what do they want to see in this character? But I have to step back and think about what can I bring that is unique.
CDM: Is there anything in your acting career that you’d really like to achieve? What’s on your career-bucket-list?
KAREN: So much, so much! <laughs> I’d love to portray characters that are different from one another every single time, I want it to be a challenge every time. ‘Suicide Squad’ was my first movie so I’m not gonna say no to any characters, but maybe I want to play a character that is completely different from Katana. I also want to portray something that isn’t stereotypically Asian. The other day I went in for a character that was tattooed, a rebel, high-school teenager and that’s a little bit different from what you’re used to seeing Asians portray, I think that would be fun to do as well.
ONE THING ON MY BUCKET-LIST…
CDM: If you could pick any five people, living or dead to be in your entourage, who would you choose?
KAREN: Just pick the squad, it’s a pretty good one. It’s hilarious because Cara [Delevingne] the other day, she sent us a video of her playing with a tiger and so I guess we will have a tiger as well, like a little pet! We were all texting like, “Step away from the tiger now! You’re gonna get eaten!” <laughs>
CDM: What is your spirit animal?
KAREN: Oh man, it used to be an alpaca but that’s just because I find them so cute, <laughs> so an alpaca. I’ve never met one before so maybe our personalities are completely different, but I just don’t know.
CDM: If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
KAREN: The power to teleport!
CDM: What is your first proper memory, ever?
KAREN: I remember having a really hard time learning how to speak English. I come from a Japanese family, so even though I was born in the States and grew up in the States, the household was primarily Japanese-speaking. So until I was about two-years-old I spoke only Japanese and then they threw me into pre-school, so I just didn’t know how to say anything or communicate with the teachers or the kids at school, I didn’t make any friends. That was just a sad time in my life for a year before I learned the language.
CDM: If you were a country, what would be your national anthem?
KAREN: I think any of the songs from Alt-J - I love Alt-J!
‘Suicide Squad’ is out now on DVD - click here to purchase.