National

American actress first non-Japanese tapped for NHK series lead

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

American actress Charlotte Kate Fox was tapped Tuesday to play a lead role in NHK’s upcoming morning drama series “Massan,” based on the true story of Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of Japan’s whiskey industry.

With the selection, Fox becomes the first non-Japanese actress to play one of the main characters in the public broadcaster’s perennial, limited-run “Morning Drama.”

Fox will play Taketsuru’s Scottish wife, Rita, in the series, whose 150 15-minute episodes will begin airing in September, according to NHK.

“I am very honored, and still can’t believe I am standing in front of you now,” Fox said during a news conference in Tokyo.

The 28-year-old won out over more than 500 actresses who also auditioned for the role. According to NHK, this is the New Mexico native’s first appearance in a Japanese TV drama.

“I did mainly theater and some independent films in the United States,” Fox said.

It was also revealed that actor Tetsuji Tamayama would play Taketsuru in the series.

“Massan” will be the 91st installment in NHK’s Renzoku Terebi Shosetsu (serial TV novel) series, which began airing in 1961 and typically runs for six months on weekday and Saturday mornings.

According to NHK, “Massan” will kick off in the Taisho Era (1912-1926) as Taketsuru, the son of a local sake brewer in Osaka, leaves Japan to study whiskey-making in Scotland. There, he meets his future wife and the two return to Japan as the country enters a turbulent time following the end of World War I.

The first part of the series will be loosely based on the early years of Taketsuru and Rita’s relationship, but the names of some of the characters will be altered. Fox’s character will go by the name Ellie.

The second half traces the couple’s challenges building whiskey distilleries in Hokkaido and facing the Pacific War.

Series writer Daisuke Habara, winner of the Japan Academy Award for best screenplay in 2006 for his work on “Hula Girls,” has said that though “Massan” will be based on true events, it will include fictional, humorous plot twists.

NHK’s morning drama slot has aired some of the most popular television programs in Japan, including “Oshin” in 1983 and last year’s hit, “Amachan.”