Charlotte Kate Fox Feature
CHARLOTTE KATE FOX
Charlotte Kate Fox’s big break came courtesy of an icon in Japan. When Fox submitted for the role of Ellie in the Japanese television drama “Massan,” about the founder of Japan’s whiskey industry, Masataka Taketsuru, and his wife, she had no idea that she had taken the first step in a journey that would involve flying halfway across the world, appearing in major press conferences, and becoming a household name in a country where she didn’t even speak the language. And all because she took a shot on a Backstage casting notice.
Tell us about your character
Ellie is wonderful. She is sort of Doris Day–like, in the fact that she always, always sees the best in people and in situations. I love getting to experience “newness” with her. In a way she is childlike, as she is learning everything for the first time. The language, the customs, the cuisine, and of course what it is like to be married to someone from another country. That is not to say that she is not strong. She has a deep love and belief in her husband and his dream. She supports him through incredible hardships. She always
stands up for what she believes in and is not afraid to show her emotions, which is some- times problematic in Japan. She is dynamic and funny and has a diamond-like perseverance. She has this effervescence about her, this bub- bly yearning to know, to understand, and to ultimately support and foster friendship and love between people. Her patience is godlike— and I hope a little of that wears off on me!
Were you surprised that they responded to you?
I was surprised and honored! The casting direc- tor was Yoko Narahashi, who is very respected both in the U.S. and in Japan. But again, the gravity of the situation had not sunk in. I still thought, I know I can do this, I know I want to do this, but there are so many women. (Because of course the audition notice was issued in three countries.) But I went back to my training, back to the craft, back to meanings, and I prepared my audition piece and submitted.
What was wonderful is that after I was told I had actually been chosen to play Ellie, there wasn’t enough time to dwell in fear or self-doubt. I had 10 days to square away my life on “Massan”
before heading to Japan for the press conference announcing the cast. But I had support on so many sides, at home and in Japan. My wonderful acting teacher, Kathryn Gately, taught me a lesson that I will never forget. During graduate school, I was doing activity work in class (I’m Meisner-trained) and my activity was to balance an arabesque on pointe. My legs were shaking uncontrollably. Kathryn kept asking me why they were shaking and I kept coming up with excuses: “My knee was injured, I’m tired, I’m scared I will fall.” She was quiet for a moment and then asked, “How can you fix it? What
can you do to make it work?” It was then that I understood. I shifted my balance, chose a focus point, and held pointe and balance without shaking. That was just a minuscule fraction of what she taught me. But I used that focus and that shift to get on track and get to Japan. I still use it every day. Always asking, “How can I fix something, and how can I make it work?”
Have your fellow cast members prompted any changes in your acting style or method?
Tetsuji Tamayama is playing my husband, Massan. And he has been such a lovely partner to work with. In the beginning, there was also a lot of pressure on both of us to make this “work.” And because of the nature of the show and how quickly it began and how quickly it shoots and how often we shoot, we didn’t have much time to build our relationship as deeply as we both would have liked. But now that we have been filming for a month or so, we are finding our own special way of communicating. For example, looking people in the eye is a very American actor trait (and perhaps even more of a Meisner-trained actor trait) but in Japan, you often turn away and don’t look at your partner’s eyes, especially in a very emotional scene. Both work. Neither one is the only way. There is no one road to truth, no one technique, no one method. Both Tamayama-san and I have found ways to listen to each other that don’t require either of us to sacrifice our own technique, but rather we get to adapt and adopt each other’s different ways of working. At the very least, all of my partners have helped me to become a better listener. By default of not knowing the language fully, I have had to become more open and more responsive. I think, ultimately, that is what all actors always aim for. So I am very thankful to them for that gift.
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