QUEEN OF SWORDS. DA MAN chats with the perky (off-screen) and deadly (on-screen) Karen Fukuhara about her Hollywood debut in “Suicide Squad”
Dress by Matthew Christopher
Hollywood’s love affair with superheroes takes on a new twist this season with the supervillain-centric “Suicide Squad.” Ever since it was first announced, the movie has ignited a firestorm for its unusual lineup of characters, and the incredible cast bringing these good-for-nothings to life. But while there’s plenty of talk about, say, Jared Leto’s take on the Joker or the appearance of “Batfleck” from “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” plenty of attention has gone to a cast-member making her big-screen debut: Karen Fukuhara.
Interestingly, the 24-year-old Japanese-American actress will play one of the few good guys (a bit dark, mysterious and at times scary—but still definitely “good”) in this movie about a squad of DC Comics’ antiheroes. If there’s anything we’ve learned from a decade worth of big-budget superhero movies, it’s that this genre is a highway to the big leagues. So, it seems that DA MAN caught up with Fukuhara just as she’s stepping into the world of global stardom.
DA MAN: Karen, great to have you with us. How excited are you for the release of “Suicide Squad”?
Karen Fukuhara: Thank you so much for having me! I think I’m the most excited person in the world. there are no words to describe my level of anticipation.
DA MAN: Can you tell us a bit about your character?
Karen Fukuhara: I play a character named Katana aka Tatsu Yamashiro, a badass samurai warrior. She wields the Soultaker, a large samurai sword that traps the souls of all its victims. She serves as a member of the Squad, but is also there as an associate of Colonel Rick Flag [Joel Kinnaman] to keep the troublemakers in line.
DA MAN: How did you end up getting cast as Katana?
Karen Fukuhara: I was called in to audition. It was the most fun I’ve had on an audition because, aside from acting, because they also wanted me to do some martial arts and sword fighting!
DA MAN: What was it like working with such a strong all-star cast?
Karen Fukuhara: I was nervous at first, but that quickly dissipated when I got to know the cast during rehearsals. Everyone is so incredibly nice and talented—I’m one lucky gal. They’ve never made me feel like I don’t belong and I am so thankful for that.
Dress by Mac Duggal
DA MAN: Did you encounter any other challenges while filming “Suicide Squad”? Especially with the action parts—although we’re guessing that your background in martial arts would certainly help in playing the sword-wielding Katana.
Karen Fukuhara: Since this was my first time being on a film set, everything was new to me. it took me a while to get in the groove of things. My action parts were challenging but David [director David Ayer] made sure we were properly trained prior to shooting: Fitness, martial arts and sword-fighting training (for me) every day. Richard Norton [stunt coordinator and choreographer] reviewed the fight choreography over and over again so that i’d be comfortable on the day. Of course, a lot of that changes during shooting, which was challenging, but because they trained me so well, I was confident enough to perform whatever new moves they gave me. The days shooting my fight scenes were my favorite days. The sense of accomplishment after finishing a long day full of action sequences—there’s no other feeling like it.
DA MAN: What, would you say, are the movie’s biggest strengths? What do you think will fans and critics talk about the most after seeing “Suicide Squad”?
Karen Fukuhara: David has created a world full of human truth and gritty realism. He stayed true to the comics and honored the deep connections “Suicide Squad” fans feel toward the flawed super villains. I think the fans will appreciate the depth of the characters’ backstories. What does it take these villains to come together and finally do the right thing? Get ready for a wild ride.
DA MAN: “Suicide Squad” is your big screen debut, right? What would you say was the most demanding part of working on a production of this magnitude?
Karen Fukuhara: I have nothing to compare it to, but I can’t think of anything to complain about. They made it so easy for me and I absolutely loved every aspect of it. If I had to answer this question, maybe I’d say the fitness training. But even that was amazing because we had our own gym and amazing personal trainers.
Dress by Julie Vino
DA MAN: So far, has your debut role led to any new opportunities coming your way?
Karen Fukuhara: It’s opened up so many doors for me that I didn’t even know existed. I’d say being in a DA MAN issue is a pretty big one.
DA MAN: Are you going to pursue acting full-time?
Karen Fukuhara: Yes, but that decision was made prior to being in “Suicide Squad.” Being a full-time actress has always been a dream of mine.
DA MAN: Are there any specific genres or character types that you’d like to try your hand at?
Karen Fukuhara: I’d love to play a character where race is not in the character description; someone that is who they are not because of racial stereotypes but because they just are.
DA MAN: We’ve also learned that you’re a sports reporter. Can you tell us a bit about your reporting work?
Karen Fukuhara: I work as a sports reporter for a show called “NHK World Sports,” formerly called “NHK BS Best Sports,” that airs in Japan. This is my sixth year, and I go around the nation reporting on different stadiums and arenas, introducing its unique features as well as interviewing players, coaches and avid fans. One time we made [American pro baseball player] Manny Ramirez a rice ball and in return he gave me a signed bat!
DA MAN: How do you deal with the increased public and media attention now?
Karen Fukuhara: My cast mates tell me that I don’t understand the magnitude of this movie. They’re probably right. I’m thrilled for the release and am intrigued to see how the hardcore fans will take it. It’s awesome seeing the excitement through Instagram comments and tagged pictures. I love all the Katana fan art and cosplayers!
DA MAN: When you’re not busy with work, how do you usually spend your time?
Karen Fukuhara: I love going to concerts and music festivals. I wasn’t planning on going to Coachella this year but after seeing everyone’s posts about it during Weekend 1, FOMO [short for “fear of missing out”] took over and I bought a ticket for Week 2 the day before. I still have a sore throat but it was 100-percent worth it! I also love eating. Some people say they eat to live, I live to eat.
DA MAN: If you could sum up your experiences in the last year or so in one sentence or maybe with a quote, what would it be?
Karen Fukuhara: Lao Tzu’s “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” comes to mind. I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot and I’m so grateful for this crazy, wild ride with the coolest people. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me next.
To see more pictures from this shoot, get a copy of DA MAN August/September 2016 here.
Photography Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling Lauren Larocca
Makeup Kelsey Deenihan at The Wall Group using mark.
Hair Styling Aaron light at Celestine Agency using Living Proof
Styling Assistants Courtney Leday and Marc Graham
Digital Imaging Jon Norris