Polish soap opera gives actor a chance to shine

Kyodo

A Japanese actor has been enjoying popularity among Poles after joining the cast of Poland’s most-watched soap opera.

Hiroaki Murakami, 30, has gained popularity with his appearance in the soap opera “M jak Milosc” (“L for Love”) constantly hitting high notes in viewer ratings. The show, which has been on for 13 years, depicts the lives of a three-generation family centered on an elderly couple.

Murakami plays the role of Taro — a student at a Polish language facility at a Japanese university who travels to Poland on an overseas study program. He debuted in the twice-a-week series during an episode aired in September, when Taro was introduced to the audience as a part-time worker at a pub run by the couple’s grandchild.

“Through acting you can break down the language barrier,” said Murakami, who had not been so successful in real life earlier. He had graduated from a high school in Hiroshima but failed to enter his chosen university. At the time, when he was concerned about his future and with no specified plan, he saw “Trzy kolory” (“Three Colors”), a trilogy by famed Polish film director and screenwriter Krzysztof Kieslowski. Murakami went to Poland in summer 2005, impressed with this intelligent yet mysterious piece, he said.

“I wanted to learn more about the culture of the (trilogy’s) director’s country,” Murakami said. He said, however, that he had no aspirations to be an actor at that time.

The acting classes he took while enrolled in a Polish language course became for him part of the language training. Encouraged by others who noticed his talent, Murakami decided to join the theatrical circle at a university he was enrolled in. He then managed to pass entrance examinations to the highly competitive Ludwik Solski Academy for the Dramatic Arts in Krakow, Poland, scoring a victory over the 50 to 70 other candidates competing for one place.

Since then Murakami has appeared in several stage roles, including that of Polish-French composer Frederic Chopin, but his appearance in several TV commercials made his name well known among people in the television business. The role of Taro in the “M jak Milosc” series has been written especially for Murakami, whose stage performance was recognized by the series’ production team.

“We were searching for someone who would help us show the cultural diversity and weak points in Polish culture by introducing a role of a foreigner to the script, which was the aim of the scriptwriter,” said Krzysztof Lukasiewicz, the series’ director. “He was the right person.”

“(Murakami) is intelligent and he’s someone you enjoy working with,” the director said.

Murakami said his parents have never disapproved of his choice, encouraging him to make his own decisions. “I felt they were surprised that I had chosen Poland, though,” he said, laughing.