Haruka Abe is an Anglo-Japanese actress based in London, United Kingdom. Born in Tokyo, Haruka spent her childhood split between New York, London, and Tokyo, moving between the three cities with her family. Catch her in Snake Eyes as the head of security for the Arashikage Clan, Akiko.
NEIL BUI (NB): So you’ve been in other films and tv shows so it’s safe to say you’re no first-time actress but if I’ve done my homework correctly this is the first time you’ve made it as an action figure. How does it feel knowing that there’s toy merchandise out there that children are playing with that is based on a character that you’ve brought to life?
HARUKA ABE (HA): I mean I am so excited about it you know I love my toys. I have a toy shelf in my house. She’s definitely going up there as the crown jewel. And I’m just so excited by the idea of little girls and boys around the world can play with this badass female character as an action figure. I think that’s really awesome.
NB: What was the biggest challenge that you encountered in entering the G.I. Joe universe as this new character Akiko?
HA: Definitely, the fight training because Akiko’s such a skilled fighter and that’s not something you can really fake. So I had to really get into the training and go through the grind. We spent two months training every day, four hours daily with the stunt team who were amazing to work with and they were our senseis. So they taught us how to handle these weapons and fight with these weapons. So that would be my daily routine to train with them and then I’d go home with my practice weapons made out of foam and go straight to the gym and practice on my own for another couple of hours. So that was quite challenging, but I just wanted to do the character justice. It was definitely worth it and I had a great time.
NB: I loved every action sequence in the film. I’m curious what was your favorite to film?
HA: They were all very fun, but my character does a lot of jumping from high places which was very thrilling because I’m not a huge fan of heights. So it felt quite empowering to be able to do that.
NB: I understand that you were born in Tokyo and you’ve lived in New York and London as a child, and you eventually returned to Japan as a teenager. What was it like returning to Japan to film Snake Eyes?
HA: It was quite bizarre because I barely filmed anything in Japan, maybe I’ve done a couple of projects in Japan, but it feels like my work life and my family life feels so separate. But because I got to spent two months there filming Snake Eyes, I got to see my family on my days off which was quite jarring. I’ve always wanted to work in Japan as well so it felt like a homecoming and it was very exciting.
NB: Speaking of Japan, when you were filming in Vancouver how well in your opinion did the sets resemble Japan?
HA: They did such a fantastic job, it did resemble Japan a lot. Most of the scenes we shot in Vancouver were like interior scenes. The car chase scene was shot in Vancouver, but obviously, going to Japan to film on these practical locations was a completely different story and it was really awesome to be able to do that.
NB: I want to dive in a little deeper into your character because there was so much to her character that I would describe as mysterious just because there’s a lot of untold stories she talks about the scar from the last time she trusted someone and why she is so loyal to the Arashikage due to having a lonely origin, did the producers or writers tell you anything that you know that wasn’t shown on screen?
HA: Yes, there were some scenes or dialogue that got cut out before we started filming but because we had like two months of prep where we got to really do like serious text work with the director, the other cast, so some of those details got cut out because for this film we wanted to really focus on Snake and his brotherhood with Tommy. But yes, I did get some info on her background and I also got to expand on that too so I have some backstory that I came up with based on the information that the writers and the director gave me.
NB: Hopefully we can find some of that stuff out in a director’s cut. Or we can see more of Akiko in a sequel. If I read the production notes correctly, I think it was Henry who needed the most martial arts training by not being as trained as Andrew or yourself. Is it that true you had some familiarity with martial arts?
HA: I was probably on the same level as Henry in terms of any previous martial art training. I’ve done some like boxing and capoeira and I trained in dance but I’ve never fought with weapons before and I was actually really amazing to learn that Henry had never done any martial arts films before because he is so awesome in this film. He really put in the effort that was required to do justice to this character. And he really nailed it.
NB: There’s another aspect of Akiko’s character that I was really fond of and it was her loyalty to the Arashikage, that dutiful loyalty to family that I saw play off of what Tommy had and what Snake Eyes had. Where Snake Eyes had a lack of family, Tommy being born into the Arashikage, and Akiko having that unique path of “this is my family now I will do anything to protect them.” Where did you base that characteristic off?
HA: It’s in human nature to want that connection and the need for somewhere that you can feel like you belong, so that was definitely very relatable for me. I think she definitely sees a bit of herself in Snake, in the sense that he also yearns for that connection. Her relationship with Tommy is a bit like this sibling thing of him keeping to putting down Akiko because of his [status as] the prince of the family. That was quite relatable as well. Hopefully, it’s all drawn from real human feelings and the character comes across as being grounded.
NB: There’s that scene when Snake Eyes is going through the last of the three trials and just when you think he’s not gonna make it out of there alive, Akiko jumps in and saves him. And she feels what I feel like all the fans in the audience felt, “hey he doesn’t deserve to go out this way.” What would you say was Akiko’s motivation in choosing to save him knowing that “if he doesn’t pass, he doesn’t pass?”
HA: She sees his vulnerability and she had started to care for him because she understands his backstory and what he so desperately wants so I think she started to feel kind of protective of him and she wants him to do okay, not get hurt.
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins stars Henry Golding as Snake Eyes, a tenacious loner who is welcomed into an ancient Japanese clan called the Arashikage after saving the life of their heir apparent. Upon arrival in Japan, the Arashikage teach Snake Eyes the ways of the ninja warrior while also providing something he’s been longing for: a home. But, when secrets from his past are revealed, Snake Eyes’ honor and allegiance will be tested – even if that means losing the trust of those closest to him. Based on the iconic G.I. Joe character, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins also stars Andrew Koji as Storm Shadow, Úrsula Corberó as Baroness, Samara Weaving as Scarlett, Haruka Abe as Akiko, Tahehiro Hira as Kenta and Iko Uwais as Hard Master.
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