Interviewed by Natalie T. Steger | Photography by Raffale Grosso | Styling by Andrea Sangiorgi | Grooming by Cotril
Born from an artistic family, Kumamoto born actress Jun Ichikawa made her first appearance in cinema in 2002 as a lead role in “Singing Behind The Screens” by Ermanno Olmi. Her father graduated in Conservatory of South Cecilia in Rome, Italy as a tenor and her mother graduated in Japan as soprano and piano teacher, giving Ichikawa her multi talented abilities.
She has worked with several directors like Giuseppe Tornatore, Eugenio Cappuccio, Miguel Alcantud, Dario Argento, Stefano Bessoni, Luigi Cecinelli, Giorgio Amato, and Alessandro Siani. From 2009-2012, she landed the role as sub lieutenant Flavia Yoshiko Ayroldi in the famous Italian TV series “RIS 5 – Delitti Imperfetti” and made an appearance in the RAI1 TV series “L’ALLIEVA” in 2016. She was also one of the leads of the film “ADDIO AL NUBILATO” by Francesco Apolloni and co-starred with Laura Chiatti, Chiara Francini and Antonia Liskova. Recently, she was part of the “HOUSE OF GUCCI” cast, a major American blockbuster movie directed by Ridley Scott. Most recently, she plays in the film “FALLA GIRARE” by Giampaolo Morelli and soon in the Italian installment of “CITADEL” universe, the groundbreaking global-event series from Prime Video and the Russo Brothers’ AGBO, directed by Arnaldo Catinari.
She has also worked as a dubber in popular movies such as, “Lost in Translation” as the voice of interpreter Kawasaki, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” as the voice of Cho, the voice of Icarus in “Sunshine”, the voice of Amber in “Sucker Punch”, “The Karate Kid” as the voice of Mei Ying, and many more.
We were thrilled to speak with Ichikawa about her career, life as a mother and the balance of it all.
Can you share with us what you are currently working on right now?
I am working on the Italian chapter of a new Amazon original spy series, but that’s all I can say right now.
Describe your most challenging role to date.
I always loved to be involved in challenging roles but the biggest difficulty I had was while I was the lead in the movie “Addio al Nubilato” by Francesco Apolloni. It wasn’t because of the role itself, but because it was hard for me to handle my emotions while I was losing my mother in real life. I remember going to the hospital every day during filming and when they told me there was nothing more that could be done, my husband Evan and I decided to bring her home and surprise her by organizing a wedding. Doing this during a lockdown because of COVID-19 and in just two days, with more than 60 people connecting from all over the world via Zoom just to say goodbye to my mom was very emotional. I remember the support of all my great colleagues on the film set—I even wore the wedding dress from the movie—and my closest friends helped us organize everything. It was beautiful to have this synergy with the director and my colleagues who were never lacking in affection. Seeing her smile for the last time gave me the strength to go on set every day and change my perspective on life. That film and that role will always be one of the most complex but meaningful experiences of my life.
List some of your favorite or cherished accomplishments in your career.
- Spending a whole day working with Ridley Scott and Al Pacino on “House of Gucci”.
- Playing Antigone as an adult with the same director with whom I had my very first theater class back when I was 13 years old
- Being able to work back in the dubbing studio just two weeks after giving birth.
Can you tell us how you got into acting?
I think acting has always been a part of my life. My mom told me how happy I was to listen to opera even when I was still in her womb. Being the daughter of a soprano and a tenor, going to the theater was normal for me, so the first time I went on stage (when I was 9 years old) I felt right at home. My first theater lesson was at 13 years old with my first teacher, Giuseppe Argirò. He talked to us about Antigone and her determination to defend human rights and families. I fell in love with that character right away, and I decided that one day I would play that role (a dream that came true five years ago). I remember that day, at the end of the lesson Giuseppe called me to the front and, like a prophet, he said “you will do cinema. You have the eyes of someone who will do cinema.” From that moment on, I never stopped loving this profession.
You are a trained ballerina, and in dance, can you tell us how that impacted you in your career and how it influenced you as well?
When I was younger, I initially wanted to follow in my parents’ footsteps. But since they didn’t agree, I decided to train as a dancer. 15 years of dancing and then the years in which I gained experience in martial arts (Kung fu, Aikido and Kengido of master Tetsuro Shimaguchi, famous as the choreographer of the fight scenes in the movie Kill Bill by Tarantino) still helps me to learn the sense of mental and physical balance, the ability to express oneself even without the use of words. Knowing how to “read the air” as we say in Japanese, to know when to enter or exit a given situation.
You did so much studying throughout your lifetime from Acting, Music, Recitation and voice education, Elements of direction, and Fencing to the History of Theatre and Dramaturgy. Can you share about that time in your life, and what were some of the most impactful teachers or mentors you had during that time?
In addition to Giuseppe Argirò, I have had mentors like Bernard Hiller and Ivana Chubbuck. Bernard helped me discover the sense of freedom that we often lose touch with by judging our characters or projecting our own limits and fears onto the character we’re playing. Ivana, on the other hand, introduced me to a deep and extraordinary method based on a deep analysis of one’s past traumas, and where necessary using the same emotions to enrich the characters we play.
In Rome, you had Oriental studies learning Chinese and Japanese, but also you can speak four languages perfectly: Italian, Japanese, English, and French. How has that helped your career, and are there any other languages you would like to learn?
Being fluent in different languages has helped me to be more resilient and flexible in the face of different cultures and mentalities. We live in an increasingly multicultural world, so I think that especially after this period of lockdowns that we have all experienced all around the world, it can be useful to learn to be more adaptable and, as my Kung Fu Master Roberto Sforza says, to try to find the most effective responses in the shortest time possible.
Touching on your Japanese roots and heritage. You seem very connected to your birth country. Can you tell us what you love so much about your culture and how it shaped you into who you are today?
What I love about Japan is the respect for others and the value of silence not as an absence but as an added value. From my experience living in Japan, I try to cultivate spirituality, love for nature, and the cuisine, so much so that despite my many years in Italy, I still can’t live without green tea, white rice, and miso!
As an International talent and working actress as a Japanese/Asian woman, can you share with us some of the challenges you faced for roles or work? How did you overcome some of these obstacles?
I consider myself lucky to have always had opportunities to meet directors who believed in me, even modifying the roles just to be able to work together. But I cannot deny the great difficulties that I still experience in trying to play less stereotypical roles. I have faith in the new generations so that here in Italy we can watch more stories and have more roles that supersede race and skin color.
What advice would you give to other actors or actresses to overcome some of those challenges?
Study and believe in your dreams! Listen to criticism and use it to your advantage, and never take yourself too seriously.
Who do you admire most and are inspired by?
I was really struck by Al Pacino when I had the opportunity to meet him on set. His level of preparation, charisma, and kindness will continue to be inspiring for me.
Three words that best describe who you are today?
A MOTHER. READY to keep learning every day. GRATEFUL for what life is offering me.
If you could say anything to your younger self, what would it be?
Don’t be in such a hurry. Don’t try to please everyone. Take a moment in silence before reacting
Lastly, in a world today where it is so difficult to see reality vs. curated perfect images on social media, how do you keep yourself grounded and true to yourself?
Sometimes I take a break from social media to try not to get trapped in performance anxiety and perfectionism that social media often imposes through distorted images of smiley people in top physical shape. Additionally, instead of only staying in touch with my friends online, I make a lot of effort to meet them in person for some real face time. I’ve become who I am mostly because of my real-life relationships that constantly help me grow and challenge myself.