Hiro Kanagawa talks time on Netflix hit show ‘Altered Carbon’

Viewers have seen Hiro Kanagawa everywhere. “Altered Carbon” fans know the actor from Netflix’s brilliant and popular new series. “Supernatural” fans have never thought of the term nutcracker the same again after his spot as the game show host on the episode ‘Changing Channels.’ Born in Sapporo, Japan and raised in both Guelph, Ontario, Canada, and Sterling Heights, Michigan, this talented actor/playwright plays guitar and throws a mean slo-pitch knuckleball. Kanagawa also happens to be a well-known playwright, winning the 2017 Governor-General’s Literary Award in Drama.

Somewhere in between, he is loved for “The Man in the High Castle,” “iZombie, “Legends of Tomorrow,” and the credits run off the page. Mark those calendars for March 7th to see Kanagawa on the hit show “Designated Survivor” and watch for his role in TNT’s dystopian future series “Snowpiercer.”

Colleen Bement: Let’s talk “Altered Carbon.” Tell us all about what it was like to film this hot new Netflix series.

Hiro Kanagawa: Honestly this was a career highlight. From my first look at a script to my first wardrobe fitting, my first look at the sets, my first read-through of a scene, I could tell the attention to detail and commitment to excellence was there. I also had a great rapport with the artists I was working with closely, most notably Martha Higareda and Tamara Taylor with whom I shared most of my scenes. I also loved working with director Uta Briesewitz on her two episodes. This is not to say I disliked anybody else. Everybody from the top down was genuine and generous, and I could feel there was a real collective desire to make something really good. This showed in the extra rehearsals we had, the discussions with cast, directors, producers, and writers, and the rewrites and tweaks that happened with actor input.

CB: Your filmography runs off the page it’s so impressive. Can you tell us about the latest projects that you have in the works?

HK: I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been the go-to guy for certain types of roles. In that vein, set your PVR’s for my guest spot on “Designated Survivor” airing on March 7th in which I play NASA advisor Richard Kim. I try to help President Kirkman avoid a space station disaster. Later in the year, I’m hoping we’ll see the pilot for “Snowpiercer” directed by Scott Derrickson. That’s another hugely ambitious series set in a dystopian future which has been greenlit to go to series by TNT. Many sci-fi fans will know it is based on the film in which the earth has been plunged into an Ice Age, and all survivors live aboard the Snowpiercer train. I play the Magistrate Maki, a political leader and controlling presence of the ruling class.

CB: I’m taking you back to your spot on “Supernatural.” You were fabulous as the game show host on the season five episode ‘Changing Channels.’ What can you tell us about that experience?

HK: Hugely enjoyable! I often get cast as hard-ass authority figures, but I have a big goof-ball streak and love letting that side of me shine. I also am very proud of being associated with that particular episode which is a tremendous piece of satirical television. It’s funny, I recall director Charles Beeson and some others on set speculating that it might be their last season. That was in 2009! It’s still going!

CB: The film “Fifty Shades Freed” is hot in the box office right now and I know my readers would love to hear about your experience playing the role of Detective Clark. What can you share?

HK: It was shot at the same time as “Fifty Shades Darker,” so it was a very extended shooting schedule and I believe I shot my first scene before going on “Altered Carbon” and I shot my last scene after I wrapped “Altered Carbon,” probably four or five months apart. Again, everybody was super nice to work with. You hear so many horror stories of bad behavior on set, so I’m happy to report I’ve hardly ever experienced it and certainly not on this project. The producers were kind enough to send me a bottle of champagne on Valentine’s Day!

CB: What do you do with what limited spare time you have?

HK: I have two kids, aged 12 and 9, so…I’ve been a coach on my son’s football teams the past 4 years (we won the provincial championship in 2017!), and my daughter is on a high-performance soccer team, so I spend a lot of time driving them all over and standing in the rain watching them play. And in some circles in Canada where I live, I’m primarily known as a playwright, I won the 2017 Governor-General’s Literary Award in Drama; so those people would consider my acting in film and TV as a side gig I pursue while writing plays. I’m basically saying I have no spare time.

CB: Do you have any hidden talents–the quirkier the better?

HK: I’m a fairly decent guitar player, write songs in the singer-songwriter vein and was in bands for most of my early adulthood. Still dream of getting a band together and hittin’ the road! Quirky?

I’m the pitcher on my co-ed beer league slo-pitch team and can throw a slo-pitch knuckleball that is remarkably effective to induce grounders and pop flies. Quirkier?

The sex columnist Dan Savage once wrote that a particular “talent” was uncommon, and I wrote (from first-hand knowledge) that it was more common than he thought. He printed my letter. Enough said. You’ll have to pay my wife a lot of money to get any more details. Quirkiest?

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