It is hard to deny the draw of a film set in São Paulo, Brazil, that is filled with action and Yakuza, but this is the premise of the new film Yakuza Princess. Based on the comic Samurai Shiro, Yakuza Princess takes viewers to the streets in an action-packed journey of crime and corruption. Featuring actors such as Jonathan Rhys Meyers and the feature film debut of MASUMI, it is made for the people that love action, crime and genre cinema.
At the center of the film, Akemi, the titular Yakuza Princess (played by pop star MASUMI), discovers that she is the heiress to half of Japan’s expansive Yakuza crime syndicate. While not a stranger to the limelight this marks the first feature film for MASUMI. CGMagazine sat down for a remote chat with the pop star/actor, to discuss the film, what is next, and why genre fans should be excited for Yakuza Princess.
CGMagazine: What drew you to Yakuza Princess and want to take on this role?
MASUMI: When I first got the script and learned about Akemi, I was really surprised with how similar her and my situation felt. I was born in America but grew up in Japan, I’ve always had this identity and belonging crisis. Akemi goes through that. So, the things that she has to overcome to make her film, was something that I related to.
CGMagazine: How do you feel about Yakuza Princess being part of the Fantasia Festival and what are your takes on how this film will do worldwide?
MASUMI: This was my first movie at a festival. So, I’m excited. I think because it’s a cross-cultural story between Japan and Brazil, a lot of people going to find it unique and interesting.
CGMagazine: How do you think a film like this helps represent different voices?
MASUMI: It’s great that it’s not just an Asian American but a Japanese female actress as being a leader, it’s quite rare to see and I would like to see more of that. I love the fact that this Asian Japanese female lead is not sexualized, she’s not a sexy fighter. She’s just a girl that is a badass.
I want to see more of this kind of role, somebody that has layers, that’s not just one colored Asian girl in it. As more movies like this come out, I think it’s going to give us more opportunities. And it’s going to lead to more of this kind of movie.
CGMagazine: What genres are you drawn to? If you were not in Yakuza Princess, would this be a Yakuza Princess be one you want to watch?
MASUMI: Absolutely. This movie is very beautiful. First of all, the type of actors that are in this movie are incredible. The actors that were cast in Brazil, I was blown away because they were so good. I was kind of scared.
Some of the gangsters in the movie from Brazil play their parts so well. I was very cautious with them until I got to know them in the beginning. And there are so many great actors, like Jonathan Rhys Meyers. He had a son but grew up as an idol. There’s so much to see in this movie. It is so beautiful and exciting. I would want to be in a movie like this again.
CGMagazine: What’s your next goal, do you want to pursue more films like this or go to TV?
MASUMI: This is my first of everything. I was never thinking of becoming an actress. So, this landed in my lap out of nowhere. Doing most of my stunts, that was the new thing. Martial Arts and sword fighting is a new thing. Everything’s new. So, it was a lot to take in.
“It’s an action-packed adventure.”
I’m very proud and grateful that I’ve got to do everything. And this is my beginning, I was introduced to the world. So, I would like to do more different stuff.
CGMagazine: How would you sell this film and what should people expect walking into it?
MASUMI: It’s an action-packed adventure. There are many layers to this where you just don’t know exactly what’s going to happen next. That’s one of the exciting ghostly elements about this. We’re seeing a lot of Brazil and Japanese in the Brazilian community. There’s a lot of beautiful chase scenes and fighting scenes in this movie. If you love action thrillers, this is the movie for you to watch and think about.
CGMagazine: You mentioned this was one of your first features. How was taking on a physical role that has a complexity to it and what how did you get ready for that?
MASUMI: I had one month to prepare for the action part of the movie. There was a sword fighting, kendo, stunt and martial arts that I had to learn. And since this whole thing was new to me. I was quite nervous about it. But my husband is a US martial art champion. He got to come with me to Brazil. And he eventually got cast in the movie as well. But he trained with me, I trained with Rizzoli, the fighting choreographer during the day, and trained with Kenny at night. I did a lot of training, trying to get it as good as it can be.
CGMagazine: What might people not expect from this film and what’s in the future for you?
MASUMI: It’s quite a lot of action and blood, so for my father who’s very sensitive to blood and things I don’t know if he’s going to be able to watch it.
For me in the future, acting-wise things are still up in the air. I’m waiting for things to get confirmed. Music-wise things are coming out. And if you’re following my music journey, you can find all that on my social media.
CGMagazine: Thank you so much. Where can they find you?
MASUMI: I update a lot of my Instagram which is @Masumi.music, to find the cover music. I’m on YouTube and all the music social platforms.
CGMagazine: Thank you so much. Have a great rest of your day.
MASUMI: You too.