‘Shōgun’ Star Hiroyuki Sanada Says FX Series ‘Shows How Hard Peace Can Be to Achieve’

[Editor’s note: The following article contains some spoilers for “Shōgun”]

There’s a scene in Episode 5 of FX’s hit show “Shōgun”, smack dab in the middle of the TV series, that acts as a microcosm for the larger narrative. The horrified English Protestant sailor, Blackthorne, wishes to give up on his mission and leave Japan and the show’s central figure of whom he’s asking permission, Toranaga, actually considers it. Then an earthquake happens. Toranaga is buried by a landslide and it’s Blackthorne who finds and pulls him out. It’s in this moment Toranaga — staring at Blackthorne who’s ripped him from death’s clutch — realizes the way towards peace despite the forces against him.

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“If people know the history, they already know what Toranaga creates,” “Shōgun” star and producer Hiroyuki Sanada said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “That was the most important thing for me about this story: Toranaga ended [the Warring States period] and created a peaceful era in Japan that lasted for about 260 years, until the country opened to the world. That’s Toranaga’s vision. That’s what he’s been struggling for and that’s what his never-give-up mindset has achieved.”

It would seem Sanada’s own vision has led him not only to this role, but to shepherding this project as a producer. To him it was a responsibility to be both a messenger of Japanese culture and history, as well as a harbinger for a larger message of peace based on figures from the past. “Since I was a kid, I’ve been reading novels about him, watching movies and TV series about him,” Sanada said. “The reason I took the role this time is because I believe we need this kind of hero right now. We need the hero who brings about peace. That’s a very good message for the world — especially now when human beings around the world are fighting each other again. ‘Shōgun’ shows how hard peace can be to achieve.”

For Sanada, part of communicating this message meant taking ownership over the entire project as a producer. “Right away, I felt a big difference between having this title and not having it. I could share my views right away. Everyone would listen, and the production would move forward. Having this title allowed me to help make a much better show. So maybe it was the same for Toranaga. He didn’t really want it. But at some point, he realized the only way to create a peaceful era was to become Shōgun himself.”

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