Fuji Notable Producer’s Thoughts on Ryo Yoshizawa in “PICU” for Tsuki 9
On September 26, a special drama of the popular series “Inspector Asagao” starring Juri Ueno (36) will be broadcast. And “PICU: Pediatric Intensive Care Unit” (“PICU”), the first drama starring Ryo Yoshizawa (28) in a “Geki 9” series, will start on October 10 with the same staff assembled.
Although there are differences between an anatomist and a pediatrician, the main characters in both dramas are doctors who face their work with pain and conflict in the field. The two dramas are produced by Fuji Television’s drama producer Ayaka Kaneshiro.
She says, “I don’t have any big themes like, ‘What are the problems of medical care in Japan today? I’m sorry to say that I can’t say anything too big ……. I’m not very confident about my character. ……
When asked why he continues to work on medical dramas, including his former involvement in “The Good Doctor,” Mr. Kaneshiro laughed.
He is a producer who is attracting a great deal of attention in the industry for his productions of not only medical dramas but also other high-profile productions such as “SUPER RICH” starring Noriko Eguchi and “Goto no Isanjikan (The Testament of My Ex)” in the April season of Tsuki 9, but his words seem reserved and humble. The gap between his skills and his reputation lies in his strong respect for the original works and the people working in the actual medical field, as well as the perspective he values as a drama producer.
The “Medical Examiner Morning Glory,” which aired in 2019, is based on a popular comic book. The original author was very generous and allowed us to change the earthquake that the main character suffered from from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake to the Great East Japan Earthquake when dramatizing the story, and to arrange the story to be about a family that has been searching for the body of a victim of the tsunami after 8 years. He gave us permission to arrange the story to be aired in 2019. They respected and supported our intention to broadcast the film in 2019. The impetus for the production of “PICU” came from the advice of Dr. Koshi Ukiyama, a professor at Kyorin University School of Medicine and a board member of the Japanese Society of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, who served as medical supervisor on “Good Doctor,” who suggested that we make a drama about the PICU, an intensive care unit for children. It is thanks to the doctors that we were able to dramatize a situation in which I did not even know the PICU existed.
In addition to the COVID-19 crisis, Kaneshiro’s team gave top priority to the PICU, a medical facility where children’s lives are at stake.
We have been open about our visits to the PICU through Twitter and other means, but basically we have been allowed to cover the situation quietly,” he said. The children undergoing treatment, their families, the people working in the real medical field, and their suffering and hardship …… drama is a fiction, and although it can be imitated, it is not far from the truth. The difference between realism and fiction is a head-scratcher. If you want to tell reality as it is, documentary is the best way to do so, and drama should not be a documentary. We make dramas based on what we feel in the field and what moves the hearts of the people who tell us their stories. We try not to harm or hurt the feelings of the people who work there, the children who are sick or injured and their families.
In “Asagao, the Medical Examiner”, the main character Asagao Mangi, played by Juri Ueno, is an autopsy doctor who investigates the cause of death, and in “PICU” Ryo Yoshizawa plays Takeshiro Shikoda, a young and inexperienced pediatrician who is devastated by his own ineffectiveness. Neither of them is a super doctor who saves patients with his outstanding skills and knowledge.
Asagao (Juri Ueno), the medical examiner who investigates the cause of death, is no different in this “Medical Examiner: Asagao 2022 Special”. However, if a superstar could solve all problems, not just medical ones, there would be no need for the people around him. …… The actual medical field is very steady, and it is probably unacceptable that “only that person” can cure a patient. It is not allowed to be cured by an ordinary person, a person who is not a god. I strongly feel how difficult it is, and I want to depict that. The main character is not a star athlete. It is a story about a person who is about to become a doctor, until he decides to continue being a doctor as his life’s work. …… That’s the kind of story and character I want to make a big theme.”
Kaneshiro continued, “I don’t think there is originally a genre of medical drama.
If there is a romantic element, it is a love story, and if it is a coming-of-age drama, it is a coming-of-age drama. He wants to resist the current situation in which only dramas featuring doctors tend to be symbolized.
Of course there are PICUs in Hokkaido, but they are mainly intensive care units for postoperative management. I set the story in Hokkaido as a drama and fiction in the sense of depicting ‘the process of establishing a PICU in a place where there are no PICUs for sudden accidents, disasters, or emergencies such as illnesses. There is no model hospital.”
Ryo Yoshizawa, who was cast as the main character in “PICU,” is an actor “I have always wanted to work with,” he said.
There are many great actors of his generation, but Mr. Yoshizawa is in his 20s, and I think his acting is outstanding. He often attracts attention for his visual beauty, but he is also an outstanding actor. I feel like my wish has finally come true this time.
Before this interview, I had a chance to read the script. There were many scenes where I could see the expressions on Yoshizawa’s face, what kind of pauses he would make between lines, and images would pop up in my head.
I was often reminded of the scene in my mind when I saw the expression on Yoshizawa’s face or what kind of pauses he would make between lines. I consulted with the scriptwriter, saying, ‘I hope he does this,’ or ‘It would be interesting if he does this, and I think he will do it.
Akira Yasuda (48) plays the role of Gen Ueno, a pediatrician who arrives from Tokyo to establish a PICU at the hospital where Shikoda works, the second most important character after the main character.
Yasuda-san gives the impression of being a strong actor, but he is also very good at portraying the natural appearance of the people who live there. Dr. Ueno is a doctor who has fought a hundred battles and is able to face the field without “getting used to it,” despite all that has happened. I thought that Yasuda-san would be the best person to portray this kind of meticulousness. Yasuda-san was one of the actors I wanted to work with, so I am very happy to have him on board.
When I read the script for “Inspector Asagao 2022 Special,” I felt as if I had already watched it last week.
The story is set a year and a half after the end of Season 2. Like Asagao, there are times when I am troubled by the thought of my own parents because I am now a parent, but there are also times when I am able to make calm decisions because of this. The staff had the idea of “If there is a sequel, this is what it would be like,” and I feel that we were able to come up with this story rather easily. Not only for those who have been watching the “Inspector Asagao” series for a long time, but also for those who have been watching the series in bits and pieces or for those who are watching it for the first time, we hope they will enjoy it. You can relax and think, ‘These people are these people, and they were doing fine. I would be happy if you could relax and think, “These people are doing fine, and it’s good to see them. PICU” is being produced by almost the same production team that worked on “Inspector Asagao”. Mr. Yoshizawa is also very enthusiastic about his first starring role in a Tsuki 9 series, and he will do his best in filming, so please watch it when it airs! Should I make more of an appeal? I’m kind of timid after all. …… (laughs).”
Although he was enthusiastic about his stance on the drama, his shyness was suddenly reawakened when asked about the appeal of his work. I’m sorry,” he said, “I’m really not sure if it’s okay like this. I’m sorry. ……,” and Mr. Kaneshiro left for the filming site, which was now reaching its climax.
It is this understated perspective that allows him to maintain respect for the original work and the realistic setting, and to pay close attention to the cast and crew. It is said that when a person lacks confidence, he or she overplays words. The fact that he is modest in his appeals may be a sign of confidence that the work is well finished.
Profile of Ayaka Kaneshiro： Ayaka Kaneshiro
Born in Hyogo Prefecture in 1987, Ayaka Kaneshiro joined Fuji Television Network in 2012 as a drama producer. Intensive Care Unit" will be broadcast in October.
Interview and text： Miho Kuwata Photo courtesy of： Fuji Television Network, Inc.