Born in Tokyo, Anglo-Japanese actress Haruka Abe spent her childhood split between New York, London and Tokyo before settling in the UK. She gained worldwide recognition when she starred in the 2014 video for Clean Bandit’s hit single, Rather Be, and her other work includes 2013‘s fantasy action film 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves, and Richard Curtis’ About Time, with Bill Nighy. She can next be seen in the new Russell T Davies drama, Cucumber, and also in Cyber Bully, both on Channel 4...
Haruka, when did you move to London?
The first time was with my family when I was seven years old. We moved back to Tokyo four years later but at 18 I returned to go to drama school in London, rather than university in Japan.
Where in London do you live?
Currently in Shoreditch, which is lovely, but I was in Chalk Farm for years and really miss it.
How did you get involved with Clean Bandit’s video?
The guys were looking for a London-based Japanese actress and found me on Facebook – as simple as that! The first time I met them was when I landed at Japan’s Narita Airport – we then spent the most intense four days together. They were amazing to work with; it was such a cool experience.
What inspired you to start a career acting and film-making?
I was in a school play of The Hobbit playing Bilbo Baggins when I was about nine-years old. I was always a bit of a bookworm but the experience made me realise that acting is reading books only you get to act out and be the character, and my heart was set on becoming an professional actor. Love for film making came a bit later when I was a teenager, when I started to watch a lot of movies and fell in love with the medium.
Did you move to London for your career or other reasons?
Bit of both. I spent the most carefully and fun years of my childhood here, and London is where I caught my acting bug as a child so the main reason for me to move to London was to train as an actor but I think it was inevitable for me to come back eventually.
You have also lived in New York – what took you there?
My father’s work. Actually, he was already working there when I was born, and my mother and I moved there when I turned one to join him.
What is your favourite London haunt?
Everyman Cinema in Hampstead for a good movie night and Gordon's Wine Bar near the Embankment for a nice bottle of red. And just hanging out by the South Bank and Primrose Hill
Your short films have earned you worldwide acclaim. Tell us more…
Stanley Pickle, directed by Victoria Mather in 2010, was probably the most successful – it won 33 international awards. The film was shot using a technique called pixilation – it’s exhausting and requires a lot of physical control and concentration. On the other hand, I love that short films are a more collaborative process where you get to really immerse yourself as a small team. I have met some of my closest friends that way.
How would you spend your ideal London weekend?
Sleep, read, eat, repeat… Maybe a film, checking out a market and catching up with friends. I love Columbia Road Flower Market, and Stables Market is always fun. Borough Market is another favourite – how you can spend all your money on buying yummy things is plain wicked.
What has been your career highlight?
That’s a difficult question. 2014’s highlight was definitely working with Russell T Davies, who I adore. He’s an amazing writer and the nicest person to work with. Working with Steve Barron on Slingers and 47 Ronin were high points, too. The latter was the first time I worked on a big Hollywood production, and I learned so much.
What do you love about London?
I absolutely love how incredibly open and diverse it is. I also adore that it has so much history but is modern and cutting edge, and all within such a compact city.
What do you miss about Japan?
My family, first and foremost. Also how easy and convenient life is there, from shops and restaurants that are open 24 hours a day, and trains that run frequently and on time, to customer service that is second to none.
What is your favourite Japanese space / restaurant in London?
Asakusa is my favourite Japanese restaurant in London and I do go to Japan Centre on a regular basis for grocery shopping. Lanka is a great little Japanese cake shop/cafe and they used to have a branch in Primrose Hill but I think now they only have a store near Swiss Cottage.
What has been your favourite role to play?
That’s also a very difficult question because I fall in love with most of the characters I play. I love Marti in Slingers and Merica Adams in Precision, who were both created by the amazing writer Mike Sizemore who I absolutely adore. Playing Anna in Cucumber was a fun adventure, and you can probably see why when you watch the show next year.
What are you currently working on?
Not much I can share at the moment, but I also have a couple of short films in the pipeline. I am also currently writing few film scripts and am planning to start writing a few more one they are finished.
What inspires you daily?
Music, photography, art, books, and friends and family who never cease to amaze me. Beautiful things in life really.
What will you do over the Christmas break?
I’m not sure yet, I have just been back to Japan so I don’t think I will be visiting family for Christmas. I might try and go to somewhere with a nice Christmas atmosphere for a few days, like Prague or Brussels. Or stay in London and chill. Either way it will hopefully involve a large quantity of mould wine.
What does the future have in store for Haruka Abe?
In early 2015 you can see me in the new Channel 4 series called Cucumber, and a one off TV drama called Cyber Bully. Both are brilliant shows created by BAFTA-winning talents and I can’t wait for people to see them. As for the rest we will have to wait and see! But I also want to go to the States at some point in the very near future, which will be an adventure.
Haruka Abe; haruka4be.com