Many actors claim that they owe their careers to the support of family, but in the case of Aoi Nakamura, this is literally true. The 18-year-old Fukuoka native got his start when his father submitted an application for the Junon Super Boy Contest—which Nakamura then went on to win. The annual talent competition, held by Junon magazine since 1988, has launched the careers of stars like Teppei Koike (Homeless Chugakusei), Takashi Kashiwabara (Shizumanu Taiyo) and Junpei Mizobata (Akai Ito). Nakamura was only 14 when he took home the top prize, making him the youngest winner at that time.
Until that point, Nakamura tells Metropolis, he was an average kid who dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player. But the Junon contest sparked an interest in the entertainment world, and just two years later, his growing popularity landed him a role in Koizora (2007). Based on a bestselling cellphone novel, the movie tells of the tragic love between average high schooler Mika (Yui Aragaki, Ballad) and bad-boy Hiro (Haruma Miura, Bloody Monday), with Nakamura playing Hiro’s happy-go-lucky best friend, Nozomu.
His current TV movie project, Perfect Blue, is based on a thriller by popular novelist Miyuki Miyabe. Nakamura plays Shinya Morioka, a teenage runaway whose parents hire private eye Kayoko Hasumi (Rosa Kato; Detroit Metal City) to track him down. Kayoko finds Shinya and convinces him to return home—but on the way, they discover the body of his older brother Katsuhiko, a nationally ranked high school baseball player. The grisly find leads them on a trail of blackmail, treachery and corporate malfeasance.
For Nakamura, the project offered a chance to explore a much deeper, more troubled character than he usually gets to play.
“On the outside, Shinya is no good—very different from his brother,” he explains. “He gets in fights, keeps running away from home… But in reality, he loves [Katsuhiko] and would do anything for him. I think Shinya is also someone who has had to live in a very adult world, so in that sense he’s more of an adult than his older brother.”
Despite Perfect Blue’s dark subject matter, Nakamura says the atmosphere on set was surprisingly relaxed and fun.
“As soon as they said ‘Cut,’ everyone became very lively. Even when we were filming really heavy scenes, everyone on set would be having a great time right up until it started.”
Because of the character’s delinquent tendencies, Perfect Blue was also the first project where Nakamura had to learn extensive fight choreography, which turned out to be one of his favorite parts of filming.
Another highlight was the rapport that the cast developed with one of their costars—a big German shepherd that plays the role of Kayoko’s four-legged assistant, Masa.
“He’s incredibly smart and was able to learn most of his cues right away,” Nakamura says. “There are several scenes where he’s supposed to bark. The handler warned us that it might take time, especially since he’s been trained not to make any noise. But when we went to practice the scene, he got it the very first time.”
Next up on Nakamura’s calendar is a starring role in Beck, the highly anticipated movie adaptation of Harold Sakuishi’s manga series about a group of teens who start a rock band. Nakamura plays drummer Yuji Sakurai, sharing the screen with stars-of-the-moment Hiro Mizushima (Drop) and Takeru Sato (Rookies). With roles like these under his belt, the young actor must be feeling pretty good about himself, right?
“Actually, whenever I watch my performances, there isn’t a single time where I think ‘Oh, that was great’… When I look at a movie I filmed a year ago, I think about how I would play the scene differently now.” Even such high personal standards can’t take all the fun out of the job, though. “I still get really happy whenever I see myself on TV,” he says with a smile.
Despite his high-profile lifestyle, Nakamura has one major goal for the coming year. “I’m a college student now, so I really hope I pass all my exams.”
Perfect Blue airs Feb 7 at 10:15pm on WOWOW.