Suicide Squad is the next big blockbuster of the summer. It arrives in the cinemas nationwide on August 5th. This is a Q&A with Karen Fukuhara, who plays Katana, a warrior who “is dressed in Samurai-inspired, street fighter garb and ballistic facemask.”
You can see the results below in the Irish Exclusive Q&A
QUESTION: What was your reaction when writer/director David Ayer first approached you about playing Katana in Suicide Squad?
KAREN FUKUHARA: Well, I wasn’t overly excited because it didn’t really hit me until I got to meet David that I’d actually been cast in the role. It was just shocking and super exciting. I’m so grateful.
QUESTION: How did David communicate his vision for this character and how did you prepare to get into the mindset of Katana? Did you look at the comics?
KAREN FUKUHARA: When we first met, we sat down together in Toronto and talked about the character. Katana is a cold-blooded killer in the comic, and we stay true to that, but she does have a humanistic side to her that we wanted to bring out. She has morals that she lives by and her own heroes.
As far as the actual preparation, a lot of it came from rehearsals and the physical training I did with the cast and David. We rehearsed for a month and a half during pre-production, and I got to do sword training, martial arts training, fitness and rehearsals. That really got me into the mindset of playing Katana. It meant a lot to me to feel like a warrior, more so than just knowing it in my head. It makes a big difference when you are physically fit enough to pull off the fight scenes.
QUESTION: How do you see Katana, and how does she fit into the Suicide Squad?
KAREN FUKUHARA: She’s a Samurai warrior and she wields the Soultaker – a large Samurai sword that traps the souls of all her victims. She’s very loyal to Col. Rick Flag and follows his orders and those of Amanda Waller. She’s there as a watchdog mainly, to keep the Squad members in line and make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do.
I thought of the Soultaker as another character in the film because it does have Katana’s husband’s soul trapped inside, and I speak to the sword. It’s not just a weapon to her – there’s also an emotional connection there between Katana and the Soultaker. So, even though she’s a cold-blooded killer, she has this mysterious and spiritual side to her as well.
QUESTION: As a first generation Japanese American, did David encourage you to draw on your own heritage and family history in playing this character? Do you speak Japanese in the role?
KAREN FUKUHARA: Yes. I was really blessed because David trusted me with the dialogue, and that was huge. Sometimes we would be on set and he’d ask me to translate something on the spot, then we’d shoot it right after. It was really awesome and also a little bit nerve-racking.
In terms of the cultural aspect, in Japanese culture, you speak when you’re spoken to and you don’t really express your feelings outwardly so that you don’t offend anyone by expressing your feelings too strongly – that was something that I incorporated into Katana.
In terms of the Samurai aspect and the Bushido, I used to practice a style of karate called Kyokushin Karate. It focuses on finding your true self through rigorous training, so it has a lot to do with discipline. That’s been something that I was accustomed to growing up – discipline and really trying to figure out who you are and what you represent through hardships in terms of training and pushing yourself to the limit. I absolutely love it.
QUESTION: Did David know that you had a background in competitive karate when he brought you into the film?
KAREN FUKUHARA: I’m not sure if David knew that I competed, but he knows now [laughs]. We did have to do sword-fighting and martial arts as part of the audition. I guess he liked what I did! *Phew*
QUESTION: What did it feel like for you to then put the mask on and wield the Soultaker?
KAREN FUKUHARA: It’s a complete transformation! The first time I put on my outfit and got to see everyone dressed in full costume was amazing. In rehearsals, we talk about the character and we do rehearse, but it’s so different seeing everyone in full gear. And for me, every single day on set, when I put the mask on, that’s when I really transformed.
My whole costume was originally going to be closer to the comic book version – this really tight, black cat suit. And then Kate Hawley, our costume designer, changed everything at the last minute to this Japanese-biker-inspired look. It was a really cool, modern take on her outfit and her look, and yet it still kept Katana’s essence, which I really like.
All the characters had to work as individuals but also as a group. Kate said that the process for this film was very organic and she was constantly looking to balance the iconography of the comic book characters and adapt or distill these elements into David’s vision of a more real, albeit heightened, underworld street culture. I love Kate’s attention to the minute details within Katana’s wardrobe. She incorporated Japanese history into the costume, drawing from several warrior cultures of Japan – ancient Samurai, World War II Kamikaze pilots and the Bosozuku street gangs.
QUESTION: Other than Katana’s, did you have a favorite costume?
KAREN FUKUHARA: Oh my gosh, there were so many. Harley Quinn’s was so much fun. I love her pigtails and the pink and the blue, but I think Boomerang’s costume was a cool take. He seemed to have loads of fun in that costume! It had a little pocket to carry his beer and looks very homemade because of all the duct tape and the rips and the tears. Everyone looked awesome! I’m not jealous of Adewale [Akinnuoye-Agbaje]’s Killer Croc costume, though – so much prosthetics!
QUESTION: This film has such an amazing cast, and this is your very first movie role. What was it like for you to work and train with these actors during the five-week rehearsal/‘boot camp’ that David set up?
KAREN FUKUHARA: Oh, it was a dream come true. Going into the movie, I didn’t know what everyone was going to be like. I was a little bit nervous because I was so new to the industry, but everyone was extremely nice and welcoming.
I think the rehearsal period really helped because we all got to share our own stories, and it was understood that whatever you share stays in the room. We didn’t even know going in that David would lead these group therapy sessions, but I’m so glad he did. We all got to know each other on a different level, and I think you can see our camaraderie and how close we are on screen. We had so much fun filming together as well, so I hope that comes across.
QUESTION: Do you have a favourite scene in the film or a moment during production that was particularly memorable for you?
KAREN FUKUHARA: I had the best days when I was doing my action bits, just because I trained so hard working up to those days, and then we would do long hours of shooting and I was running around. It’s a huge cardio workout, but being able to see that on the monitors – to see that my hard work paid off – gave me the most proud, liberating feeling. There’s nothing that tops it. It’s kind of a little high.
QUESTION: How did you find the experience of working with David, and what do you think he brings to the film as a director?
KAREN FUKUHARA: It’s a big Super Hero action movie, but it does have this base core in the old film style. David shot everything on film, so that creates a sense of reality and helps everything feel real.
Working with him was really wonderful. David makes actors feel uncomfortable, and you might think that would work against you, but it actually works completely for the scene. He says a certain thing and then you’re kind of wondering, ‘How is that going to work with my acting?’ And then you do it, and it’s just an amazing take. He has a really great way of pulling each actor out of their comfort zone, and then he creates something magical out of it. I don’t know how he does it, but he does it every time.