• Kyodo

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Japanese actor Ken Watanabe said Wednesday he felt honored after being nominated the previous day for a Tony Award for his role in the Broadway musical “The King and I.”

“It is truly an honor to be recognized as one of the five (nominees in the Best Leading Actor in a Musical prize),” Watanabe said in Japanese at a news conference at the Lincoln Center Theater in New York, where the show is playing.

“The King and I” itself earned nine Tony Award nominations, the winners of which will be announced June 7.

In the musical, set in the 19th century in what is now Thailand, Watanabe plays the king of Siam who develops a bond with teacher Anna Leonowens after she is invited to the country to teach his children English.

After the musical’s opening in mid-April, Watanabe received scathing remarks about his English skills, but he said in the news conference, “You don’t have to be a native speaker. (What is important is) to make sure the meaning can be conveyed.”

Commenting on how rare it is for a Japanese actor to be chosen for a lead role in a Broadway musical, Watanabe said, “I was chosen because they wanted something different,” adding sometimes differences can help spark new things.

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