Audiences at the opening of the Tokyo International Film Festival had the opportunity to watch Nakajima Kento perform in Fragments of the Last Will (aka From Siberia With Love), Takahisa Zeze’s melodrama about returning from the front lines after World War II, his acting range expanded.
A J-pop star with a huge following, Nakajima is committed to making acting a bigger part of his future career. With a youthful appearance and a good knowledge of English, he has a good chance of attracting international attention next.
Typical of Japanese industry, his education in the entertainment industry was long and arduous. It included a stint with Johnny’s Jr. music act BI Shadow and four years of multidisciplinary training at the almighty talent agency Johnny & Associates before being unleashed as part of the idol group Sexy Zone.
The agency training obstacle course is designed to weed out the weak while developing a range of skills in music, dance, speech and acting. “Many days we had to get up at 5 a.m.,” says Nakajima. He also looks back wryly at the misguided encouragement. “I remember Mr. Johnny always complimented my parents for sending me to piano school. He praised her. I don’t,” Nakajima said.
“We have trained many skills. But something I learned through my training was to respond to the rhythm of things,” Nakajima said. That meant finding the rhythm of the performance, but also going into acting with the increasing flow.
“I hope people can see the dedication to my craft in my performances. I really love acting, bringing life to a role. And I love making very different types of characters,” said Nakajima.
In Japan, Nakajima has had increasingly prominent roles in TV movies (“Castle of Sand”), motion pictures (“Teen Bride” and “Nisekoi: False Love”), and drama series (NTV’s “Detective Novice”, Fuji TV’s “She Was Pretty”). Recently he was the star of the Doomed Love original film My Dearest, Like a Cherry Blossom produced by Toho Studios for Netflix.
Nakajima spent the middle of this year in Europe working on his first international series role in Frank Doelger’s surveillance drama Concordia, executive producer of Game of Thrones. The premise is a society controlled by artificial intelligence in the interest of fairness, but after 20 years the mystery behind its creation threatens to destroy the system. Nakajima stars alongside Christiane Paul, Steven Sowah and Ruth Bradley (“Ted Lasso”) and plays AJ, the teenage prodigy who keeps technology running.
“AJ is the Asian tech guy. He’s a very smart and cool person who gets more arrogant with time but is still someone who deserves respect,” Nakajima said. “We had a very international crew of British, American, French, German and Italian who were all very inclusive. After a few initial difficulties caused by not working in my mother tongue, I felt much more comfortable and discovered some of the many things [moviemaking the world over] has in common.”
After “Concordia”, whose partners include ZDF, MBC, France Televisions and Hulu Japan, Nakajima says he is looking for other international roles. His tastes are decidedly mainstream, naming Top Gun: Maverick and 50 Shades of Gray as current favorites. And he sees himself moving into a creative leadership role one day. “I have often been involved with a production capacity on Sexy Zone and am interested in creating a 360-degree experience for fans,” said Nakajima. But performance – music and acting – will remain his priorities in the short to medium term.
Given his ongoing efforts to nurture fandom, particularly through his blog, Kenty Time, it would be a surprise if he gave up on this so quickly. Fans in Japan are nothing if they are not engaged. “I create a hashtag and in a short time they trended it. They are amazing. You’ve never let me down,” Nakajima said.
The next trick will be to replicate that loyalty abroad.
https://variety.com/2022/tv/news/nakajima-kento-japan-music-film-tv-1235468757/ Japan’s Nakajima Kento poised for international breakthrough