Shogun’s Moeka Hoshi on Cross-Cultural Fame, Comic Relief, and the Joys of Portraying a Fan Favorite

Spoilers

Adapting a 1,200-page historical novel into a ten-episode limited series is a gamble under any circumstances.

Toss in the fact that most of the dialogue would be in subtitled Japanese, and it sounds like the sort of proposal that might send many American TV execs scrambling for the warm familiarity of a police procedural.

But when FX and Hulu decided to harken back to the prestige literary limited series of yesteryear (Roots, Lonesome Dove, etc.), they didn’t cut any corners or hedge their bets.

Rather, they went all-in with a massive budget and showed absolute trust in a creative team led by the husband-and-wife team of Justin Marks and Rachel Kondo.

The process yielded numerous surprises.

For starters, Shogun quickly established itself as one of the most acclaimed series of the year.

Related: Shogun Series Premiere Review: A Violent Clash of Cultures In Feudal Japan

Better yet (from FX and Hulu’s perspective), the show proved so wildly popular with viewers that it shed its “limited series” label and scored a second-season renewal.

To top it all off, Shogun introduced American audiences to some of Japan’s most gifted stars.

Among the talents who were previously unknown stateside is Moeka Hoshi.

Fuji Contemplates - Shogun Season 1 Episode 10

Arguably the show’s breakout star, Moeka navigated difficult waters with her portrayal of Usami Fuji, offering up moments of both high comedy and abject tragedy, sometimes in the space of a single scene.

Not surprisingly, her nuanced depiction of the recently widowed samurai has earned her a whole new fan base in the English-speaking world.

We sat down with Moeka to talk about her performance, her new level of fame, and the unexpected joy of accidental comedy.

First of all, congratulations on the renewal. I can’t wait to see what Shogun Season Two has in store.

Yeah, I’m excited too!

Fuji became a fan favorite over the course of the first season.

Were you surprised by how enthusiastically viewers reacted to the character? How does it feel knowing that the audience responded to her in such a positive way?

Fuji Fights - Shogun Season 1 Episode 7

I can’t believe that I became a bit popular outside of Japan, even though I’m a known actor in Japan.

I’m in LA now, actually. I saw a big poster billboard of me, and I was so surprised. Wow. Domo. But I’m so happy. Just really, really happy.

I have no sense of the fandom personally. It hasn’t really hit me yet. 

I think the fans have brought on the hype, which has led me to where I am now with Shogun. So, above all, I’m very, very, very thankful and grateful for the fans.

Fuji’s story begins with tragedy, but she winds up having a lot of great comedic moments throughout the show. Was it ever difficult balancing those two aspects of the character?

I sometimes think back to the beginning, the initial balance between that tragedy and the comedic moments in Shogun. I think overall, humans persevere. We carry these heavy, difficult things with us, but we live.

Fuji on Shogun Season 1 Episode 4

I personally have not lost my husband or child, but I have lost family. So, I use that to create where Fuji is at the beginning of Shogun. Also, the realization when I think about people I’ve lost in the past, I’m just not sad for two, three months straight. People aren’t like that, naturally.

So, I recall those memories. Also, I remember times when I’ve had to be tough, and I reallt just folded that into Fuji. As far as the comedic parts, it wasn’t on purpose.

I was just doing my best in the moment. Yeah, and I would hear laughter on set.

Related: Shogun Season 1 Episode 10 Review: A Dream of a Dream

So, that big dinner scene, there’s Buntaro, there’s Cosmo (Jarvis), and Anna (Sawai).

Fred (E. O. Toye) was directing. Fred would call cut, but he’d be laughing.

I thought, ‘I wasn’t laughing.’ So, it was very odd that everyone around me was laughing, but I was just in the scene. I was Fuji in the scene. That’s all I was doing. So, it was not on purpose.

Fuji Sits - Shogun Season 1 Episode 6

For a show set in a male-dominated world, Shogun showcases a number of strong female characters. Several of them are trained Samurai themselves.

During filming, did you give much thought to the ways in which your character might serve as an inspiration to female viewers?

I think historically, in those years, women were definitely under much different circumstances than they are now. I wouldn’t necessarily call it weak. It was a different roles in society back then.

But I always felt that no matter what time period we’re in, there had to have been women with that solid core who could persevere.

Although you can never say outwardly what we actually feel, I’m happy that people were able to feel strong female roles.

Because inside, I would have my own subtext and my own opinions as Fuji. But I’m glad that that subtext, what I was actually thinking, is communicated to represent strong women.

Cosmo Jarvis and Moeka Hoshi - Shogun

How meaningful was it to be a part of a production with a mostly Japanese cast that wound up finding such a huge audience and so much acclaim throughout the English-speaking world?

Yeah, I think that how well Shogun has done is perhaps historic. I really love to commend Hiro Sanada’s attention to detail and his absolute professionalism as a producer on the show.

Was absolutely amazing and made such a huge difference on the show. I’m hoping that people watching what in Japan would consider it an accurate period film.

Related: Shogun and the Return of the Prestige Limited Series: Can FX Take Us Back to the Days of Roots and Lonesome Dove?

I’m thinking that US audiences don’t get to see that very often.

So, I’m hoping that there’s more interest in Japan, but also interest in Japan with a new perspective, having seen the show.

Also, the fact that it was a co-production: Japan, Canada, we can throw US in there too. But it also shows the world the possibilities of collaboration.

Moeka Hoshi Image - Shogun

I definitely think it’s sparked a new level of interest in that era of Japanese history in the US. One of my favorite Fuji scenes was the one in which she points Blackthorne’s gun at Omi when he tries to take it away.

What do you make of her reluctant embrace of Blackthorne, despite all the tragedies that she had recently endured? Do you think she was motivated by her duty to Toranaga, or by a desire to protect and defend this foreign sailor who keeps putting himself in harm’s way?

Yeah, I think that in the setting of Shogun, Blackthorne coming on shore, he is a savage. He is an odd creature.

I definitely believe that when Fuji was assigned to be Blackthorne’s consort, that she did so completely out of duty, just has to. She’s swept up.

She has the same mentality as everyone else. He’s a savage. He smells — but I’ve been told to do this.

However, by living, being under the same roof as Blackthorne and also seeing how Mariko and Blackthorne interact, I feel that through seeing that she starts to see Blackthorne as a human — a human that can have her respect as well. So, it changes and evolves.

Mariko and Fuji - Shogun

One last question. You’ve probably been getting this one a lot lately, but here goes: What, if anything, can you tell us about Shogun Season Two?

Honestly, I don’t know anything about Season Two, or if Fuji will return. Or anything! But basically, I’m very, very happy, and it’s wonderful that there will be a Season Two.

Related: Shogun Is Going Off-Book for a Second Season. Is FX Making a Mistake?

Just as a fan of Shogun, I’m really looking forward to what comes out in Season Two.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The first season of Shogun is currently available to stream on Hulu.
 

Tyler Johnson is an Associate Editor for TV Fanatic and the other Mediavine O&O sites. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, cooking, and, of course, watching TV. You can Follow him on X and email him here at TV Fanatic.

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