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'Shōgun' series stars say 'thank you' to masterful Canadian crew

"Our Canadian crew exhibited a technical proficiency that I've never witnessed in my life," actor Cosmo Jarvis said

The new FX series Shōgun (on Disney+ in Canada), based on the novel by James Clavell, is not just a thrilling, emotional and action-packed adventure, it also shows the force of Canada's film and TV resources.

FX Networks

Watch Shōgun on Disney plus, plans starting at $7.99/month

$8 at Disney+

Where to watch Shōgun: On Disney+ in Canada, Hulu in the U.S.
Shōgun release date: Feb. 27
Creators: Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks
Cast: Hiroyuki Sanada, Cosmo Jarvis, Anna Sawai, Tadanobu Asano, Hiroto Kanai Takehiro Hira, Moeka Hoshi, Tommy Bastow
Number of episodes: 10

"I'd like to say thank you to Canada, especially Vancouver, ... it was a perfect place to make a samurai drama because they had a big, great, beautiful studio, and then 30 minutes drive from the studio they have everything, forest, river, beach, parks, mountains," the shows star and producer, Hiroyuki Sanada, told Yahoo Canada. "We created the full castle, ... stone wall and the village, the whole village, and the whole Osaka harbour. It was amazing."

"And then we hired the Japanese crew to make it authentic as much as possible, and then they worked together, collaborated, and we created great teamwork immediately. It was a dream East meets West company in Vancouver. And also, a lot of extras from Vancouver. ... They worked so hard, I'd love to say thank you to the Vancouver extras."

Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga, center, in a scene from
Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga, center, in a scene from "Shōgun." (Katie Yu/FX via AP)

Sanada's costar, Cosmo Jarvis, echoed his comments in a separate interview, stating that what enabled Shōgun to be executed with such care and precision came down to the collaboration between the Japanese and Canadian crew.

"There was a huge component, which was the Japanese crew, and you had this intersection between them and our Canadian crew, and our Canadian crew exhibited a technical proficiency that I've never witnessed in my life," Jarvis said. "It was kind of amazing being surrounded by so many masters of their craft across so many different departments, and everybody worked tremendously hard to realize everything that the script required, whether it was a special effect or a prop, ... or the building of a village, or a rig of a ship."

"There were so many so many people that represented the kind of attention to detail and the task that was required to realize such a vast story that takes place over so many places, and in such a specific period of time. So it was amazing to be surrounded by those people and everybody's work ethic was kind of infectious, and brought out a good feeling of group effort."

Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga in a scene from
Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga in a scene from "Shōgun." (Katie Yu/FX via AP)

What is Shōgun about?

Set in Japan in 1600, Lord Yoshii Toranaga (Sanada) is facing the Council of Regents, who have united against him, in an attempt to consolidate their power.

It's at that time when English pilot, John Blackthorne (Jarvis), becomes the first Englishman to reach "the Japans," and raises significant suspicion, being called a "barbarian." Blackthorne, an English Protestant, wants to take the trade business in Japan from the Portuguese Catholics.

Toranaga assigns Mariko (Anna Sawai), who speaks Portuguese, to be a translator for Blackthorne, but the more time they spend together, the more their relationship evolves.

Anna Sawai as Toda Mariko in a scene from
Anna Sawai as Toda Mariko in a scene from "Shogun." (Katie Yu/FX via AP)

'There was so much more representation, but there was still misrepresentation'

For Sawai, who adds Mariko to her list of captivating, enthralling performances, which includes Cate Randa in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, she was particularly affected by the commitment to authenticity in Shōgun.

"As someone who has seen many western films and TV shows, and seeing Japanese characters, I never really felt like I was properly being seen," Sawai said. "I felt there was so much more representation, but there was still misrepresentation."

"When I talked to [co-creator] Justin [Marks], and I had those concerns with Mariko, he really assured me that he wanted to do something that was authentic, and he was going to have Japanese people come in so that he could learn, and his team could learn from them. And I knew that I was in good hands. ... Once I learned that they were going to do it right, there was no question about it."

Sanada stressed that as a producer, he ensured that there was a specific Japanese crew, with a variety of experts.

"As a producer, I hired a Japanese crew, from Japan, that are experts for the samurai drama, for each department, like wigs, costumes, props, ... or tea ceremony masters," Sanada explained.

Cosmo Jarvis as John Blackthorne in a scene from
Cosmo Jarvis as John Blackthorne in a scene from "Shogun." (Katie Yu/FX via AP)

In terms of establishing the relationship between Mariko and Blackthorne, shooting the series chronologically assisted Jarvis and Sawai in developing that dynamic, but Jarvis was also someone who stayed in character when the cameras weren't rolling.

"As we shot together, I got a stronger sense of who he was, and he was very much in character," Sawai said.

"I look at [Cosmo] now as a different person, but I think when we were shooting, I was getting to know Cosmo slash Blackthorne, and the beautiful thing about it is that their relationship just evolves very organically, and nothing seems too forced."

"The pace that the script demanded their relationship evolve, it worked well in conjunction with the pace that the employees did their work together," Jarvis added. "That served the material in the end, quite helpfully."

FX Networks

Watch Shōgun on Disney plus, plans starting at $7.99/month

$8 at Disney+

But Sanada also highlighted that while Jarvis was very much "in the world" all day, his ear was maybe a little too good for Blackthorne's earlier scenes, as he's just learning Japanese.

"He's a quick learner, and maybe because he's a musician as well, he has great ears and that's why sometimes he sounds really native, and then sometimes, too good," Sanada said. "'Don't practice anymore,' I said."

"But at the end of the season, he has a long line in Japanese, but he did it perfectly, matching for his character."

Sanada also praised Sawai for mastering such a "complicated" role, stated that no one else could have played Mariko.

"Speaking English, Japanese, both, plus fighting. If it was not her, we [could not] make it," he said.