Japanese actor Kento Yamazaki might be all of 24 years old (granted, he’ll turn 25 in September), but he’s already found a representative work: his latest movie, Kingdom.
Lest we spiral into a ‘What do you do successfully? Quickly!’ moment as we list out the number of accolades he has to his name, we’ll just leave one more nugget of information here: he did so well in the Japanese adaptation of The Good Doctor that he won the Best Actor award at the 98th Television Drama Academy Awards in Japan last year after coming in first in all three categories: viewers’ vote, special judges’ vote, and TV journalists’ vote.
Kento, who is dubbed the Prince of Live Action films, has been the lead in numerous manga-to-screen adaptations, with his role as L in 2015 drama Death Note as one of the most well-remembered projects.
All that, however, will likely be eclipsed by his work in Kingdom. The action-adventure film was adapted from the manga of the same name, as is set in the warring states period of ancient China. His character Shin (known in Chinese history as Li Xin), starts out life as a slave but is spurred on by his one dream to become the greatest general in all of China.
A week after the movie crossed the 4.5 billion yen (S$56.6 million) mark in the Japanese box office alone, Kento popped by Singapore ahead of its launch here. In a 15-minute press conference at the Sands Theatre, he displayed a maturity that’s beyond his years, which would also explain how he’s managed to convey emotions that many same-aged folks might not be able to do so.
“There’s a very important scene in the movie where I have to say goodbye to my best friend,” the actor mused. “The manga’s author, Yasuhisa Hara, personally told us that this was a pivotal scene and asked for us to pay special importance to it.”
Thankfully, the end result was something that everyone was happy with, and has resonated strongly with audiences.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, however, as there were plenty of light-hearted moments on set.
Kento chuckled that he and his co-star, Ryo Yoshizawa, are close in real life and sometimes had trouble keeping a straight face when taking on serious scenes.
“We had to film a scene where we were fighting with wooden swords. We were supposed to be serious but the swords kept slipping. Even then, we had to hold it in for the cameras, but we collapsed with laughter the moment the director said ‘cut’,” he grinned.
As for critics’ reviews that the young actor has already found a representative work in his career despite his young age, Kento shared that he has his own way of viewing this milestone.
“I was excited to take on the role of Shin, but at the same time, there was a certain amount of pressure on me because this is a very well-known and loved manga series,” he explained. “Just like Shin, I told myself that all I had to do was to put in 100 per cent of my effort all the time, and everything else would fall into place.”
Wise words to live by, indeed.
Kingdom opens in cinemas on June 20.