PHOTOS: Katie Levine
TALENT: Karen Fukuhara
STYLING: Kim Johnson
HAIR: Derek Yuen at A-Frame
INTERVIEW: Erin Moriarty
PRODUCER: Jasmine Perrier
This feature is taken from Grumpy Magazine’s ISSUE NO.16, available now in digital and print worldwide
In support of the return of Amazon’s highly praised show The Boys, whose season 2 premiered on September 4th, we wanted to reunite Karen Fukuhara with her co-star Erin Moriarty — who plays Annie January/Starlight — for a unique one-on-one conversation. When we asked Erin to join us, she was immediately keen to hear more about Karen in a personal way and her silent character Kimiko/The Female, whose backstory gets more revealed in the second season. Born in Los Angeles and coming from a first-generation immigrant family, the Japanese-American actress is no longer a stranger to Hollywood. Raised in a household where both cultures cohabited, she made her big screen debut in 2016 as Katana in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. With her standout portrayals of intense and complex characters, Karen is fueled by her passion for acting that she intends to pursue with perseverance.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. This is only an extract.
First impressions of each other…
ERIN MORIARTY: I remember we had a girls’ night with Dom [Dominique McElligott] and it was really fun. We got margaritas.[…] How badly I wish you’d have been in it from the beginning — because you came in for episode 4. Not that there was any void left by the cast members, but you had such a vibe about you that was the most easy-going kind. I was very happy you were there all the time [for] season 2.
KAREN FUKUHARA: That’s so nice of you to say — I never knew that! I remember this rooftop hang, because you put it together. You and Jack [Quaid] are the best at it, and I’m so thankful for that because we wouldn’t have this kind of friendship without you guys. And you and Dom [Dominique McElligott] were trying to work out a scene that you did. It was really nice that you could give each other your opinions. Sometimes actors are weird about that, and I felt immediately comfortable knowing that if I ever had anything like that on set, I could come to you.
On her background in sociology and martial arts…
EM: I didn’t realize that you earned a BA in Sociology and Theater from UCLA, and you were interested in martial arts. Has the combination helped impact who you are as an actor and what you seek out in roles?
KF: In terms of martial arts, I was pretty serious about it back in high school and I used to compete in it. That taught me a lot of discipline which bleeds into every aspect of life. Especially in acting, you’re sometimes working towards something that feels as if there is no light at the end of the tunnel — all these failed auditions, having doubts about making that choice to go down this path… […] Then for the sociology major, it taught me a lot about being even more empathetic towards marginalized people. I didn’t realize the importance of asking, “Why am I thinking that way? Why does this have to be that way?“ If you’re looking at a character, you have to realize the circumstances she is in, understand why she is these things.
On approaching the role of Kimiko/The Female on The Boys…
KF: It’s so funny — I got the part [and] I read all the comics. I like to keep the essence of the character from the original to respect the source of the material. I really wanted her to keep the connection she has with Frenchie, and have that highlighted in our show. That was my main thing — initially, I thought she was a sociopath because of her upbringing in the comics. So I was researching a lot about mental disorders, but she starts to change because she cares about Frenchie. Then, I talked to Eric [Kripke] on the phone, and he said, “She is not a sociopath at all, she is very much a regular girl that was put into these unfortunate circumstances and journey of gaining her humanity back as we go.”
EM: Kripke’s done a really good job at making sure we stay empowered in every way that we can.
On portraying a silent character and learning sign language…
KF: I really enjoyed my sign language in season 2. It’s a made-up language, but I got to work with Amanda Richer who’s the sign language coach for The Shape of Water. That in itself got me excited to begin with. And then, going into it, I knew it would open up this whole new world to Kimiko, different from season 1. The whole body experience — it’s another way of connecting with someone, and I had never felt that with actual words before. [After] talking to Amanda about her own experiences in being someone that is deaf in this world, you start thinking about the little things we take for granted. That was a huge learning experience for me playing Kimiko.
EM: I bet. It was really when I saw Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water, that I became aware of how much you can emote by being silent and how taking this unconventional approach to a character in acting can be even more interesting. You’ve got this character who is unambiguously the most powerful on The Boys, and she doesn’t speak. I like that reminder that silence doesn’t equate with weakness, which our society sometimes conditions us to believe.
On her best takeaway from being in the industry…
EM: Your work ethic is so strong that I can’t imagine another human being in the universe who could have played the role like you have. Is there anything surprising that you’ve learned about yourself through the process of becoming an actor, and finding your place in this industry?
KF: That’s a good question. It’s not about me, but just the fact that it’s never too late to start. When I graduated high school, I wasn’t good enough to apply at colleges for theater because I didn’t really have the foundation for it. I remember distinctly my mom saying, “Why don’t you go try out for a theater troupe in Japan? They can teach you everything, and that could also be a way into the industry without going to college.” I so badly wanted to try, but I didn’t believe in myself or I was too scared to audition. I don’t regret going to college at all — it’s helped me learn what it’s like to be in a college setting if I ever have to play a role, and I think that’s pretty important.
On other career opportunities she would be interested in pursuing…
KF: I will always want acting to be my main focus, and I don’t like to get sidetracked. But I’m so passionate about food — I’d love to come out with a restaurant bar, or doing like a tasting or cooking show. What’s beautiful about our career is that a lot of people do that. I’m not sure if now is the right time to do it, but eventually, I want to. […] I really miss Dailo, because we’ve gone with the cast and [it] was such a good spot to meet up at.
EM: That’s so funny — I’ve only been thinking about Toronto restaurants. Shoutout to Anton Potvin, he treats us so well. The food [at Dailo] is phenomenal.
On her ultimate life goal…
KF: My career goal is to be an actor, but my bigger life goal is to be the bridge between Japan and America. That is a really big dream and it can be manifested in various ways — through the introduction of food, or it could be through me being an actor in both countries. There are a lot of stories in Japan that we don’t know about.
EM: I love that, that makes a lot of sense. I know you can do that. It’s a matter of hard work which is inherent to you.