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Friday, May 02, 2014

Seeing double? - the trend of actors taking on multiple dramas in a single season

Came across this column article from Umeda Keiko which talks about the trend of more actors appearing in multiple dramas within the same season especially those who are in leading roles. I think it's quite interesting to see how the good actors are so much in demand and that they call the shots in taking on more roles now instead of being tied to one drama per season.

So what do you think of this trend? I don't actually mind it if it's my favourite actors (the more I see them, the better)but if the dramas happen to be in the same timeslot, it doesn't make a lot of commercial sense for an actor to appear in dramas which are direct competitors with each other because that will only cannibalise the ratings. Scheduling conflicts plus the added workload are also key factors to consider. Of course, Japan's dramas don't seem to have the same tight scheduling or live-shoot problems which we hear a lot about for Korean dramas (actors getting involved in accidents or falling sick due to the punishing filming schedule) but if an actor takes on significant roles in multiple dramas, the number of scenes to be shot will be high and that will translate into more hours spent on filming. If they get sufficient rest and can do their best in each of the dramas they appear in, I think there's nothing stopping these actors from taking on more work now that TV stations can't stop them from doing so anymore. From the agencies' point of view, more work equals more commission income so they should be happy about this as long as the actors don't complain.

There are about 15 actors/actresses who have roles in various dramas in the Spring 2014 drama. It is said that this trend is due to the weakening powers of TV stations to dictate what actors can take on.

Two actors have caught the eye of reporters in the broadcasting field i.e. Odagiri Joe and Tanihara Shosuke for being significant examples of this new trend. In Odagiri's case, he is the lead character i.e. private detective in "Reverse Edge Okawabata Tanteisha", a police detective with warped morals in "Gokuaku Ganbo" and a news reporter in "Arisu no Toge". On the other hand, Tanihara plays a forensic researcher in "White Labo", a police detective in "SMOKING GUN" and also appears as Takenaka Shigeharu in the NHK Taiga "Gunshi Kanbee". The similarity between the two of them is that they both hold significant roles in each of the dramas they appear in and the occupations their characters are in are quite similar.

According to a veteran from a private network, taking on multiple roles across dramas from different stations was only allowed in the past if the other drama was a Taiga. Even if someone has three or four dramas in the same season, those actors would usually be playing small and supporting roles.

Actors who tend to be sought-after by NHK and the private networks are usually those known for their acting skills. With more dramas being made these days including those from BS stations, the likelihood of the same actors being chosen by producers is higher now. In the past, TV stations could ask the actors' agencies to avoid taking on multiple dramas in the same season. However, with the power balance shift, TV stations can no longer order agencies to do the same now so actors are free to take on as many dramas as they wish even if they fall within the same season.

Usually, those who tend to be very popular with producers are those who have honed their acting skills from stage plays. They tend to be able to take on roles with varying degrees of significance and are flexible enough to play any type of character. Using the spring 2014 season as an example, actors who come from theatrical backgrounds such as Namase Katsuhisa (Hanasaki Mai ga damatte inai, MOZU), Osugi Ren (White Labo, Hanasaki Mai ga damatte inai), Endo Kenichi (Long Goodbye, BORDER), Furuta Arata (Long Goodbye, BORDER) and Takito Kenichi (Ore no Dandy-ism, Long Goodbye, BORDER) are all involved in more than one drama this season. Even for those who aren't from theatrical background such as Mashima Hidekazu, he is involved in "Gunshi Kanbee" and plays the late father of Ueno Juri in "Arisu no Toge" although he only appears in flashbacks. Last season, he was also seen in "Kinkyuu Torishirabeshitsu" as Amami Yuki's late husband. Another example would be Kagawa Teruyuki who is involved in two TBS dramas i.e. "MOZU" and "Roosevelt Game" and they are both significant roles.

As the drama scene has been languishing in low ratings for a long time, securing safe bets in the cast i.e. strong actors is important and understandable. However, there is the risk of confusion e.g. playing a good guy in one drama and a baddie in another and viewers getting sick of seeing the same people all the time on their TV screens.

3 comments:

lontongstroong said...
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lontongstroong said...

Well, the same thing already happens in JMovie scene, we're already tired to see the same group of actors (with varying range of ages) monopolizing meaty and good roles from time to time even though they are the excellent ones. Only tiny chances whatsoever for the rests of the good actors who don't belong t0 the cliche to get these roles. Come on, why don't these producers risk themselves to cast some of the very good "unknowns" and underrated ones to do the job?

Chiaki said...

Well, just like TV stations, movie companies want to ensure that their investment can bring in "assured returns". As such, not many would dare to use newbies or untested names to take on leading roles. Of course, there are exceptions such as Nakashima Mika who is a singer but debuted as an actress in a leading role at the same time. However, such examples are probably of the minority than the norm due to commercial concerns.