I’ve worked with Mr. Satō ever since I was eight, and he’s like a second father to me (by the way, my previous guest was my “second mother”). He’s a veteran when it comes to directing the Japanese voice-overs of foreign movies, and he’s directed countless blockbusters. Lately he’s also directed animations and games. I’ve had the privilege of working in many of his productions up to today.
Simply put, my feelings toward him are summed up in a single word: respect! In any event, Mr. Satō‘s directing is always filled with love! Love for the story, love for each character, and love for the actors and staff. Looking at Mr. Satō shows me what it means to be a professional. Someone who can pour heartfelt love into his work is a true craftsman, wouldn’t you agree? Of course I’m not alone when I say this—a multitude of actors look up to him with absolute trust and respect. The proof lies in the parties held several times per year at Mr. Satō‘s residence (in summer it becomes a beer garden!) that attract a crowd of actors and are really lively affairs! (His wife’s home cooking is also simply marvelous.)
Mr. Satō is quite popular, but in the workplace he still has a slightly scary (?) aura to him. I first met him when I was eight, so I still recall vividly how stern he appeared to me at the time, and I’m still nervous when he’s around. So when I asked for his answers here, I honestly trembled to think of what answers might come back. What does Mr. Satō actually see when he looks at the actress Maaya Sakamoto?! Hyahh, I’ve got butterflies in my stomach.
1) What was your first impression of Maaya Sakamoto?
As I recall, you were in fourth grade around that time. You were a dauntless, dainty girl with a wispy-yet-robust voice, and it occurred to me that you’d stand out as a child actress.
In voice work it’s common for an adult woman to play the role of a child, but it can’t compare to having a child of the character’s age play the role. Still, beyond providing that childish feel, it doesn’t become “acting” unless you can express emotions. You were a talented girl whose skills eclipsed adults’, and your knack for acting out childlike innocence believably made you feared by the grown-ups around you.
2) Compared with that, what’s your current impression?
I’m pleased you’ve worked so hard, as I hoped you would. The Maaya who was feared by adults has now grown up, and now I think you’re feared more and more by child actresses, because you still have that touch for playing child roles.
3) Tell us about an event or production that left a strong impression.
Your first role was a young dinosaur, right? “The Land Before Time”. Since then you’ve played well in numerous roles. Recently that’s been “Romeo and Juliet” (ANB Sunday Movie), “Star Wars: Episode 1” (in theaters), Rachel Green in “ER” (NHK), “My Summer Vacation” (video game) etc…
4) Maaya Sakamoto is like _____. (An animal, plant, person, color—anything goes)
If you were an animal, a hamster. If a plant, a Manchurian violet. If a color, sapphire.
5) In your eyes, what is Maaya Sakamoto’s charm?
Maybe your ability to latch onto a role.
I think you win just about every role you audition for, but somehow you match that role to your character and make it your own.
6) Is there anything you wish she’d stop doing?
Nothing in particular. I want you to keep that positive attitude.
7) Is there anything you anticipate for Maaya Sakamoto’s future? Problems, hopes, roles you’d like her to play?
I kind of feel like your range as an actress is narrow. Sometimes I think a selfish and brazen Maaya would have a new sort of charm to her.
8) Lastly, put whatever you’d like in a message to Maaya Sakamoto.
It’s said there aren’t many who are successful from their years as a child actress.
As one of those few successes, I hope you’ll give your very best effort.
I don’t mind if you’re pulled toward the allure of the stage, and I think continuing to sing as a singer/songwriter would be fun. But remember to set aside some energy for the work of breathing a soul into words and expressing them in voice acting.
In any case, since you’re making these sorts of things your life work, it’s OK to go all out, but as you’re having fun keep close watch on how much you are personally enjoying yourself, which is the barometer for how much other people enjoy your work.
Maaya Sakamoto’s Response
I feel humbled. Really humbled. Normally I don’t get to hear these kinds of things in person. Mr. Satō, thank you so very much.
As you wrote, the first production we worked on together was Spielberg’s “Mysterious Land of the Dinosaurs: The Land Before Time”. But back then I was in third grade. I played the part of a headstrong young girl dinosaur. In a scene where she jumped and shouted, “Yah!” I couldn’t hit that line no matter how hard I tried, and I remember you came out and stood next to me and showed me how I should say the line as you jumped alongside me. In the middle of saying “Yah!” and jumping over and over, my foot caught on the mic cable and I tripped and fell. For some reason I felt really embarrassed and burst into tears. When that happened, you kept your stern demeanor and said, “OK, you’ve got it now, right? Let’s record the line,” and right away pulled me back into work mode. In the 15 years since that day, I’ve kept a resolve to never say, “I can’t,” no matter what happens. I feel like you were the one who taught me how to have that strength that day.
And you pointed out that my range is narrow! Yes, I’ll keep that in mind and work on it. Brazen, eh? It’s because I’m such a modest woman, you know. My true colors always show through! Hahaha!
Lately we’ve seen each other practically every week for recording “ER: Season 8”. My character, Rachel, is a girl in a rebellious phase. I’m hoping I can act out a strong-willed craftiness that befits a teenager. The broadcast starts next spring, so don’t forget to watch.