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Interview: Naoko Mori

By

Avenue Q

Naoko Mori as Christmas Eve in "Avenue Q."

BBC

Well, Russell likes Buffy, so maybe you could do a musical episode like they did.

I know! And -- I don't think it will happen, but never say never -- we're always on set joking about Torchwood! The Musical. And we're always coming up with songs, like "Weevil Rock You," like the Queen song, or "Let's Go to the Hub" [laughs].

You've had a bunch of interesting roles. I won't mention Spice World [(1997)] if you don't want [she laughs] -- but I did see it and you were good in it.

[laughing] I was very proud of that.

And is there a rule in British TV that you have to go on Casualty?

Yes!

Every British actor I look up has done Casualty, though I think you're allowed to do The Bill instead.

Yes, you're like an expert. However, I did a season, a whole season of Casualty [as the receptionist Mie, 1993-94]. And I had very big eyebrows, I remember that.

And lately you've done Avenue Q [in the West End, as therapist Christmas Eve], which is also famous for being randier than the average show.

Yes -- have you seen it?

Not yet, but I have friend who know the soundtrack up and down, so I've heard "The Internet Is for Porn" and so on a lot.

You must see it, and even if you hate musicals you'll really enjoy it. It's a great show, and I love that I've been so lucky to play a wide variety of parts. That's the biggest joy for me -- to be able to work with the Spice Girls, and go and work with Mike Leigh and do eight hours of improvisations [filming Topsy-Turvy (1999)]. I love having a wide variety of roles to play and I've been so lucky in that.

You're doing both stage and screen -- if you had to choose, which would it be?

For an actor to go back to theater, it's like realigning yourself. I find after a long stint in movies or TV I always yearn to go back to the stage.

Did you have a dream role when you started out?

Gosh, so many. My first one from an early age was to stand on stage, and when I was lucky enough to do that with Miss Saigon, I was like "Okay! What next?" But I do have a very big to-do list, like things to do before I die, like I said, but with Torchwood I've been able to do multiple ticks. Run down the street in heels chasing aliens -- tick! Crying -- tick! Snogging two men in one day -- tick, tick! [laughs] In that sense, Torchwood has been great. I never thought I'd be in a sci-fi show, and here I am.

Everyone else on Torchwood is more emotionally open -- is it better to play a character that's more withdrawn?

For me, I prefer people who aren't perfect, who have character traits such as being private. For me -- I love people, and I find people curious. And the less you see, the more intriguing they are, in a way. In that sense I do love playing Tosh because there's so much that is going on within her. So I feel I'm attracted to those kinds of character-y parts, rather than playing the beautiful, buxom, sexy leading part, you know. I love characters, and I love people with quirks. But we're all different.

Did you have meetings with the producers to talk about where the character was going to go in the second series?

Yes and no. Because I think we all know our characters so well now, it's become second nature, in a way. We don't need to speak. But we do work very closely with each other. There's a lot of rewrites, and scripts don't come to till the very last minute, because things change on a daily basis. And, absolutely, the communication lines are constantly open and we call each other, and if there's any questions or queries we'll just talk to each other all the time, which is great. We were certainly told that they were making a fairly conscious choice for it to be friendlier, so we knew that, and they would give us an idea of what was coming up. But it's definitely a two-way thing. We all so trust the writing team that it just seems to work.

How closely is Russell involved in getting the show done these days? He talks about wanting to move on, but never does.

Very. Russell is actually an alien. He is. He actually has six brains. He is from the planet Genius, him and [lead writer] Chris Chibnall. They are the only people I have ever known who can multitask three different productions at once [Torchwood, Doctor Who, and The Sarah Jane Adventures]. It's ridiculous. They are absolutely genius. And Russell is so hands-on that we keep saying, "C'mon, Russell, you need a holiday." He will read every single draft, every single rewrite, he'll pop down on set, he's always there, and he can talk about anything at any given time. If you have a question he'll be able to answer it. And this is also a man who knows everything about Doctor Who. I don't know how his brain works, it's incredible.

What would you like to see happen to Toshiko in the future, in a third series?

I would like Tosh to grow, and keep on growing. As a protective mother might say, I hope she doesn't fall over, I hope she doesn't get hurt, but she will, because it's life. What I'd like to see her do is keep striving, and if she does fall over, to get up and keep on going. I want her to find happiness, and I hope she finds someone along the way -- but like I said there's so much that happens in the second season. We'll have to have another chat once the season is over, and then you'll be like, "Ohhh, my god!"

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